Most helpful positive review
Well-balanced and researched
on 10 July 2011
The book, published in 1999, is refreshingly free of the retrospective analysis post-dot-com-crash; celebrating The World as Brave and New. Rather than focussing on just a single individual as biographies do, Rivlin turns the spotlight instead on Bill Gates' larger-than-life contemporaries Scott McNealy, Larry Ellison, and Steve Jobs too. What he excels in portraying is how these men and Gates fed off each other in obsessing "cutting off a competitor's air supply" and making "supergreat" products.
Rivlin, for sure, is a technology-beat journalist who may not understand the intricacies of software development but to his credit - beyond the perfunctory introductions to any technical topic - he politely steps aside and lets people who do understand express their opinion. This approach might appear biased to you, depending on whose Kool-Aid you have drunk; ultimately though you have to admit that he does a good job of balancing stories from highly polarised camps. Those who demonize Bill Gates will cry out that this book borders on trying hard to restrain itself from fawning over him - but then I think it's a carefully calculated result arising out how people envied and hated Gates (and still do). In that sense, the tone of the book mirrors reality a lot.
The amount of research put into the book clearly shows. I have heard many wildly unbelievable tales over the years - so has Gary Rivlin, of course, and he tackles this by chasing down the 'original' source of each apocryphal story, often with results that tend to indicate that they were manufactured. Again, Rivlin shows great restraint in hardly ever calling anyone a liar outright, preferring to let the reader draw his own conclusions based on the evidence presented.