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3.7 out of 5 stars
The Plot to Get Bill Gates
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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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 November 1999
Another book about Bill Gates and his empire you might ask. That's the thought I had when I first saw this book. But dive deeper and you will read about other people whose lives depending on or competiting against Bill Gates et al, which are generously described in this book, from IBM to the Internet. A must read for those who wants to be kept updated on the fastest-growing industry.
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on 18 June 1999
Finally someone has written a book that captures the human drama of the computer wars and the generals who have fought it. For someone who only uses a computer (fully equiped with Microsoft products) and only vaguely remembers names like WordPerfect, Borland, and Novell, I had no idea the world of technology geeks could be filled with such tragedy, hilarity, macho, shallowness, casualties, and intrigue. From Bill Gates' tragic squeezing of his own friend and partner, to Sun Microsystem's Chief Technology Officer being mocked by a "Terminator" pin ball machine repeating "hasta la vista, baby" during pep talks to his staff, to the facial ticks that plaqued the developers of Java, this book captures the icons of our era in their all too human glory. Not since "A Civil Action" have I read a work of non-fiction so captivating.
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on 22 August 1999
You will feel like you were a fly on the walls for the past decade in the fast paced fields of computer software and the internet. While others have tackled this topic, Rivlin's strict attention to the details and facts, his unwillingness to be swayed by anecdotes, plus his ability to retell a story, make for a more enjoyable fast read on a variety of levels. These corporate leaders are not driven by altruistic pursuits for the betterment of mankind, these are businesses run by highly influential men driven by money, ego and power. I now chuckle at PR fluff stories about Gates, Ellison and McNeally in magazines and newspapers. This book is so timely it seems as if it was written days, not months ago - the author's conclusions are constantly being validated by the daily headlines. Can't wait for his next book! Enjoy it.
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on 29 June 2001
I'm surprised at the one-star review comments, and wonder if those authors are not Micro$oft weenies. I found this book to be highly entertaining, quite funny although it doesn't seem to be written by an experienced professional. The writing style is quite refreshing in a way, Rivlin does not resort to stuffiness and presents his work in ways which geek and non-geek readers could understand. It's a pity there wasn't more information on Linux and Open Source which truly has Micro$oft running scared and this for me was the main disappointment. Had Rivlin included the infamous Halloween Documents (do a web search on that), I might have given this book a better review as the Halloween Docs present excellent facts on Micro$soft agenda.
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on 24 May 1999
Reading an advance copy of the book sent out by the publisher, this has to be the worst attempt to capitalize on the subject of Bill Gates in the history of book publishing. It's a bunch of drivel, to put it mildly. Gary Rivlin has done no reporting on Microsoft of any importance and has never broken a news story in his life-- and suddenly he presents himself as being in a position to know something about the subject? Educated readers will laugh at this book. Don't waste your money. Read "Gates" by Stephen Manes instead, or more recently, "The Microsoft File: The Secret Case Against Bill Gates" by Wendy Goldman Rohm, an excellent piece of indepth reporting and analysis.
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on 15 June 1999
Great read. The story of all those who've tried to take on the Great White Whale from Redmond--to prove themselves better or smarter than Bill Gates--and failed. It's a tale about the egos of these corporate moguls, including Gates, who comes off as wise beyond his years in all things business but as 10-year-old emotioanlly. Makes you realize these guys aren't role model successes but the adolescent whiners we all hated as kids. Rivlin shows they are all about whose is bigger, and money doesn't buy you personality or happiness. None of 'em are leaving the earth a better place. Oh, yeah, the author's also uncovers that Gates was never very much of a programmer to boot.
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on 21 July 1999
In a world of silicon, power-grabs, and excesses of wealth, personalities often overshadow technology. The author describes these larger than life ego-driven titans with truth as well as tongue-in-cheek humor. After describing Mc Neely and Ellison, Bill Gates perhaps seems more human.
One of the best technology-driven "exposes". As a Novell NetWare CNE (naturally belonging to the anti-Softie bunch), I found out more about Eric Schmidt than I knew before. Here's hoping that his network operating system, in competition with Microsoft, will be challanged for the better. Personality-wise, according to the author, he is already there.
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on 11 July 1999
Finally, a book that helps a non-techie like me make sense of all these names and companies I've been reading about for all these years. A fun book, entertaining and a real education to boot. And Bill Gates--what a piece of work he is! Greed and more greed--as the author shows, though Gates claims it's not about the money, it most certainly is. A pretty ruthless lot of people, driven by ego and too much testerone.
A funny and clever book that wove together an impressive array of tales and character sketches. I'm not usually a non-fiction fan, but I'd recommend this book to anyone.
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on 29 July 1999
This book doesn't offer much in the way of new information if you have been following the story or have read any of the myriad of other books available on the subject. It does appear fairly even-handed (at least to me) in terms of the Good/Evil debate that seems to follow Gates everywhere. What really mars the book is the poor writing of the author. Sayings and phrases are continually misused to an extent which obscures his meaning. I found this very surprising for a professional journalist.
Not a particularly interesting addition to the Microsoft canon.
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