Software businesses are hard to run. Customers all think they need slightly different code. Salespeople make promises that no one in the company knows about. Acquisitions seem to offer unlimited potential . . . but usually lead to disaster. Accounting rules don't always make a lot of sense. If you lose momentum, your key people leave for the competition. A competitor can cut your sales off at the knees with a timely new product that works. Your new products barely run when they are first introduced.
So is it any wonder that few software companies prosper in the long run?
This book seems to be primarily aimed at correcting the public record about how and why Informix Software tanked in 1997 and how the company's CEO ended up pleading guilty to a count of securities fraud and spending two months in jail.
If I take the book's material at face value, it does look like Mr. White was more guilty of being naive than of securities fraud. The explanation of the rebooking of revenues to follow more conservative accounting seems to make it abundantly clear that there was no massive fraud at Informix, despite what the newspapers said to the contrary at the time.
Any new software CEO would benefit from reading this book. Investors who are thinking about buying software stocks should also read this book and lie down until the urge to buy goes away.
People who want a serious history of Informix or its industry will find the book to be superficial and incomplete.