the corner office

a blog, by Colin Pretorius

Hard Drive

Just finished reading Hard Drive - Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire. Good book about the man whose "personal wealth is estimated at $6.5 billion." Yep, a 1993 Microsoft biography. I picked it up last weekend at a second-hand bookstore. At first I put it back on the shelf, thinking 'nah, too old'. But I figured that 450 pages dealing with the first 20 years of Microsoft's history is bound to more interesting than 450 pages dealing with 30 years of Microsoft's history, especially when I know about the last 10 years having lived through them :-). A really good read. No punches are held when it comes to describing Gates and his less-than-charming personal hygeine habits, etc, and a fairly balanced but unforgiving look at the allegations of the dodgy dealings and mindset that got MS where it was. The one thing that really stands out, as one reads of how MS focused on hiring "the best of the best" and Bill Gates and his lieutenants being hyper-intelligent people, is how they just kept churning out such crap software. They devoted millions and millions of dollars, and had the country's best programmers working absolutely ridiculous hours for months and years on end on various projects, and never quite seemed to come up with the really magical stuff that other software companies came up with. Food for thought.

{2004.04.11 21:03}

Comments:

1. jonvon (2004.04.12 - 18:31) #

"They devoted millions and millions of dollars, and had the country's best programmers working absolutely ridiculous hours for months and years on end on various projects, and never quite seemed to come up with the really magical stuff that other software companies came up with."

if this is true, why are they so ubiquitous, crazy huge and have so much money? not trying to be argumentative, i really don't know.

the one thing i'd say along these lines is their software (however good or bad it is) seems to be easy to use for everyday people.

2. Colin (2004.04.12 - 21:57) #

Jon, good enough to corner the market (eventually), yes - but magical, no. A good example is Windows 1.0 which was abysmal, as was Windows 2.0. Bill Gates' philosophy was get it to market as soon as possible, fix it later. Their first versions of many products were horrendous, but they got a toehold and improved over time.

How they came to be successful - I think good strategy and drive by Bill Gates. While people gripe about MS and their dirty tricks (no arguments from me) - even if they hadn't resorted to them, they'd still be the hugest software company in the world. They were well-diversified after building up a few brilliant cash cows (languages at first, and then operating systems), they made very clever deals, went hell-bent into every market, and slugged it out until they were on top.

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