The Plot to Get Bill Gates: An Irreverent Investigation of the World’s Richest Man… and the People Who Hate Him
To understand the magnitude of Bill Gates, one must first understand the people who hate him, most of whom suffer from an acute case of “Bill Envy.”
The Plot to Get Bill Gates is the true, hilarious story of a loosely knit cabal of Silicon Valley’s wealthiest and most successful leaders and their quest to defeat the richest man in the world. These leaders are known within Microsoft as Captain Ahab’s Club for their self-destructive fixation with harpooning the Great White Whale of Redmond, all two hundred pounds and billion of him. Acclaimed journalist Gary Rivlin tells their tale as a high-tech variation on Moby-Dick, and
by taking us deep inside the world of Gates and his enemies, he vividly reveals their consuming obsession.
Lead players in The Plot are Lawrence Ellison of Oracle, Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems, Ray Noorda of Novell, Marc Andreessen and James Barksdale of Netscape, Philippe Kahn of Borland, and Gary Kildall (the unsung programmer who could have been Gates), with special guest appearances by venture capitalist John Doerr, consumer activist Ralph Nader, zealous attorney Gary Reback, and the Fraternal Order of Antitrust Lawyers. The author describes each man’s ill-fated attempt at besting Gates, who seems to become bigger, hungrier, and more dangerous after each attack.
Rivlin also conducts an in-depth investigation of Gates himself, examining each crucial step in the ascension of the slope-shouldered billionaire with bad hair and unearthing the most telling details to explain why Gates is so rich and we aren’t. (The short answer: monomania.) Rivlin concludes with an illuminating analysis of Microsoft’s latest upgrade of its CEO, Gates 3.1, which seems to be operating with fewer bugs than previous incarnations.
Gary Rivlin’s reporting is irreverent and intellectually independent, free of the romanticized portraits and techno-hype perpetuated by many in the media. As an award-winning political reporter, he brings a fresh perspective to the avaricious, bloodthirsty behavior of these new icons. The result is a savagely funny morality play about big business at the century’s end.Money and success do strange things to people, especially when they’re not their own. Perhaps no better example of this phenomenon is Silicon Valley’s obsession with Microsoft and its leader, Bill Gates, an obsession that Gary Rivlin examines with great relish and in great detail in The Plot to Get Bill Gates. Rivlin discovers a “king-sized obsession among one-dimensional workaholics” that’s known in the industry as “Bill Envy,” a phenomenon that has destroyed companies, inspired dozens of jokes (e.g., “How many Microsoft engineers does it take to change a light bulb? None. Bill Gates will just redefine DarknessTM as the new industry standard”), and for some raises the possibility of a wider conspiracy that pits Microsoft against everyone else–Silicon Valley, the Justice Department, even Ralph Nader.
From Gates’s awkward adolescence to his position as the world’s richest man, Rivlin takes a deep look into his character and uses him as a means to reveal the character of those that oppose him, a drama that he likens to that in Moby Dick. Unlike other books about Microsoft (The Microsoft File, How the Web Was Won, Barbarians Led by Bill Gates), Rivlin’s tries not to take sides. Nevertheless, the Captain Ahabs (Ray Noorda, Scott McNealy, Larry Ellison, among others) come off looking less flawed, but certainly not as smart or as calculating or as dangerous as the white whale (Gates). While most of this material will be familiar to anyone who follows Microsoft and its competitors, Rivlin manages to keep the pages turning with dozens of entertaining anecdotes and stories about Gates and his enemies. The Plot to Get Bill Gates is a must for anyone who loves a good old-fashioned high-tech food fight. –Harry C. Edwards
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