Synopses & Reviews
The year is 1997, and despite the machinations of its rivals, Microsoft is master of the digital universe and the darling of corporate America. Windows and Office generate staggering profits, the company's share price is stratospheric, and Bill Gates is the preeminent icon of the information age. No outsider could guess what Gates knew -- that the most powerful threat to Microsoft's prized Windows platform came not from Sun or Netscape or AOL or even from the U.S. Department of Justice, but from within the company's own ranks.
Breaking Windows tells the story of the battle for the soul of Microsoft that raged inside the company from 1997 to 2000 and continues to reverberate today. Drawing on hundreds of e-mails among Microsoft executives, trial testimony, and exclusive interviews with Gates and his chief lieutenants, Wall Street Journal reporter David Bank reveals the bitter maneuvering between what he calls Microsoft's "Windows hawks" and its "Internet doves." On one side were the fierce defenders of the hegemony of Windows, on the other those who championed a new way of doing business based on the Internet's "open standards." The reformers wanted to break free from the legacy of Windows and dare to compete on the merits of their software. At the center of this pitched battle stood Gates, the tactical genius who had created the company in his own image and who now accepts full responsibility for his fateful choices. "Every mistake you can lay at my feet," he told Bank, who takes him at his word -- offering the first critique of Gates's leadership not from the perspective of government prosecutors or envious software rivals but from inside the company itself.
Ambitious in scope and surprising in its conclusions, Breaking Windows contains sharply drawn portraits of key past and present executives, including Steve Ballmer, Jim Allchin, Brad Silverberg, Adam Bosworth, and Paul Maritz. Bank argues persuasively that the rifts within Microsoft underlie many of its recent troubles -- from the antitrust courtroom debacle to the exodus of many of the company's most talented employees to Gates's own fall from grace as a corporate leader and technology visionary. Yet even now, Bank contends, Gates could embrace the new rules of competition and restore Microsoft to leadership, perhaps ushering in a new era of openness and innovation.
Breaking Windows breaks new ground in its analysis of Microsoft's past and future business strategies. As Microsoft faces the waning importance of Windows, rallies behind XML, and confronts the open-source insurgency, the past Bank reveals is vital to understanding the future of this company and the still unfinished digital revolution it helped unleash.
Lawrence Lessig Professor of Law, Stanford Law School and author of The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World This is not just another Microsoft book. It is an extraordinary account of the struggle for the soul of perhaps the greatest company in American history. If Bank is right -- and his argument is meticulous and powerful -- then it also shows why the government can safely take its antitrust case and go home.
James Fallows author of Free Flight and Breaking the News I thought I had seen every possible account of the Microsoft drama, but David Bank's reporting adds a new and fascinating perspective. Connecting the internal struggles over Microsoft's direction to the company's external legal and market battles, he convincingly explains why Microsoft has run into difficulties -- but may well return stronger than ever.
Walter S. Mossberg Personal Technology columnist, The Wall Street Journal This is the best book I've read on Microsoft as it exists today. It goes far beyond the well-worn accounts of the company's battles with the government to provide a fascinating tale of Microsoft's battles with itself -- and with the future.
Kara Swisher author of aol.com Combining bold writing, clear-headed analysis, and the keen insight that comes only from many years of reporting, Breaking Windows finally makes sense of the company that many have written about but few have understood. If you can read only one book about Microsoft, this is the one to pick.
Paul Andrews author of How the Web Was Won and coauthor of Gates Laced with formidable reporting and probing analysis, Breaking Windows dares to defy Gates, Ballmer and Co. with the proposition that a post-Windows Microsoft might be better for everyone -- including Microsoft.
David Readerman Partner and Director of Software and Internet Strategy, Thomas Weisel Partners David Bank has broken new ground in uncovering the fault lines within the seemingly monolithic and golden Windows franchise. This is a fast-paced, enlightening read that exposes the inner workings of Microsoft. I recommend it for investors as a must-read.
Michael A. Cusumano Professor, MIT Sloan School of Management, and coauthor of Microsoft Secrets and Competing on Internet Time A truly riveting account, based on volumes of confidential e-mails and personal interviews, of one of the great internal corporate struggles in business history: the debate within Microsoft over how to deal with the Windows legacy in the face of the challenge presented by Internet technology. A must-read for anyone interested in how high-tech companies make strategy and deal with disruptive change.
Dave Winer Founder and CEO, UserLand Software, Inc. Microsoft has long appeared to be a well-oiled machine, moving in lock-step toward goals set by Bill Gates. In Breaking Windows, however, a different picture emerges. The agony inside and around Microsoft is the theme of Bank's fantastic book.
About the Author
David Bank, a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, has covered Microsoft since 1996. Previously, he was a technology and telecommunications writer for the San Jose Mercury News. His articles have appeared in Wired, Newsweek, and Out. A 1996 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, he is a graduate of the Columbia University School of Journalism and the University of California at Santa Cruz. He and his partner live in Berkeley, California. This is his first book. Additional information can be found at www.breakingwindows.net.
Table of Contents
Prologue: The E-mail Trail
- Track the Inevitable
The Last Pajama Party
Dollars per Desktop
- Hawks and Doves
Embrace and Extend
- The Path Not Taken
The Dance of Blind Reflex
- Citizen Gates
Out of Control
Win, Place, or Show
- Vicious Cycle
- Monopolist's Dilemma
Under the Radar
- Loosely Coupled
Think Like Bill
Challenge and Response