Sunday, March 8, 2009
How the Web Was Won: Microsoft from Windows to the Web by Paul Andrews @ Rm60.00
Publisher: Broadway - 1999-06
Hardcover | 1st Edition | 368 Pages
The inside story of how a small band of agitators at Microsoft staged the stunning turnaround that transformed the company from an Internet laggard into such a dominant force that it was accused of monopolizing the industry.
1993. Microsoft's Windows software ruled the desktops of America. Nine out of ten personal computers ran the operating system, and most applications--from word processors to spreadsheets--couldn't function without it. When Bill Gates peered into Microsoft's crystal ball, he saw a world of Windows.
Then the Internet burst on the scene, and suddenly Gates's Windows-oriented future didn't look so bright. The Internet ran on UNIX, not Windows. The World Wide Web, not Windows, linked information in a global electronic library. A new software program called Mosaic, not Windows, made finding and reading Web documents as easy as skimming a magazine. Moreover, companies with little stake in Windows--Netscape, America Online, Sun Microsystems--were laying first claim to the Internet frontier.
The Internet was the future of computing--and the world's largest software company wasn't ready for it. Yet four years later, Microsoft's Internet metamorphosis was so complete that the Department of Justice slapped the company with the broadest antitrust action since the breakup of AT&T. In How the Web Was Won, veteran Seattle Times journalist Paul Andrews chronicles, for the first time, the most remarkable business turnaround of the 1990s: the story of Microsoft's turbulent journey from Windows to the Web--and of the handful of Internet believers who led the charge.
Taking the reader into the mind of Microsoft, Andrews reveals how the company struggled first to comprehend and then capitalize on the Net. How twenty-two-year-old Internet hound J Allard was shocked to learn that nobody at Microsoft seemed to know anything about networking computers when he arrived in late 1991. How Steve Ballmer, Gates's Harvard buddy and second in command at Microsoft, lit the Internet fuse with a head-scratching e-mail in December 1993. How Gates's technical assistant, Steven Sinofsky, discovered in early 1994 that Cornell University, his alma mater, was more "wired" than the world's most successful software company. And how by mid-1995, awash in the rising tide of Netscape, America Online, Java, and the Web, Bill Gates assigned the Internet the highest level of importance, launching an effort that, in a matter of months, would provoke the Justice Department, competitors, and industry analysts to warn that Microsoft could someday rule the Internet.
Based on three years of reporting and more than 100 interviews with the prime movers driving Microsoft's Internet strategy and deployment, How the Web Was Won captures the explosive drama and high-stakes gamesmanship of Microsoft's epic struggle for Internet supremacy. The result is an illuminating portrait of a software empire under siege and an intimate look at the fiery competitiveness that kindled its dramatic reversal of fortune.
In a brilliant--and, at times, overwhelming--display of research and perspicacity, Paul Andrews chronicles Microsoft's internal and public battles to adapt to Internet technology and fight the browser wars. He starts in 1991: the Internet is barely a blip on the company radar. Meanwhile, 22-year-old new hire J Allard is asked by Microsoft's No. 2 man, Steve Ballmer, to "make the pain go away" with TCP/IP, the standard Internet protocol. It's just Allard's second day on the job, and he realizes that the software giant doesn't get it: interoperability between networks and the Internet is key to Microsoft's future. He begins a grassroots effort to raise Internet consciousness, eventually distributing a widely read 17-page memo titled "Windows: The Next Killer Application on the Internet." Higher up, Bill Gates's technical assistant, Steven Sinofsky, gets snowed in at technically progressive Cornell University. He's stunned to witness a student body that's already devoted to a fledgling Internet, and writes home: "Cornell is WIRED." After intense internal debate (and more than a few late nights), Gates stops the engines and changes course to pursue integration of Windows and an Internet browser called Explorer. Andrews--a personal-technology columnist for the neighboring Seattle Times--has actually layered several books into one. In the first, he writes scores of fascinating profiles on the Internet idealists, architects, and managers who devoted "Microsoft Hours" to redirect the company's focus. In the second, he reports on external battles against foes such as Netscape and Sun Microsystems. In addition, he explores the hundreds of technological developments (occasionally to the point of distraction) that flourished during this high-tech revolution. And, finally, he comments throughout on what led the Department of Justice to file the largest antitrust action since the breakup of AT&T. Andrews's coverage of this last issue is slanted heavily in Microsoft's favor, but is thorough enough to deflect most accusations of bias. Although the Web is far from won, Microsoft's ability to turn its ship around is certainly a victory. --Rob McDonald