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Bad Boy Ballmer: The Man Who Rules Microsoft

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The life of Steve Ballmer is an incredible story of tremendous ambition, genius, arrogance, and charisma, an up-by-the-bootstraps saga of how the child of immigrants growing up in suburban Michigan became the only American billionaire to acquire his wealth working for someone else. In the tradition of The New New Thing and The Silicon Boys, Bad Boy Ballmer will tell this story of a man so shamelessly arrogant that he told reporters "to heck with Janet Reno," so intense and ...

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Overview

The life of Steve Ballmer is an incredible story of tremendous ambition, genius, arrogance, and charisma, an up-by-the-bootstraps saga of how the child of immigrants growing up in suburban Michigan became the only American billionaire to acquire his wealth working for someone else. In the tradition of The New New Thing and The Silicon Boys, Bad Boy Ballmer will tell this story of a man so shamelessly arrogant that he told reporters "to heck with Janet Reno," so intense and aggressive that he ripped his vocal cords by talking to loudly.

In this revealing biography — based on in-depth study and interviews with Microsoft insiders — Fredric Alan Maxwell provides the complete, controversial narrative of one of the technology industry's most influential, talked-about figures: Steven Anthony Ballmer, the awkward Detroit Country Day School valedictorian who rose to become Microsoft's president, and in the past two years, its CEO. Together with Bill Gates, Ballmer leads the company he and Gates took from less than 30 employees to some 50,000, and annual revenues from $12 million to more than $20 billion and rising. A balanced portrait, this book reveals the good boy Ballmer — the dedicated son who once took three months off to care for his ailing parents, and the bad boy Ballmer — the ruthless businessman who at the same time devised and led a scorched earth policy against other software developers, a policy that earned him the nickname "The Em-balmer."

Bad Boy Ballmer is also the definitive story of the Bill Gates/Steve Ballmer relationship, from their 1974 meeting at a Harvard dorm to the present. Providing fresh insights into the longstanding bond between this odd couple, who describe their relationship as a marriage, the book will show how Ballmer and Gates work together to form Microsoft's ego and id. Or, as former competitor, Novell's Ray Noorda calls them, "the Pearly Gates and the Emballmer: one promises you heaven, the other prepares you for the grave." One half of the new economy's most powerful partnership, Ballmer's greatest accomplishment, Bad Boy Ballmer shows, may be putting up with Gates for over two decades.

Eye-opening and thorough, Bad Boy Ballmer is a shocking look at one of the masterminds of the technological age.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Microsoft founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen may be the most well-known rulers of the huge computer empire, but this latest offering attempts to show that the company's current CEO, the colorful and bombastic Steve Ballmer, an early Microsoft employee and friend of Gates's from their days at Harvard, is in fact the company's muscle. Unfortunately, this "biography" is little more than a re-hashing of Microsoft's already well-documented ruthless business practices, staggering financial success and endless legal travails. Seattle-based writer and researcher Maxwell, once profiled in the New Yorker for his research skills, does succeed in assembling an array of secondary sources into a concise edition of the Microsoft saga. But as a biography of Ballmer, the book falls woefully short. Readers learn that Ballmer was born in an affluent Detroit suburb, is of Jewish heritage, was a classic overachiever who worked his way into Harvard, dropped out of Stanford Business School and was briefly employed as a brand manager for Procter & Gamble. But beyond a few examples of Ballmer's frighteningly enthusiastic style he once ripped his vocal chords while giving a particularly forceful speech there's very little about Ballmer's true impact on Microsoft, or of Microsoft's impact on Ballmer. In his introduction, Maxwell gushes that Ballmer's is the "incredible story of tremendous ambition, genius, and charisma, of intense drive and merit, of insatiable greed and blatant arrogance." But there is in fact so little Ballmer and so much Microsoft in this book, it is a stretch to call this effort a biography. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780066210148
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/17/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Fredric Alan Maxwell is a New Yorker-profiled researcher and writer whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Harper’s, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine. He can be reached at BadBoyBallmer@yahoo.com

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Read an Excerpt

Bad Boy Ballmer

Chapter One

In the Beginning

Thirty years ago and twenty-three hundred miles apart, Detroit, where fifteen-year-old Steve Ballmer was being raised, and Seattle, where he'd end up, were vastly different places. Most people know of Thanksgiving in Seattle in 1971 by one name: D. B. Cooper. Though difficult to imagine after the World Trade Center and Pentagon airplane bombings, D.B. Cooper became a folk hero for his peaceful, soft-spoken skyjacking of a Northwest Airlines flight from Portland to Seattle that Thanksgiving eve. En route, Cooper demanded four parachutes and two hundred thousand dollars, showing a stewardess what appeared to be a bomb. Northwest officials radioed the pilot, saying, "We're giving him what he wants." The plane landed safely at the Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) airport. A few hours later, after he'd released the other passengers in return for the money and parachutes, and the plane was heading south, D.B. Cooper manually lowered the plane's rear stairs, jumped out, and parachuted into the Washington wilderness and American folklore, never to be seen again. As the news spread, many lauded the air pirate some called a modern-day Robin Hood, whom the New York Times would editorialize "didn't have the notoriety of John Dillinger, yet." D.B. Cooper T-shirts, books, and even songs would follow. As one professor observed, Cooper had "won public admiration through an awesome feat in the battle of man against machine -- one individual overcoming, for the time being anyway, technology, the corporation, the establishment, the system." D.B. Cooper's name greeted Americans awaking to Thanksgiving Day in 1971, much to thechagrin of Henry Ford II.

The day before, "Hank the Duce" had announced his plans to build a two-hundred-million-dollar collection of offices and stores in downtown Detroit, which he optimistically called the Renaissance Center. Yet D.B. Cooper had stolen Ford's headlines in the Detroit Free Press. More than a few of his customers shared Ford's anger, but his products were their targets. The company's reputation for dependability had sunk to the point where the letters ford were said to stand for "Fixed or Repaired Daily." Earlier in the year one customer, Eddie Campos, drove his Lincoln Continental onto the lawn of a Ford assembly plant, poured gasoline on it, and set it on fire. "I saved up for five years to buy that car new," Campos said, "and it turned out to be a lemon. I had it towed in for repairs ten thousand times and everybody just laughed at me -- the dealers I took it to, the Ford people. I couldn't get no satisfaction." A deputy sheriff at the scene described Campos as "perfectly sober, perfectly rational, and completely disgusted." Thirty years later, more than a few of Microsoft's customers, competitors, and employees could relate.

Still, even though Ford was peddling generally mediocre cars that were supported by generally mediocre service, the company managed to sell over 2.4 million of them that year in North America. Another highlight came when a Ford car, the Lunar Rover, was driven on the moon that July. And Ford attorneys were feeling upbeat about arguments they had made a week before, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, to overturn their Sherman Antitrust Act conviction, for cutting competition in the spark plug market, a conviction the Supreme Court would uphold seven months later. All this was common knowledge in Detroit and at Ford.

Detroit was in a good mood for many reasons, a prime one being that it was surfing the crest of the great post–World War II economic tidal wave. Detroit's relative wealth and influence would never again be so vast. Record U.S. auto sales exceeded ten million units. (Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce went bankrupt.) These were the final days of Detroit's golden era. Having literally bombed out their German and Japanese competition a quarter century before, Detroit's auto makers almost had to work at not making money. They would soon find a way.

In contrast, much of America was in a recession, and the Seattle area was reeling from Congress's elimination of funding for the airplane-of-the-future, the supersonic transport (SST). Though city leaders had backed Boeing's effort to produce the SST, to the point of naming their only major league sports franchise, their National Basketball Association team, the SuperSonics, the federal cutback, combined with low orders for its 747 aircraft, put Seattle's premier employer in a tailspin. Boeing laid off over sixty thousand workers to avoid the near-bankruptcy suffered by rival Lockheed earlier that year. This so-named "Boeing Bust" prompted such an exodus of residents that two Seattleites rented a billboard and printed this request: would the last person to leave seattle please turn off the lights? For some reason, however, this slowdown didn't deter three recent, grammatically challenged University of Washington grads from establishing a small coffee shop in the city's Pike Place Market. In tribute to Seattle's rich maritime history, they named the cafe after the chief mate in Moby-Dick. And that's how Starbucks got its start.

Back in Michigan, over five hundred thousand Detroiters braved the twenty-eight-degree cold and lined downtown streets to view the annual J.L. Hudson Thanksgiving Parade. Millions more watched on television as CBS broadcast the event nationwide. It could have been called "CBS Day in Detroit." Four hours later, the network showed the Detroit Lions' annual Thanksgiving game. Then, at 10:00 p.m., CBS Reports aired what the New York Times called a "superb, engaging, and totally rewarding documentary" on the parents, kids, and competitive nature in the Detroit suburb Birmingham.

Ten days before, far from CBS's cameras, a small California computer component manufacturer, Intel, had quietly announced that it had invented and was marketing what would become the most influential electronic device of the last half of the twentieth century: the computer chip. Intel's 4004 microprocessor included a central processing unit (CPU) measuring one-eighth of an inch wide by one-sixth of an inch long -- about the size of Marilyn Monroe's black beauty mark -- containing more computing ability than the moving-truck-size first electronic computer, the ENIAC, dedicated twenty-five years before.

Bad Boy Ballmer. Copyright © by Fredric Maxwell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Bad Boy Ballmer
The Man Who Rules Microsoft

Chapter One

In the Beginning

Thirty years ago and twenty-three hundred miles apart, Detroit, where fifteen-year-old Steve Ballmer was being raised, and Seattle, where he'd end up, were vastly different places. Most people know of Thanksgiving in Seattle in 1971 by one name: D. B. Cooper. Though difficult to imagine after the World Trade Center and Pentagon airplane bombings, D.B. Cooper became a folk hero for his peaceful, soft-spoken skyjacking of a Northwest Airlines flight from Portland to Seattle that Thanksgiving eve. En route, Cooper demanded four parachutes and two hundred thousand dollars, showing a stewardess what appeared to be a bomb. Northwest officials radioed the pilot, saying, "We're giving him what he wants." The plane landed safely at the Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) airport. A few hours later, after he'd released the other passengers in return for the money and parachutes, and the plane was heading south, D.B. Cooper manually lowered the plane's rear stairs, jumped out, and parachuted into the Washington wilderness and American folklore, never to be seen again. As the news spread, many lauded the air pirate some called a modern-day Robin Hood, whom the New York Times would editorialize "didn't have the notoriety of John Dillinger, yet." D.B. Cooper T-shirts, books, and even songs would follow. As one professor observed, Cooper had "won public admiration through an awesome feat in the battle of man against machine -- one individual overcoming, for the time being anyway, technology, the corporation, the establishment, the system." D.B. Cooper's name greeted Americans awaking to Thanksgiving Day in 1971, much to the chagrin of Henry Ford II.

The day before, "Hank the Duce" had announced his plans to build a two-hundred-million-dollar collection of offices and stores in downtown Detroit, which he optimistically called the Renaissance Center. Yet D.B. Cooper had stolen Ford's headlines in the Detroit Free Press. More than a few of his customers shared Ford's anger, but his products were their targets. The company's reputation for dependability had sunk to the point where the letters ford were said to stand for "Fixed or Repaired Daily." Earlier in the year one customer, Eddie Campos, drove his Lincoln Continental onto the lawn of a Ford assembly plant, poured gasoline on it, and set it on fire. "I saved up for five years to buy that car new," Campos said, "and it turned out to be a lemon. I had it towed in for repairs ten thousand times and everybody just laughed at me -- the dealers I took it to, the Ford people. I couldn't get no satisfaction." A deputy sheriff at the scene described Campos as "perfectly sober, perfectly rational, and completely disgusted." Thirty years later, more than a few of Microsoft's customers, competitors, and employees could relate.

Still, even though Ford was peddling generally mediocre cars that were supported by generally mediocre service, the company managed to sell over 2.4 million of them that year in North America. Another highlight came when a Ford car, the Lunar Rover, was driven on the moon that July. And Ford attorneys were feeling upbeat about arguments they had made a week before, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, to overturn their Sherman Antitrust Act conviction, for cutting competition in the spark plug market, a conviction the Supreme Court would uphold seven months later. All this was common knowledge in Detroit and at Ford.

Detroit was in a good mood for many reasons, a prime one being that it was surfing the crest of the great post–World War II economic tidal wave. Detroit's relative wealth and influence would never again be so vast. Record U.S. auto sales exceeded ten million units. (Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce went bankrupt.) These were the final days of Detroit's golden era. Having literally bombed out their German and Japanese competition a quarter century before, Detroit's auto makers almost had to work at not making money. They would soon find a way.

In contrast, much of America was in a recession, and the Seattle area was reeling from Congress's elimination of funding for the airplane-of-the-future, the supersonic transport (SST). Though city leaders had backed Boeing's effort to produce the SST, to the point of naming their only major league sports franchise, their National Basketball Association team, the SuperSonics, the federal cutback, combined with low orders for its 747 aircraft, put Seattle's premier employer in a tailspin. Boeing laid off over sixty thousand workers to avoid the near-bankruptcy suffered by rival Lockheed earlier that year. This so-named "Boeing Bust" prompted such an exodus of residents that two Seattleites rented a billboard and printed this request: would the last person to leave seattle please turn off the lights? For some reason, however, this slowdown didn't deter three recent, grammatically challenged University of Washington grads from establishing a small coffee shop in the city's Pike Place Market. In tribute to Seattle's rich maritime history, they named the cafe after the chief mate in Moby-Dick. And that's how Starbucks got its start.

Back in Michigan, over five hundred thousand Detroiters braved the twenty-eight-degree cold and lined downtown streets to view the annual J.L. Hudson Thanksgiving Parade. Millions more watched on television as CBS broadcast the event nationwide. It could have been called "CBS Day in Detroit." Four hours later, the network showed the Detroit Lions' annual Thanksgiving game. Then, at 10:00 p.m., CBS Reports aired what the New York Times called a "superb, engaging, and totally rewarding documentary" on the parents, kids, and competitive nature in the Detroit suburb Birmingham.

Ten days before, far from CBS's cameras, a small California computer component manufacturer, Intel, had quietly announced that it had invented and was marketing what would become the most influential electronic device of the last half of the twentieth century: the computer chip. Intel's 4004 microprocessor included a central processing unit (CPU) measuring one-eighth of an inch wide by one-sixth of an inch long -- about the size of Marilyn Monroe's black beauty mark -- containing more computing ability than the moving-truck-size first electronic computer, the ENIAC, dedicated twenty-five years before.

Bad Boy Ballmer
The Man Who Rules Microsoft
. Copyright © by Fredric Maxwell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2003

    A Home Run

    Though I have little interest in Microsoft, when a lover gave me this book it was his temporary loss, for I was taken from the first sentence and read it straight through to the last (which are the same: Steve Ballmer can remind you of many people). If you love or hate Microsoft or don't really have an opinion, you'll have a strong one after reading Bad Boy Ballmer. Enjoy!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2002

    Bad Boy Ballmer

    Whatever you may have known about Steve Ballmer-CEO of Microsoft, hyper-aggressive tactician, Bill Gates right-hand man-what many people may remember him for was a video clip that was widely circulated on the Internet last year. In the clip, which writer Frederic Alan Maxwell uses to begin his book Bad Boy Ballmer: The Man Who Rules Microsoft, Ballmer runs, whooping, bounding, and howling, in a primal gait over the strains of Gloria Estafan's "Get on Your Feet." While this so-called "Monkey Boy" clip may have introduced Ballmer to an uninitiated public, many fans and foes of Microsoft were familiar with Ballmer: the brilliant, ruthless, passionate corporate conquistador and co-leader of one of the most powerful companies in history. Maxwell's book follows Ballmer from his beginnings in Detroit, the son of a Detroit-born mother and a Swiss immigrant father, and later Birmingham, Michigan as an ultra-competitive student, whom a former schoolmate at Detroit Country Day described as "the brightest of the bright." At Harvard, where Ballmer would meet Bill Gates, Ballmer exuded the confidence and competence that would lead Gates to hire him as one of its first "non-technical" employees in 1980. It is at this point, the book turns more into a history of Microsoft, especially its cloak-and-dagger deals that led it to the software maker's current dominance of the desktop software market. This is also when the book tends to turn its focus to Microsoft, leaving Ballmer, unfortunately, as a supporting player. For Microsoft fans and foes, Maxwell's book offers an intriguing look at the hyper-evolution of software and computing through the lens of all things Microsoft. Maxwell does an impressive job of talking to many of Ballmer's friends and associates, both Microsoft and pre-Microsoft, as well as unnamed former Ballmer colleagues, who offer ungilded insight into Ballmer's approach to the competition. Much of Maxwell's book covers the legal maneuvering and machinations that Microsoft used to deal with the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust lawsuit against the company. For those familiar with Microsoft's rise to power, Maxwell's book is a reminder of how well the company has played the game. For those who are unfamiliar with the company's history or Ballmer's role, it's a fascinating read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2002

    Great Geek Christmas Gift!

    When a friend gave me a copy of BAD BOY BALLMER, I thought it would stay at the bottom of my to-read pile, but after reading the first paragraph I was hooked. I became outraged as I saw how brute force, not good products, made Microsoft a software monopoly, and how their top executives, lied, cheated, and stole their way into our lives. I also laughed at so many of the numerous anecdotes I wondered why others hadn't heard about the book -- I especially liked the story about Microsoft's recruiting policies ("Ya gots ta get 'em when they young. If you don't get 'em soon enough, they ruined.")I've given copies to my mother, brother, and best friend and recommend it for anyone who has a geek in their life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2002

    A Robber Barron in Our Midst

    In the nineteenth century, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt founded and built entire industries. In the first half of the twentieth century, Edison and Ford did it. Then Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer turned Microsoft into a household word and one of the richest companies in the history of business. They didn¿t pump oil or haul freight, light the world or put a car in every driveway; they just sold computer software. Their accomplishments coined the term ¿intellectual property¿ and transformed the world from the industrial age to the age of information. There have been a number of books by and about Bill Gates. Fredric Alan Maxwell in ¿Bad Boy Ballmer: The Man Who Rules Microsoft¿ tells the story of Gates¿ loyal friend and second in command, Steve Ballmer. After the creation of the income tax in 1913, not only to raise revenue but also to prevent the creation of an American aristocracy, it was thought impossible to ever again amass fortunes on the scale of the nineteenth century robber barons. Steve Ballmer grew up from humble beginnings in suburban Detroit to become a multi-billionaire and the fourth richest man in America, but only the third richest in the county where he now resides outside Seattle. Great wealth inspires great curiosity. In the case of Microsoft where the products are full of bugs and don¿t work too well ¿ great wealth can also inspire great loathing. Ballmer is a leader, a doer, a tremendously effective executive, and Maxwell tells us his story. Ballmer could spend a million dollars a day every day for the rest of his life and still have many billions left over. If Gates and Ballmer just walked away from Microsoft and started all over again with, say, a measly billion dollars each, they¿d find a way to make another personal computer operating system and give their former company a run for the money. Ballmer, the only billionaire who got rich working for someone else, is a great business talent and competition addict. It¿s not the excellence of the software that created the alleged ¿monopoly,¿ it¿s the skill at business strategy. Ballmer got the right people working on the right things. But it¿s also his personal ability to intimidate and dominate. Everybody ¿ except Fred Maxwell. Maxwell¿s initial approach to do an authorized biography was rebuffed by Ballmer and the public relations department at Microsoft. To get the story, he had to do it the hard way. Through meticulous research and countless interviews, Maxwell turns out this business biography with wit and humor. When Ballmer went to work for his friend from Harvard he joined the nascent Microsoft as the 24th employee. They¿ve built the company up to where they now have 50,000 employees, and more cash in the bank than any company in the world. A hundred years from now, their names will still be on people¿s lips, like Rockefeller and Vanderbilt.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 27, 2002

    Windows Opened

    A witty, irreverent look at one of the culprits behind Windows.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2002

    Ballmer, Come work for me

    Perhaps Bill Gates' true genius lies in recognizing and recruting Ballmer; and once recruited deciding over time to step back and allow the "Bad Boy" to do that which he does best;work with enthusiasm and dedication to make Microsoft the success it is and will remain. None of Ballmer's tactics seem more than that of a person hell bent on success and determined to "push the envelope" to define the legal limits in often undecipheral legalese ;leave it to the lawyers to figure out. Most unauthorized bios tend to offer embarrasing and pseudo-titillating items. This bio says Here he is, warts and all; tears on his wedding day, a devoted father, husband and generous supporter of religious and educational institutes; a man who has and is living a dream come true. Congrats to Maxwell on this insight to an often overlooked success story.

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