Burning the Ships: Intellectual Property and the Transformation of Microsoft

Overview

Burning the Ships: Intellectual Property and the Transformationof Microsoft

At the start of this decade, Microsoft was on thedefensive-beset on all sides by anti-trust suits and costlylitigation, and viewed by many in the technology industry as amonopolist and market bully. How was it going to survive andsucceed in the emerging new era of "open innovation," wherecollaboration and cooperation between firms, rather than marketconquest, would be ...

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Overview

Burning the Ships: Intellectual Property and the Transformationof Microsoft

At the start of this decade, Microsoft was on thedefensive-beset on all sides by anti-trust suits and costlylitigation, and viewed by many in the technology industry as amonopolist and market bully. How was it going to survive andsucceed in the emerging new era of "open innovation," wherecollaboration and cooperation between firms, rather than marketconquest, would be the keystones of success?

This was the challenge facing Microsoft founder and ChairmanBill Gates. But "like Cortez burning his ships at the shores of theNew World," Gates decided to embrace the change that was needed. Herecruited Marshall Phelps-the legendary "godfather" of intellectualproperty who had turned IBM's IP portfolio into a $2-billion-a-yeargold mine-out of retirement and into the cauldron of controversythat was Microsoft. Only this time Phelps's mission was infinitelymore challenging than simply making money from IP. It was to helpreform Microsoft's "man the barricades" culture, encourage thecompany to abandon its fortress mentality around its technology andshare it with others for mutual benefit, and use intellectualproperty not as a weapon of competitive warfare but as a bridge tocollaboration with other firms instead.

Here, for the first time (and 500 collaboration deals later), isthe inside story of what one analyst has called "the biggest changeMicrosoft has undergone since it became a multinationalcompany."

In this book, authors Marshall Phelps and David Kline take thereader inside the dramatic struggle within Microsoft to find a newdirection. They offer an extraordinary behind-the-scenes view ofthe high-level deliberations of the company's senior-mostexecutives, the internal debates and conflicts among executives andrank-and-file employees alike over the company's new collaborativedirection, and the company's controversial top-secretpartnership-building efforts with major open source companies andothers around the world. Nothing was held back from this book savefor information specifically prohibited from disclosure byconfidentiality agreements that Microsoft signed with othercompanies. Indeed, the degree of access to Microsoft's innerworkings granted to the authors-and the honest self-criticismoffered by Microsoft leaders and employees alike-was unprecedentedin the company's thirty-four-year history.

There are lessons in this book for executives in everyindustry-most especially on the role that intellectual property canplay in liberating previously untapped value in a company andopening up powerful new business opportunities in today's era of"open innovation." Here is a powerful inside account of the dawn ofa new era at what is arguably the most powerful technology companyon earth.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a book as much about teams and organizations managing conflict brought on by significant change as it is about intellectual property (IP). Intertwined throughout a series of engaging and personal stories - showing how Microsoft instituted a strategic personality makeover from a monopolisitc bully to a respected collaborative partner - are lessons that every business person can use in building and implementing diverse teams to meet clear strategic objectives.Anyone who invests the short time to indulge the personal stories of this book will come away with a renewed sense of commitment to implementing fully cross-functional teams, as Phelps clearly shows as a key element to the successful transformation of a software powerhouse "going it alone" to spurring innovation and economic progress benefitting all of society." (Journal of Product Innovation Management, 2010; 27)

"Phelps (corporate vice president for intellectual property policy & strategy, Microsoft) and journalist Kline (Rembrandts in the Attic) have written a brisk and engaging book about Microsoft's radical overhauling of its intellectual property (IP) strategy. Phelps, the principal architect of this new strategy, gives the reader an insider's perspective on his struggle to overcome Microsoft's traditional use of its intellectual property as a "weapon" against competitors and to transform the company into a key player in the new business environment of "open innovation….the book is worth reading for its portrait of a major corporation undergoing massive change and for its lucid explanations of IP business strategy. Recommended for serious business readers." (Library Journal, July 15, 2009)

"Could Microsoft’s ability to produce intellectual property be the company’s future salvation? A few weeks ago, I complained that Microsoft wasn’t innovating. Yet the book Burning the Ships talks of Microsoft’s burgeoning intellectual property treasure chest. Burning the Ships shows the way to another outlet for Microsoft’s innovation. Instead of trying to hold their intellectual property close to the vest, Microsoft is beginning to open up the IP treasure chest and let others try to do the work of bringing those products to market." (InformationWeek, June 1, 2009)

Library Journal
Phelps (corporate vice president for intellectual property policy & strategy, Microsoft) and journalist Kline (Rembrandts in the Attic) have written a brisk and engaging book about Microsoft's radical overhauling of its intellectual property (IP) strategy. Phelps, the principal architect of this new strategy, gives the reader an insider's perspective on his struggle to overcome Microsoft's traditional use of its intellectual property as a "weapon" against competitors and to transform the company into a key player in the new business environment of "open innovation." The book is not without more than a whiff of self-congratulation and—despite the inclusion of some unusually candid disclosures from key players within the company—it presents a perhaps overly rosy picture of the software giant. VERDICT These flaws notwithstanding, the book is worth reading for its portrait of a major corporation undergoing massive change and for its lucid explanations of IP business strategy. Recommended for serious business readers.—Rachel Bridgewater, Reed Coll. Lib., Portland, OR
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780470432150
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 3/30/2009
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 186
  • Sales rank: 1,310,204
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Marshall Phelps is Microsoft's corporate Vice Presidentfor Intellectual Property Policy and Strategy and is responsiblefor setting the global intellectual property strategies andpolicies for the company. He also works with governments, othercompanies in the technology industry, and outside institutions tobroaden awareness of intellectual property issues. Phelps joinedMicrosoft in June 2003 after a twenty-eight-year career at IBMCorp., where he served as vice president for intellectual propertyand licensing and built its world-leading $2-billion-a-yearlicensing program. Phelps is an executive in residence at DukeUniversity's Fuqua School of Business and was elected to theinitial class of the Intellectual Property Hall of Fame in 2006. Hemay be reached at mphelps@microsoft.com.

David Kline is a journalist, author, and intellectualproperty consultant who has earned acclaim for his unique abilityto demystify complex IP issues and explain them in a clear andrelevant manner to a broad business audience. His bestselling 2000book, Rembrandts in the Attic from Harvard Business School Press,is considered a seminal work in the field of intellectual propertystrategy within corporate America. As a journalist, Kline hascovered some of the world's most critical wars, famines, and othercrises for the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor,NBC and CBS News, the Atlantic, Rolling Stone, Wired, and othermajor media. He may be reached at dkline@well.com.

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Table of Contents

About the Authors.

Acknowledgments.

Introduction.

Chapter 1 The Collaboration Imperative.

Chapter 2 Like Cortez Burning His Ships.

Chapter 3 Money Isn’t Money Anymore.

Chapter 4 A Very Secret Mission.

Chapter 5 Leadership Starts at the Top.

Chapter 6 The Road Ahead (with Apologies to Bill Gates).

Index.

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