Microsoft Way: The Real Story of how the Company Outsmarts Its Competition

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Randall E. Stross was the first business historian Microsoft let into its archives, enjoying unrestricted access to its Redmond campus for three years. The Microsoft Way thus provides the most incisive analysis of Microsoft and its place in American industry. Stross finds microsoft's success not in predatory marketing but in its eagerness for intelligent employees, bright ideas, and market feedback. Those strengths have helped the firm to grow and to transform itself again and again. In 1990 Microsoft made ...
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Overview

Randall E. Stross was the first business historian Microsoft let into its archives, enjoying unrestricted access to its Redmond campus for three years. The Microsoft Way thus provides the most incisive analysis of Microsoft and its place in American industry. Stross finds microsoft's success not in predatory marketing but in its eagerness for intelligent employees, bright ideas, and market feedback. Those strengths have helped the firm to grow and to transform itself again and again. In 1990 Microsoft made business software and a clunky PC operating system; in just a few years it has reshaped itself into a leading publisher of CD-ROMs for the home and a contender on the Internet, leaving rivals in the digital dust and rendering any previous company history out of date. Stross follows the shaky birth of Encarta, now the world's bestselling encyclopedia but at one point terminated by Microsoft's board. He traces the company's ever-changing plans for an online world. And he brings the long-term perspective of a historian to the question of whether Microsoft threatens free trade as turn-of-the-century monopolies once did, criticizing the Justice Department's long antitrust suit. The Microsoft Way describes what it's like to work at Microsoft, what lessons rivals can learn from its operation, and how smaller companies can still get a jump on the industry leader, just as Intuit and Netscape did. It also sends a message to every computer user: we'll be better off learning from what Microsoft does well than clinging to a distorted picture of an evil empire.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
To critics, Bill Gates's Microsoft Inc. is the apotheosis of brute-force ruthless marketing, but in this lively, independent-minded report, Stross (Steve Jobs and the Next Big Thing) finds a different explanation for Microsoft's success: Gates's strategy of hiring the smartest software developers, keeping their allegiance with lucrative stock options, fostering an egalitarian creative atmosphere and perpetuating the identity of small working groups. A business professor at San Jose State University in California, Stross had unfettered access to Gates, his employees and the company's internal files, making this a privileged, revealing window on Microsoft's inner workings. He charts the firm's long, rocky struggle to win broad consumer acceptance of CD-ROMs, as well as the saga of Microsoft's bestselling multimedia encyclopedia, Encarta. Microsoft was caught unprepared by the advent of the Internet, and its failed attempt to outdo a small but feisty rival, Intuit, in the personal finance software market, demonstrates that Gates is far from infallible, yet Microsoft has swiftly adapted to an Internet-centered software universe, which to Stross signifies a company constantly learning as it grows. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Business historian Stross follows up his Steve Jobs and the Next Big Thing (LJ 12/93), which was critical of Jobs, with this favorable portrait of Bill Gates and Microsoft's business strategies in the 1990s. Filling a gap in the literature on Microsoft and Gates by focusing on relatively recent Microsoft strategic corporate successes with CD-ROMs, the "Information Superhighway," and overcoming Department of Justice antitrust concerns (which continue, however), Stross's work will nonetheless disappoint both Gates and computing aficionados. Unlike Jobs, Gates and Microsoft top executives cooperated with Stross, who defends his pro-Microsoft tone, claiming nothing else was possible given his findings. Stross discusses only the beginnings of the Netscape-Microsoft browser rivalry, the most serious challenge to Microsoft today. The last section argues interestingly that much of the animosity toward Gates and Microsoft is the result of "our collective reaction to [Gates's wealth]." Despite drawbacks, this is recommended for business collections.-Michael Neubert, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Booknews
A kinder and gentler analysis of Microsoft and its place in American industry, drawing on inside documents and interviews with company leaders and employees. Looks at milestones such as the development of Encarta and the company's online plans, and criticize's the Justice Department's antitrust suit. For general readers. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
An offbeat overview of Microsoft, the Johnny-come-lately enterprise that dominates the widening world of PC programming and is now laying careful plans to make itself a force to be reckoned with in the as yet undefined field of multimedia.

Granted open access to the company's files and staff, Stross (Steve Jobs and the Next Big Thing, 1993) eschewed a traditional corporate history in favor of a four-part audit that puts fast- growing Microsoft and the aspirations of Bill Gates (its quirky cofounder) in an appreciably clearer perspective than that to be found in the grumbling of green-eyed rivals or the clueless complaints of would-be trustbusters. The author (Business/San Jose State Univ.) first examines the company's personnel policies and operational practices; he concludes that hiring brainy people for financially rewarding as well as professionally challenging assignments, and a willingness to commit sizable sums to R&D, rank among the principal secrets of Microsoft's continuing success. Stross goes on to review how this Washington State firm with global reach has conducted a patient campaign to break into consumer outlets (most notably, with a CD-ROM encyclopedia dubbed Encarta), and the stiff competition it faces from Intuit in personal-finance software. Covered as well are Microsoft's efforts to develop a commercial stake in interactive TV (an endeavor the company's chief scientist likens to playing a game of 500-card stud), its late start in the Internet sweepstakes, and the unwelcome attention of Justice Department attorneys whose predecessors watched the high- tech marketplace do what they could not in over a decade of trying: downsize and dismember IBM.

Stross finishes with a jarring chapter on the philanthropic purposes to which a still young Gates might eventually put his billions. Apart from this, a perceptive briefing on a consequential corporation that arguably qualifies as a national treasure.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780788157356
  • Publisher: DIANE Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 10/28/1998
  • Pages: 318

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