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  ActiveWin.com Book of the Day: Breaking Windows: How Bill Gates Fumbled the Future of Microsoft
Time: 00:00 EST/05:00 GMT | News Source: ActiveWin.com | Posted By: Robert Stein

David Bank's Breaking Windows offers a scathing inside look at the past few tumultuous years at the Microsoft Corporation. Bank, who covers the company for The Wall Street Journal, bases this well-written tale on interviews he has conducted with most major players (including Bill Gates), along with boxes of e-mails and other documents that "provided an unprecedented glimpse into strategic debates and internal decision-making processes of a company that had long restricted outside access to its insular corporate culture." Through them he shows how Microsoft, which always put software above everything--and in more recent years made Windows its number-one priority--has scrambled and squabbled as first the Internet and then the U.S. government forced major directional changes and significant internal reevaluations.

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#1 By 1868 (141.133.153.147) at 12/3/2003 1:51:11 AM
Looks like I'm adding this to my collection just to get the "juicy" details, besides always better to understand the insights and lunacy of a company with close to 50 billion in the bank.

#2 By 931 (67.35.67.246) at 12/3/2003 1:54:49 AM
I'm really interested in how a company who eventually dominates nearly every market it gets into and while doing it can accumulate 40 billion in reserves while at the same time continues to create value for it's investors and customers has some how fumbled it's future.

One can say many many things about microsoft, that they've fumbled thier future is not one of them.

#3 By 2332 (65.221.182.2) at 12/3/2003 2:23:42 AM
Guys, stop bashing a book none of you have read.

It's a really great read. I'm sure you'll all agree with what he has to say.

#4 By 8589 (66.169.174.102) at 12/3/2003 8:37:08 AM
RMD, are you saying you have read it? If so, when did you get your copy? Did you read it from cover to cover? What can you add to what has been written here that will prove what you say about agreeing with it?

thanks

#5 By 2332 (65.221.182.2) at 12/3/2003 9:31:32 AM
#5 - I read it probably 2 years ago. I've mentioned it on this site MANY times.

It's a very good book. Bank did nothing but research Microsoft for about 5 years, and it shows.

If you actually read the book, instead of quite literally judging it by its cover, you would find that Bank concludes that Gates & Co. still have a chance to fix Microsoft. Their chance is .NET.

Since the book was published a couple of years ago, Bank didn't get the chance to see the results of the .NET initiative.

#6 By 135 (209.180.28.6) at 12/3/2003 10:30:15 AM
Haven't you guys heard?

Microsoft is a has been. Linux rules the day! Linux is everywhere! It's in the air, in your coffee, in your toilet water!

#7 By 20 (24.173.210.58) at 12/3/2003 11:17:01 AM
.NET is MS's destiny, that much is sure, but I'm still unclear as to how they've fumbled or somehow hosed themselves in any way shape or form. Sure, they managed to get themselves into a lot of trouble and not seize opportunities and such, but what company hasn't? And none of those follies were enough to destroy the company, so I fail to see the "fumbled" part.

#8 By 2332 (216.41.45.78) at 12/3/2003 11:29:41 AM
READ THE DAMN BOOK!

Gates (and many others) did indeed fumble many things over the past few years. Just because you fumble something doesn't mean you can't recover.

Come on people! Keep up with your sports analogies.

#9 By 1845 (67.161.212.73) at 12/3/2003 11:37:18 AM
I've read it as well (about 1.5 yrs ago) thanks to RMD's recommendation.

How did they fumble? Well, the anti-trust case was a botch job. After delivering a non-working Windows to comply with Judge Jackson's order, they lost credibility. Bill's less than straight-forward answers in his deposition also hurt credibility. There is a reason that Jackson thought Bill was a little Napolean. The fact that Jackson expressed those views while a sitting judge was a breech of judicial conduct, but his reaons for having those views are rather sound.

How else? They lost many of their top executives (even Adam Bosworth, who is arguably responsible for Microsoft's adoption of XML.), because of Bill's management style. Don't think that Microsoft itself hasn't realized they needed to change. Bill stepped down as CEO in 2000, in part to separate himself from the role of supreme commander of the army. Now, it's more the Bill and Steve Show than just the Bill Show. Even now, Ballmer often talks about the need the company has to reform itself in its internal policies, dealings with partners, and dealings with competitors.

Fumble doesn't imply they lost the game. It implies they made some mistakes. The test of the company is whether they've learned from their mistakes and how the correct them. Parker, if you don't think they did a bit of fumbling, take a look at their stock after Jackson's ruling in April 2000. Had the been a bit nicer in court, they likely would have given up a few yards, but not given a up a touchdown or two to their opponents.

spoiler, if such a book can have such a thing
Bank concludes by saying:

Gates has been dealt a strong hand. He's young, visionary, and intellectually honest. He can indeed scale, can indeed grow. He can certainly track the inevitable. I say he shoots the moon. I say Gates rises to the new challenge. I say he goes out a winner.
(p 262)

#10 By 1845 (67.161.212.73) at 12/3/2003 11:42:07 AM
Another book I recommend is World War 3.0 (make sure to get the latest edition) by Ken Auletta.

While I'm writing again, here are a few more thoughts on things Microsoft fumbled - Cairo, uniting the 9x and NT code bases with Windows 2000 (this is also arguably Cairo), the rollout of the .NET initiative (notice that most of the stuff with .NET in the name doesn't have .NET in the name anymore?), Hailstorm, software management, etc.

Yes, every company has ups and downs, blah, blah, blah. The point is that Microsoft never has been, still isn't, and never will be a perfect company. This book simply explains many of the mistakes they made in the past.

#11 By 20 (24.173.210.58) at 12/3/2003 11:44:45 AM
Statement: "How Gates fumbled the future of Microsoft"

I don't need to read the book to address this statement. The statement stands on its own.

The implication is, of course, that the future of MS is unstable, rocky, and not clear.

I completely disagree with this. MS has strong, if not absolute market share, they have $46-some-odd billion in the bank, they have a multitude of strong product offerings, they have a huge braintrust of brilliant employees and keep the mostly happy, etc.

Yes, MS has tripped and stumbled along the way, but "fumble" is hardly a word I would use to describe any of that.

Yes, the DOJ thing was a nightmare, but at no time was there really any doubt that MS would come out looking fairly good, even if they were broken up. What was the DOJ going to do? Shut down MS and take away Windows? They aren't going to destroy the economy like that.

"fumble the future" is a bad choice of words and hardly describes where MS is at.

#12 By 20 (24.173.210.58) at 12/3/2003 11:50:56 AM
#13: MS has fumbled many things, I'm certainly not arguing that.

However, the statement is "fumbled the future". Fumbling Cairo, the DOJ case, .NET, etc are different than the entire future of MS.

Do you have doubt whether MS will be around or viable in 2-3 years? 5 years? I don't really have much doubt. I think they will continue to be a dominant player in most markets they exist in currently and will become major players in new and different markets in those 5 years.

So again, I fail to see how MS has fumbled their FUTURE.

#13 By 1845 (67.161.212.73) at 12/3/2003 11:56:27 AM
daz, as a programmer you should be trained to think in terms of context. Did you do that here?

When was this book published? 2001.
If the book was published in 2001, when was it likely written? 1999-2000.
What was Microsoft facing in that timeframe? The verdict that it was a monopoly. A breakup order. Hundreds of resultant private anti-trust cases potentially costing multiple billions of dollars.
Is this view of the future (remember context) "unstable, rocky, and not clear" ? Yes.

Is Microsoft's future close to stable, smooth, and clear now? No.
What does it face now? Judge Kolar-Kotely's approved settlement being overturned and the company being broken up, up to a 3 billion dollar fine from the EU, 1 Billion plus in damages to Sun Micrososystems, etc, etc. And we haven't even looked at the competitive landscape, we've only looked at the legal landscape.

For the record, if you haven't read the book, and you don't know as much about Microsoft as does David Bank (just a hunch, I'll bet you don't), then you aren't all too qualified to judge whether it is a good title or not.

Just thinking of this from a logical perspective...
When you read a proof, do you only read the conclusion? No.
Do you read the steps of the proof? Yes.
Is it possible to disprove a proof without reading/understanding/debunking the steps of the proof? No. From a logical persepctive, the proof is still sound, and the conclusion still holds.

#14 By 1845 (67.161.212.73) at 12/3/2003 12:05:14 PM
#15 You're arguing foolishly, so I won't respond to you after this post.

Tell me something, does the present affect the future? Yes.
Can any point in time affect future points in time? Yes.
Does a part of a system affect the entire system? Yes.

I think it is reasonable to conclude that any failure Microsoft has ever had did have an effect on its future. Whether thoses failures were mitigated is another issue.

As for why you still fail to see how Microsoft fumbled its future, you'd have to actually read the book. Until you've done that, it's useless to talk to you on this subject.

#15 By 20 (24.173.210.58) at 12/3/2003 12:09:53 PM
When was this book published? 2001.

Then why are we even talking about it now?

Is Microsoft's future close to stable, smooth, and clear now? No.
What does it face now? Judge Kolar-Kotely's approved settlement being overturned and the company being broken up, up to a 3 billion dollar fine from the EU, 1 Billion plus in damages to Sun Micrososystems, etc, etc. And we haven't even looked at the competitive landscape, we've only looked at the legal landscape.


I don't see $4billion in fines/fees/settlements as particularly devistating to MS in the future considering they have $46B or so in the bank.

I would say their future is stable, mostly smooth with a few potholes. No one's future is clear, so I fail to see why MS is any different in this regard. However, it's pretty certain that they won't cease to exist in the next couple years or for the near forseeable future.

For the record, if you haven't read the book, and you don't know as much about Microsoft as does David Bank (just a hunch, I'll bet you don't), then you aren't all too qualified to judge whether it is a good title or not.

Who cares what he thinks or knows? I really don't. All I need to know is MS' product offerings, their market share, their strategies, and their earnings reports. That's all that really matters and all of those things are bright and rosey.

Whether this guy wants to pick apart a bunch of small mistakes 5 years ago is of no relevance to MS' future. So basically, making a statement about MS fumbling their future is pretty ignorant or sensationalistic; probably both.


Just thinking of this from a logical perspective...
When you read a proof, do you only read the conclusion? No.


I'm not doing this here. I don't need or even want to read his conjecture that you attempt to call "proof" because the proof is readily available to everyone. Contrary to popular belief, I have not, in fact, been living in a complete vacuum for the past 10 years. I have seen what MS has done, have followed them closely from a product and business perspective and am quite aware of how their operations are run and what their future strategies are and how likely they are to succeed.

If this guy wants to write a sensationalistic book that picks apart the scraps left by MS, good for him, but please don't insult us by claiming it's "proof".


Do you read the steps of the proof? Yes.


And indeed I lived through them. I'm quite aware of the situation as described before.


Is it possible to disprove a proof without reading/understanding/debunking the steps of the proof? No. From a logical persepctive, the proof is still sound, and the conclusion still holds.


If I tell you something that is so obviously and completely false and moronic, but i provide 600 pages of proof, do you need to read 600 pages of proof to tell me I'm wrong?

(600 pages.........
........
.......
.......)
And thus, white rabbits are actually pink.

"Um... no. white rabbits are white rabbits, you dolt!"

"And thus, MS has fumbled it's future"

"Um... no. MS has not fumbled it's future, you dolt!"

#16 By 20 (24.173.210.58) at 12/3/2003 12:16:08 PM
#15 You're arguing foolishly, so I won't respond to you after this post.

Ah yeah, the "You're an idiot! lalala defense"


Tell me something, does the present affect the future? Yes.
Can any point in time affect future points in time? Yes.
Does a part of a system affect the entire system? Yes.


Now you're just splitting hairs. This guy wrote a sensationalistic book about how the world is coming to an end. It's all to common in our age Tragedy Television (tm).

Regardless of how he tries to spin it or what not, it's quite an ignorant thing to say that MS has fumbled it's future. MS has obviously not done that and things are on quite a good track. .NET is progressing better than could be hoped, MS is coming out with some really kick-ass and professional products. They've taken the security problem by the horns and have it locked in nicely, their future OSes (their main bread and butter) have some revolutionary new features which will keep revenue moving steadily. They're branching out into different markets and doing quite nicely (XBox is doing quite well despite all the death warrants and naysayers like this guy, for example). Their future is quite bright and though yes, they face challenges and future mistakes, like anyone, their future is hardly "fumbled".


I think it is reasonable to conclude that any failure Microsoft has ever had did have an effect on its future. Whether thoses failures were mitigated is another issue.


Shall we discuss the intricite physics that keep the hole in a sewing needle from collapsing as well? You're arguing pendantic points to back up this guy's ludicrous statements. Why? He's a sensastionalistic writer, why defend him? It's just like all the Hate Clinton(tm) and Hate Bush(tm) books that come out... about how one or the other completely destroyed our nation and the world will come to a firey nuclear end Any Day now(tm)


As for why you still fail to see how Microsoft fumbled its future, you'd have to actually read the book. Until you've done that, it's useless to talk to you on this subject.


lol, "LALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

#17 By 1845 (67.161.212.73) at 12/3/2003 12:18:04 PM
blue, I can see why arguing with daz bugs you. I hope I never "reason" as he does. Feel free to alert me if I do.

#18 By 20 (24.173.210.58) at 12/3/2003 12:22:02 PM
blue, I can see why arguing with daz bugs you. I hope I never "reason" as he does. Feel free to alert me if I do.

lol, what a whiner. If you're confronted with too much logic, just plug your ears and try to insult me in third person as though I'm not here.

Tell me Bob, why do you defend the book when it asserts an obviously sensationalistic and salactious claim?

This book is just like all the Hate Bush and Hate Clinton books out where they talk about how one or the other president has ruined the future of America and we'll all die.

These books are all cookie-cutter. Just replace "Gates" with "Clinton" or "Bush" and "Microsoft" with "America".

This post was edited by daz on Wednesday, December 03, 2003 at 12:22.

#19 By 1845 (67.161.212.73) at 12/3/2003 12:39:40 PM
Lest anyone be led astray by the sound and fury surrounding this book, be assured that the tales told by those who have not read it are told by idiots and signify nothing.

The book is well documented - internal email, court transcripts, personal interviews, etc.
The book is anything but sensational.
The book was written during the midst of the anti-trust case when Microsoft's position was not the same as its current position.
This book is anything but an ABM, I-Hate-Bill, or I-Hate-Microsoft book. Bank even feels, as I quoted above, that Bill would come out a winner. Amusingly, if from today's perspective Microsoft is now on a rosy path, that would mean that Bank was right. So much for a the-sky-is-falling book.

Give ActiveWin a little donation, but going to Amazon using the link above (ya'll are affiliates or whatever, right?) and buying the book. At the very least, read the portion of the book amazon makes available - the reviews and cover - http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0743203151/ref=sib_dp_pt/002-8165225-2276817#reader-page

#20 By 20 (24.173.210.58) at 12/3/2003 12:52:28 PM
Lest anyone be insulted by BobSmith's childish rantings and refusal to listen to simple logic, please be reminded that the title is merely sensationalistic in order to pump up sales of the book and it is not backed up by any common logic.

The book was written 2 years ago and already the sensastionalistic tagline is proven wrong. MS's future is not fumbled and is as bright as ever. I think most reasonble (i.e. not BobSmith) would agree that MS's future is anything but fumbled and unclear.

Thus, the book may be interesting and certainly worth reading, but hardly manifest or proven correct by the future which we're now witnessing.

Tell us BobSmith, is MS's future fumbled as this 2001 book predicted?

Your lack of understanding of our simple argument that MS's future is anything but fumbled is quite amusing.

#21 By 2332 (216.41.45.78) at 12/3/2003 1:34:51 PM
Anybody else find it funny that everybody is disagreeing with the only two people who have actually read the book?

#22 By 1845 (67.161.212.73) at 12/3/2003 2:23:22 PM
I found it funny. I also found my Shakespearean allusion slightly creative, but, hey, it's obvious I don't see eye to eye with everyone on this board.

Maybe some others are a bit better at blackbox testing than I am.

#23 By 20 (24.173.210.58) at 12/3/2003 2:38:10 PM
I'm still not sure how reading any book makes "Microsoft fumbled their future" any less bogus.

I don't need to read Principalia to tell you that some of Sir Issac Newton's theories were wrong. I'm certainly not smarter than Issac Newton, but I can tell you with 100% certainty that some of his theories are wrong.

But of course, I didn't read his book, so of course, all of Issac Newton's theories are 100% correct.

Likewise, even though this guy predicted that MS fumbled their future in 2001 and that it's obviously not the case and MS's bright future is manifest now, I'm still wrong and MS's future is fumbled and they're really out of business because I didn't read this book.

The MS you read about in these stories is a paradoxical phantom company that exists in a parallel universe because the REAL Microsoft is done for, their future fumbled because Banks said so.

#24 By 2332 (216.41.45.78) at 12/3/2003 2:55:30 PM
Daz, the only reason you know some of Newton's theories are wrong is because people like Einstien, Bohr, and Feynman told you they were wrong. I doubt you, or anybody else on these boards, has the intellect to come to those conclusions on our own.

The fact of the matter is, your conclusions are based quite literally on the cover of the book. Instead of ranting, try reading.

This post was edited by RMD on Wednesday, December 03, 2003 at 14:57.

#25 By 1845 (67.161.212.73) at 12/3/2003 3:00:31 PM
Friends, ActiveWhiners, netizens, lend me your eyes;
I come to bury BobSmith, not to praise him.
The foolishness that men do lives after them;
The wisdom is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with BobSmith. The noble daz
Hath told you BobSmith was a moron:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath BobSmith answer'd it.
Here, under leave of daz and the rest—
For daz is an intelligent man;
So are they all, all intelligent men—
Come I to speak in BobSmith’s funeral.
He was my friend, logical and just to me:
But daz says he was a moron;
And daz is an intelligent man.
He hath brought much intelligence to the website
Which pearls did the ignorant minds fill:
Did this in BobSmith seem moronic?
When that the fools have cried, BobSmith hath taught:
A moron should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet daz says he was a moron;
And daz is an intelligent man.
You all did see that in this thread
He thrice proved he was correct,
Which daz did thrice deny: was this a moron?
Yet daz says he was a moron;
And, sure, he is an intelligent man.
I speak not to disprove what daz spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O logic! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with BobSmith,
And I must pause till it come back to me.


I'd have honored you, RMD, but your name has one too many syllables. :-)

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