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Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft [Hardcover]

Paul Allen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 19 2011
By his early thirties, Paul Allen was a world-famous billionaire-and that was just the beginning.

In 2007 and 2008, Time named Paul Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft, one of the hundred most influential people in the world. Since he made his fortune, his impact has been felt in science, technology, business, medicine, sports, music, and philanthropy. His passion, curiosity, and intellectual rigor-combined with the resources to launch and support new initiatives-have literally changed the world.

In 2009 Allen discovered that he had lymphoma, lending urgency to his desire to share his story for the first time. In this long-awaited memoir, Allen explains how he has solved problems, what he's learned from his many endeavors-both the triumphs and the failures-and his compelling vision for the future. He reflects candidly on an extraordinary life.

The book also features previously untold stories about everything from the true origins of Microsoft to Allen's role in the dawn of private space travel (with SpaceShipOne) and in discoveries at the frontiers of brain science. With honesty, humor, and insight, Allen tells the story of a life of ideas made real.


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Review

The virtual world he imagined is now as real as concrete ... the very fabric of a twenty-first century that he and a tiny club of others literally invented. Shy, humble, brilliant ... Paul Allen's intellect and generosity of spirit are there on every page. Bono Paul's natural curiosity will always guide him into uncharted waters. Whether it's a newfangled device called the personal computer; exploring the bottom of the sea or deep space; music, movies, and museums; or perhaps his most significant adventure so far-the human brain-two things are certain: It won't be the same afterward, and it will be an extraordinary journey. Peter Gabriel Paul is a true adventurer in every sense of the word and, as a friend, he is both loyal and generous of spirit. His ideas have helped shape the world we live in, and witnessing the way his mind works is like watching a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo: you have no idea how he does it, but it blows your mind. Dave Stewart This son of Oklahoma, by way of Seattle, electrocuted a classmate, soldered his skin, gassed the family pet, purposely crashed systems, dove in Dumpsters for coffee-stained printouts, and went on to create the engine that changed the world. Dan Ackroyd --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Paul Allen is the billionaire technologist and philanthropist who cofounded Microsoft with Bill Gates. He is the chairman of Vulcan Inc. and founder of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. He also owns the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers, and is co-owner of the Seattle Sounders pro soccer team. He lives on Mercer Island, Washington.
 
Visit www.paulallen.com

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book to know who is Paul Allen May 16 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very interesting book.
Paul Allen is a great visionary man with so much ideas. The title of the book talk by itself.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fresh review of Microsoft Feb. 3 2012
By GW
Format:Hardcover
Microsoft from day 1 , finally Paul Allen gets credit for his input into the Company , it wasn't all Bill Gates. I've often wondered what part Paul played in the time he was there. So happy for him that he did not sell his shares for $5.00 as suggested by Bill Gates at the time Paul was resigning from the Company because of health reasons. One of the better books I have recently read. G.W.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Incredible Learning Curve May 19 2011
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This is one of the more thoughtful and intelligent autobiographies of an important public figure that I have read in a long time. It traces the life of multi-billionaire and computer software designer Paul Allen from childhood to adulthood in his efforts to discover and understand significant aspects of the world around him. From the outset, Allen always had a particular bent for fiddling with electronic and digital devices. He was blessed with parents who encouraged him to seek after knowledge which he could then convert into technology that could change the world for the better. They saw his ingenuity at an early age and enrolled him in Lakeside Prep in Seattle in order to challenge his brilliant mind. Out of this experience came a friendship with Bill Gates, another young 'geek' on campus and a career in engineering software that would ultimately transform the PC as a tool for advanced learning and social development. This book takes the reader into this personal and collaborative vision of an idea that software could be adapted to hardware to create a number of applications. Much of the first part of this account describes how Allen and Gates, two very singular personalities, worked as partners to pioneer the Microsoft product in the seventies and early eighties. There are lots of tense and humorous moments as these two great minds often came to blows over how to market what both had created from code. Allen's lifelong journey took on some interesting turns - both financially and medically - in the eighties and beyond when he broke free from Microsoft and set out to pursue some dreams outside the realm of computers. By this time, his original shares in Microsoft had made him very wealthy. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars Sept. 10 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Very interesting
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  100 reviews
77 of 80 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading; first half better than 2nd half. April 19 2011
By Jaewoo Kim - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book details Paul Allen's story on the beginning of Microsoft and his relationship with Bill Gates. The 2nd half of the book deals with his sport teams (TrailBlazers and Seahawks), space planes, investments, life as a wealthy mogul, and recent events.

Contrary to the press reports, this book draws a neutral portrait of Bill Gates. He is both highly praised and criticized. The book truly delivers an unvarnished view of Bill Gates and the beginnings of Microsoft. If you are into tech-history, this book should not be missed.

I think the title "Idea Man" is spot-on. Paul is the founding Visionary of Microsoft. He had the world-changing ideas and inspirations. But it was mostly Bill Gates who sorted them out and drove Paul Allen and rest of Microsoft's employees to execute those ideas into a reality. It is important to note that game changing ideas at Microsoft were somewhat lacking after Paul Allen left Microsoft. Instead, Microsoft became more like Bill Gates, an entity that is ruthless, sucessful, and technically brilliant. Yet, Microsoft lacked a vision and played mostly catchup to other visionary companies and ideas (Netscape, Apple, smartPhones, tablets, game consoles etc). I am convinced that Microsoft may have been a different and a more visionary company if Paul Allen had stayed.

I have also read the two books written by Bill Gates. In both books, Bill Gates gives strong endorsement and credit to Paul Allen for the co-founding of Microsoft. The two men have known each other for over 40 years and grew up together. The bond between the two seems very deep.

Pros:
1)This book is written in an extremely fluid style. I am not sure if Paul hired a ghostwriter, but if the book was mostly first-hand written, then I am impressed.
2)Paul Allen provides details on his days with Bill Gates at Lakeside school, Harvard, and Microsoft. When Paul Allen asked Bill Gates how large their software company could be, Bill replied "about 35 employees" and Paul Allen thought that was little ambitious.
3)The story of the founding and the early days of Microsoft was very engaging. It kept me up until 4am reading this book.

Cons:
1)Where is the sage advice? What would have Paul Allen done differently? He takes a passive retroactive account of his past, and does not delve too much into the lessons he has learned from them.
2)Where is the analysis of the past, the current, and the future state of technology? I am especially interested on Paul Allen's take on technology's future 10-20 years down the road.
3)This book is missing huge parts of Paul Allen's life. Paul Allen writes mostly about his relationship with his parents and Bill Gates. I don't think one could categorize this book as a complete autobiography.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. This book is not written as a completely autobiography. Yet, it provides rich details on many things people would find interesting and engaging.
22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting look into the life of "the other" creator of MicroSoft April 20 2011
By J. Lee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Paul Allen is a strange renaissance-man type nerd, and he has a mostly interesting tale to tell. Here were the ups and downs of his tale to me:

- The first half of the book is more engaging than the second
The book is really about three different phases of his life. The first two phases cover the first half of the book. In the first phase is his childhood, discovery of his passion for computers and forming a friendship with Gates through a common love of computer programming. The second phase is the creation of Microsoft and subsequent struggles with Bill as the company grows.

Paul left MS before it went public, and in a few short years his stock options turned him into a multi-billionaire. Adrift without a purpose and lots of money, the second half of the book covers his investments into mostly unprofitable ventures as he explores whatever strikes his fancy. He likes basketball, so he buys a basketball team. He still wants to make a mark as a solo visionary in technology, so he starts a technology think tank. He's fascinated by space so he funds the first commercial space flight. He likes movies so he gets involved in the creation of DreamWorks... and well, a whole lot of other things, as well. Some of these are more interesting than others. Some of them venture into total nerdy detail which one will only find fascinating if they're equally obsessed with the topic.

2. Paul's a good logical writer and doesn't hold back from sharing his (or others) flaws, but his logical approach tends to keep real feeling out of his story.
The most engaging parts are about his relationship with Bill. It is pretty much the only area where some much less analytical insights are provided. Even when he discusses the life-threatening illnesses he faced - it seems almost impossible for him to really express his feelings in a meaningful way. That said, he's also a surprising dreamer and dedicated visioniary, who lives in his own head and is easily taken advantage of - which makes for some fascinating insights into his role at MS and how he's handled his wealth.

3. Even for the non-computer geek, there's bound to be something in his tale that will capture your imagination.
Overall, the book offers a compelling look at how timing, luck, opportunity, obsession and personalities came together to create a global company. For those interested in the fate of MS today he offers interesting insight and opinions. For those more interested in technology and computers than business - the description of the trip from before there were PC's to the connected world we live in today is fascinating. If you're an NBA, NFL or sci-fan, well there's some interesting insights there, as well. Still, there's also some occasionally odd ventures off into descriptions of strange things that seem only placed in them because they interested him. (a description of his safari to Africa comes to mind)

BOTTOM LINE: 3.5 stars - Paul has an interesting life and insights on the creation of Microsoft, technology, wealth, and business, and ultimately he paints a pretty clear picture of who that "other man" that created Microsoft is, and why he deserves a little more credit for it than he's generally received.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If you're into tech the first 30% is a must read May 5 2011
By Amazon Junky - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I recommend the first 30% of this book for anyone in the tech field who wants an insider's view of the guts of starting a software business in the early days. There is some candid insight into Gates' and Allen's personalities and in my perspective, sheds some light on why some things about Silicon Valley culture are the way they are--some of the traditions, norms, mores, and such were clearly birthed at Microsoft (and to a lesser degree Xerox Parc and HP) and seeded to all those companies that followed. Beyond that, with some exceptions (the discussion on winning the X Prize, for example), I felt the book devolved into a cross between "I'm a billionaire and still don't feel fulfilled" and "then, I played guitar with Mick Jagger." I stopped about 80% of the way through and have no desire to finish.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read Aug. 8 2011
By marcia53 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I liked this book from beginning to end. I thought what he wrote about Gates was fair and nothing as bad as what some of the press on the book made it out to be. Sounded like a friend, co-worker relationship to me. What I found really interesting was he tells what he does with his money in life. I found it more fascinating to read that and to see how much more rounded he is than anyone would think. I always wonder what do the truly wealthy do and he tells how he lost and how he has made his money. I think the most interesting thing he is into is the medical research. Seems like he would be a great guy to work for. Couldnt put the book down.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A memoir with passion and almost no resentment June 2 2011
By Rui Jorge Cruz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It has been a real pleasure to read Paul Allen's "Idea Man" - a pleasure both intellectual and humane. In his life, Allen has indeed enjoyed a rare combination of circumstances that made possible an early journey in the world of PC software and personal computing. But his illness path has confronted him with the sense and the values of a superior human existence, no matter the opportunities in place.
The way he describes the glorious days pre-Microsoft (as well as the early years at new-founded company) is quite vivid: anyone can feel and imagine how he and Gates have lived those times.
On the other hand, I was touched by his effort to provide a fair and objective description of his old pal Bill, who has given him a good deal of friendship, camaraderie and complicity but also made him suffer a lot with his competitive attitude, his selfishness and his confrontational way regarding everyone else.
Thus Paul Allen gives us a rich set of glimpses about his splendid life without hiding his most felt sufferings, letting us share in a way those heroic times of his.
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