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The Microsoft Way: The Real Story of How the Company Outsmarts Its Competition [Hardcover]

Randall E. Stross
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 1 1998
Argues that the secret behind the extraordinary success of Microsoft is not predatory marketing tactics, but rather an approach that includes staying eager for ideas and being responsive to markets, and discusses the company's ever-changing plans for an online world.

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Stross, an academic business historian, was given unlimited access to interview Microsoft employees and managers and to rifle through most of Microsoft's corporate records. His main conclusion? That Microsoft's phenomenal success is due in large part to its consistent insistence on hiring the smartest people, and that much Microsoft bashing is reflective of an anti-intellectual strain in American culture. Whether you idolize or despise Microsoft, this book is well worth reading--especially if you are in any way responsible for hiring the best and the brightest for your company.

From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Half is really interesting, half is oddly personal March 11 2001
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I've enjoyed reading most of this book and have taken a lot of interesting lessons away with me. The first 150 pages are especially good at illustrating how the company favored technical intelligence over business acumen and why some of the decisions made have paid off so well. This type of information readily applies to any work being done today and I would highly recommend it.
What I found odd was the amount of personal opinion included in the book rather than making this a more objective look at Microsoft. I'm not a Microsoft basher by any means - I use the products every day, program in VB, Microsoft's proprietary language, and genuinely like many of their products. I was just surprised to see the author include many personal opinions, blatantly claiming unfairness towards Microsoft when the context of the discussion already showed his point.
This personalization led me to reduce 4 stars to three. After a while it's just distracting and I had an urge to yell "Shut up and tell the story!" The story is very interesting, and I do recommend reading it. Just don't be surprised if you want to tell the author to shut up once in a while.
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By Winter
Format:Paperback
Mr Stross' book is very difficult to read by anyone with knowledge of the industry or of Microsoft's products and its business products. Stross manages to skip over many key aspects of Microsoft's rise and its predatory business practices. This includes the omission of Microsoft's deal to supply the official OS for the IBM PC, which provided it with annual profits that were greater than the gross revenues of its competitors. This revenue stream enabled it to repeatedly produce inferior products (spreadsheet, word processing, and OS GUI) for a period of many years, a failure that would have resulted in their closing their doors but for the offsetting profits from their crude DOS operating system. Any refinements to their products were only offered to consumers in response to competitors' superior offerings. Stross even goes so far as to state that Microsoft's practice of charging a license fee for every CPU shipped by computer manufacturers, regardless of whether the user wanted DOS or Microsoft's Windows GUI, benefited the consumer who got a price break (due to volume license discounts) on the operating system they did not want in the first place. If anyone wants to really understand the emergence of Microsoft and the personal computer industry they would do well to look elsewhere.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Nice PR Job for MS Nov. 3 1998
Format:Paperback
I read the book. I also worked for the company, as a software design engineer, from June 1996 until February of 1998. Stross seems to have been completely taken in by Microsoft's unrealistic vision of itself. The company employs a lot of smart, agressive people, but during my time there I was stuck by the basic amorality of the culture and the insularity and anti-intellectualism of most of the employees, many of whom were unaware of basic principles of computer science, let alone anything outside their narrow technical world. It's hardly surprising that the huge teams of cowboy hackers Microsoft employs turn out poor-quality software. It's likewise unsurprising that such an insular culture of narrow, incomplete human beings would lack the perspective and philosophical basis needed to navigate the hazardous ethical and legal waters that come with the territory when a market leader approaches monopoly status. What's distressing is that Stross seems to have overlooked these issues and bought Microsoft's PR hook, line and sinker.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Shows the intellectual nature of Microsoft March 31 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
After the distorted and hateful stories we have seen, this book is a relief. It seems that at the present time Microsoft stands for all that is evil. The unholy alliance surrounding the Axis Powers of Sun Micro and Netscape paints a picture of world domination by Microsoft which is utterly absurd and totally false. It is unfortunate that
Joel Klein of the DOJ is being educated by
such an obscure economist as Arthur, formerly of Stanford and a Palo Alto law firm, whose members are writing briefs for the DOJ..
As a taxpayer I regret that we have to pay for these pointless investigations which are sponsored by competitors who would do better improving their products so that they could compete with Microsoft. Unable to compete however, they run to the DOJ.
It is good to have a book that points out some of
the mischief emanating from Silicon Valley
and Redwood City. The book is recommneded readingfor all who do not despise Microsoft
for its intellectual excellence.
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2.0 out of 5 stars very biased view of Microsoft May 14 1999
Format:Paperback
While there are some interesting insights to some of Microsoft's history, this book skips over vast territories of non-competitive behavior.
There's nothing on how the Microsoft overcame their competitors in the application spaces (word processing, spread-sheet, presentations, etc). Instead the book spends most of it's time on how Microsoft cultivated the CDROM as a new medium.
The author had access to Microsoft employees and lost his objectivity due to this. The first few chapters could have been written by Microsoft's PR department.
The author's idea of Microsoft uniqueness: Microsoft tries to hire smart people. I'm sure there will be a Harvard MBA case study on companies which went out of their way to hire the mentally deficient and how that wasn't an effective strategy against Microsoft.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Instructive book
Stross' book goes beyond explaining the ways of Microsoft to man, but explains what it takes to stay up-to-date. Read more
Published on March 10 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Instructive book
Stross' book goes beyond explaining the ways of Microsoft to man, but explains what it takes to stay up-to-date. Read more
Published on March 10 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Good insight into Microsoft's early days.
I purchased this book when it was first published, but went back and reread it recently. The book is broken down into four sections, the first being my favorite. Read more
Published on Oct. 19 2002 by M. Oryszak
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced and well-researched
I found this to be a very well-researched book. Stross provides details for all his points and conclusions. Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2002 by opinionated_reader
1.0 out of 5 stars Silly Microsoft Propaganda
I thought when buying this book that I would be getting a new insight in to the _real_ behavior of Microsoft, namely how this giant used every trick in the book to dominate the... Read more
Published on Dec 15 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars Consider the data source with _Microsoft_Way_
This was a very well-researched & documented book. Well-written, but sometimes difficult to follow the author's writing style. Read more
Published on Oct. 4 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars A little one sided, but very good
A breath of fresh air was delivered into the Microsoft Wars with this book. While some may say that it was a little one sided in favor of MS, it simply offsets the anti-MS books... Read more
Published on May 31 1999
2.0 out of 5 stars Pass it up. There are less partial books available
Stross was given access to Microsoft employees and resources while working on this book. He repays the favor by being the official Microsoft apologist. Read more
Published on Feb. 9 1998 by Peter van der Linden (pvdl@best.com)
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