Pride Before the Fall: The Trials of Bill Gates and the End of the Microsoft Era

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9780066621173: Pride Before the Fall: The Trials of Bill Gates and the End of the Microsoft Era

John Heilemann's Pride Before the Fall uncovers the secret history of the antitrust trial that shook an economy: United States v. Microsoft. Drawing on years of reporting -- including extensive interviews with Gates and other top Microsoft executives, Justice Department trustbuster Joel Klein, superlitigator David Boies, Intel chief Andy Grove, Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, and scores of lesser-known but pivotal players -- Heilemann lays bare the chaotic confluence of forces that shattered Microsoft's aura of invincibility and the climate of fear that held an industry in thrall.

Based on an acclaimed Wired magazine cover story, Pride Before the Fall is packed with rich personalities, dramatic scenes, and explosive revelations. It tells the stories of the largely unknown men and women who turned their opposition to Gates's company into a crusade, laboring for years to persuade the government to indict Microsoft for its monopolistic practices. Pride Before the Fall explains in compelling detail how the high-tech kingpins whose businesses Gates had tried to destroy or strong-arm (Netscape, Apple, Sun, and even Intel) worked in secret to help the Justice Department bring down Microsoft. It explores the lasting damage the trial has inflicted on the first great empire of the Information Age. And Heilemann offers a vivid and sometimes shocking portrait of Gates himself -- describing a man who in 1993 told his friends, "I have as much power as the president," only to be thrown into rage and depression a few years later, when he discovered just how wrong he'd been.

Like a figure from Greek tragedy, Heilemann writes, Gates sowed the seeds of his own undoing. From lengthy visits to Redmond before, during, and after the trial, Heilemarnn paints a picture of a culture that can only be described as the Cult of Bill, a culture that had few limits when it came to eviscerating the competition, a culture that grew out of Gates's fiercely single-minded determination to keep Microsoft from meeting the fate of a company that he had studied, admired, rivaled, and then surpassed: IBM. But when that culture came under scrutiny on Capitol Hill, in the halls of the Justice Department, and in the courtroom of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson, it provoked a verdict far harsher than anyone could have predicted -- and guaranteed for Microsoft the very fate that Gates had struggled so desperately to avoid.

With Pride Before the Fall, John Heilemann confirms his reputation as one of Silicon Valley's most talented and respected journalists. Years of inside access to the Valley's boardrooms have given him a unique understanding of the technology industry, just as his years as a reporter in Washington have informed his grasp of the political currents that swept the U.S. government into a battle it never wanted to fight. But what sets Pride Before the Fall apart isn't simply Heilemann's mastery of the dynamics of business, public policy, and the law. This superbly gifted writer has also given us a revelatory tale of human ambition and human frailty -- a timely saga of arrogance, ruthlessness, and revenge.

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Review:

Like other "totemic firms" of recent years, Microsoft attained astounding power and profitability in stunningly short order--along with a slew of rivals who desperately wanted it broken into less threatening pieces. Few really believed it would happen when the U.S. Department of Justice first began looking into its operations, however, which made the eventual judgment against the company even more significant. "The humbling of Microsoft is the last great business story of the 20th century and the first great riddle of the 21st," writes John Heilemann in Pride Before the Fall, his insightful examination of the epic antitrust battle that began as a Wired magazine cover story. "There are fancier ways of putting it," he adds, "but the riddle is: how did it happen?" In the pages that follow, Heilemann examines the behind-the-scenes machinations that drove United States v. Microsoft, based largely on exclusive interviews he conducted with Bill Gates and his top lieutenants, Justice Department prosecutor Joel Klein, special trial counsel (and lead Democratic Florida recount litigator) David Boies, Intel chief Andy Grove, Sun Microsystems' Scott McNealy, and various "unknown soldiers" who arguably played the biggest role of all. With Microsoft's future still uncertain, Pride helps reset the tone in a case that will shape our high-tech future. --Howard Rothman

About the Author:

John Heilemann is a special correspondent for Wired and a former staff writer for The New Yorker and The Economist. He lives in San Francisco.

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