Cover image for The plot to get Bill Gates : an irreverent investigation of the world's richest man-- and the people who hate him
The plot to get Bill Gates : an irreverent investigation of the world's richest man-- and the people who hate him
Rivlin, Gary.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Times Business, [1999]

Physical Description:
360 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
The great white whale. Captain Ahab's club -- Nowhere, Utah -- Five-card stud, jacks or better to open -- Bill Gates for dummies -- The big one -- Opening the kimono -- Call me Ishmael. The great Internet land grab -- Bill envy -- Animal house -- Java high -- The Borg -- "Bill Gates is Satan" -- What about me? -- The silver medalist -- Floating coffins. Resistancei̲sf̲ -- The Anti-Bill -- The love song of Ralph Nader -- Bill Gates 3.1 -- Appendix: a compendium of Bill Gates and Microsoft jokes
Personal Subject:
Corporate Subject:
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Material Type
Home Location
Central Library HD9696.63.U64 M5367 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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To understand the magnitude of Bill Gates, one must first understand the people who hate him, most of whom suffer from an acute case of "Bill Envy." The Plot to Get Bill Gates is the true, hilarious story of a loosely knit cabal of Silicon Valley's wealthiest and most successful leaders and their quest to defeat the richest man in the world. These leaders are known within Microsoft as Captain Ahab's Club for their self-destructive fixation with harpooning the Great White Whale of Redmond, all two hundred pounds and $50 billion of him. Acclaimed journalist Gary Rivlin tells their tale as a high-tech variation on Moby-Dick, and by taking us deep inside the world of Gates and his enemies, he vividly reveals their consuming obsession. Lead players in The Plot are Lawrence Ellison of Oracle, Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems, Ray Noorda of Novell, Marc Andreessen and James Barksdale of Netscape, Philippe Kahn of Borland, and Gary Kildall (the unsung programmer who could have been Gates), with special guest appearances by venture capitalist John Doerr, consumer activist Ralph Nader, zealous attorney Gary Reback, and the Fraternal Order of Antitrust Lawyers. The author describes each man's ill-fated attempt at besting Gates, who seems to become bigger, hungrier, and more dangerous after each attack. Rivlin also conducts an in-depth investigation of Gates himself, examining each crucial step in the ascension of the slope-shouldered billionaire with bad hair and unearthing the most telling details to explain why Gates is so rich and we aren't. (The short answer: monomania.) Rivlin concludes with an illuminating analysis of Microsoft's latest upgrade of its CEO, Gates 3.1, which seems to be operating with fewer bugs than previous incarnations. Gary Rivlin's reporting is irreverent and intellectually independent, free of the romanticized portraits and techno-hype perpetuated by many in the media. As an award-winning political reporter, he brings a fresh perspective to the avaricious, bloodthirsty behavior of these new icons. The result is a savagely funny morality play about big business at the century's end.

Author Notes

Gary Rivlin is the author of two acclaimed works of nonfiction, Drive-By and Fire on the Prairie: Chicago's Harold Washington and the Politics of Race, winner of the Carl Sandburg Award for Nonfiction and the Chicago Sun-Times Nonfiction Book of the Year. He has reported on city politics for The Chicago Reader and the East Bay Express. His work has appeared in many publications, including The Nation, Upside, In These Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He lives in Oakland and is editor of the East Bay Express.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft's chief technology officer, hit the nail on the head when he dubbed the competitor company CEOs who harried Microsoft so feverishly "Captain Ahab's Club," for they failed to realize they were leading their own companies down the path of destruction. Count Ray Noorda of Novell, Philippe Kahn of Borland, Digital Research founder Gary Kildall, Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems, and Larry Ellison, head of Oracle, as charter members. As each went up against Microsoft, Bill Gates, with his troops backing him, would litter the battlefield with the corpses of another vanquished opponent. To become the richest man in the world (Gates was worth $70 billion at last count), one would, no doubt, step on more than a few toes, and the story of Gates' success is a testament to his drive and ruthlessness. Beginning by licensing an operating system (DOS), Gates leveraged from that position, outsmarting IBM and overwhelming the other competition. He became a force in word processing by going up against WordPerfect, in networks by taking on Novell, in Web browsers by surpassing Netscape, in operating systems against Windows, and in numerous other fields. More recent Gates-stormers include consumer activist Ralph Nader, Attorney General Janet Reno, and the Department of Justice. Gary Rivlin's account of Gates and his would-be usurpers is thorough but incomplete (for investigations into Microsoft's alleged monopolistic practices continue to this day), enticingly peopled with colorful, fabulously rich men all suffering from a bad case of "Bill Envy." --Benjamin Segedin

Publisher's Weekly Review

Gates bashing has by now become an obsession in some parts of the world (at least in Silicon Valley, where rival tycoons resent him, and in the Justice Department, where antitrust lawyers burn the midnight oil). Though Rivlin (Drive-By; Fire on the Prairie) takes his shots at Gates, he also takes aim at his rivals, the heads of companies like Novell, IBM and Sun. He chalks up hatred of Gates and Microsoft to a "king-sized obsession among one-dimensional workaholics who'll do practically anything to win"Ämaking Gates haters sound a lot like the tyrannical drone they themselves make Gates out to be. Rivlin has little tolerance for Gates's famous arrogance and explicitly takes apart Gates's reputation as a coding whiz. On the other hand, he is frustrated with Gates's complaining competitors, seeing them as doing little more than making business personal. Rivlin's writing, never less than lively, is sometimes truly funny. His thesisÄthat the little guys banded together to slay the Microsoft dragon when they should have been minding their own businessesÄis persuasive. He has succeeded in writing a disinterested account of the software wars of the 1990s: this is neither a defense of Microsoft nor a screed against Gates. But it is also a little uninterested, as well. Rivlin appears more concerned with repeating the epithets the moguls have flung at each other than with the substance of their business. As entertaining as the book is, many readers will find Rivlin's pox-on-all-their-houses attitude too smug by half. Author tour. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In a world of high finance and sometimes large egos, it's easy to hate the richest man in the worldÄand many in that world have no trouble passionately hating Bill Gates. Bay Area journalist Rivlin has covered this world for several years, and he draws on this experienceÄincluding a press visit to Gates's homeÄin this account of how Gates has drawn attacks from obsessed competing executives, users of his products (and adamant nonusers), consumer advocate Ralph Nader, and the U.S. Department of Justice. The book's scope is broader than the title implies; it treats a number of Microsoft's competitors in some depth and provides some recent history of the computer industry. Throughout, Rivlin entertains with a light writing style and the promised irreverence, concluding with a brief set of jokes about Gates and Microsoft. Recommended for both public and academic libraries.ÄA.J. Sobczak, Covina, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One CAPTAIN AHAB'S CLUB Back in 1993, a halcyon time when it was still possible to read through an entire magazine without coming across the name Bill Gates, Novell CEO Ray Noorda and Gates engaged in one of those public sneering matches that both antagonists might come to regret, but only later, long after the verbal stilettos had done their damage. The Utah-based Novell had devised a clever means of connecting groups of freestanding personal computers so that coworkers could share printers and computer files. This was in the early 1980s. Since that time, Novell had been drawing billions of dollars from this single product in a market that Microsoft had never quite managed to crack. Life was torture for the Microsoft team charged with conceiving and then marketing a rival product to Novell's. First it was Microsoft Net; then, after five years of futility, it was LAN-Man (LAN for "local area network," Man for "manager"). Gates used the carrot with his minions and also the stick. Microsoft rallies were held and milestones celebrated--and then when that failed, as inevitably it did, Gates would scream. "I've never met a stupider, more inept group in my fucking life!" he'd yell in a tweedling whine. "How fucking hard can it be?" Despite everything, Microsoft could barely dent Novell's market share. By the early 1990s, Novell would rank fourth on a listing of the largest high-tech companies, behind only Microsoft, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard. Twice Microsoft approached Noorda about buying his company; both times Gates later claimed a change of heart. Not without reason, Noorda felt taken--felt that Gates and his minions were cozying up to Novell only to learn what they could with the kimono open. Noorda could live with Gates's yearly boasts at COMDEX (the computer dealers' trade show) that this would be the year Microsoft overtook Novell. Long ago he had made his peace with Microsoft's penchant for bad-mouthing Novell in meetings with Novell's largest customers and its practice of offering deep discounts on other Microsoft products if a big company would switch to LAN-Man. But what Noorda believed were phony merger talks proved to be too much. Noorda told anyone willing to listen--fellow computer execs, federal investigators, and eventually journalists working for the country's top business publications--that the boy wonder was really a monster in the making. The first Noorda quote that got everyone's attention appeared in Business Week in 1993. "To have a heart-to-heart," he said when asked about his short-lived merger negotiations with Gates, "you have to have two hearts." In response, Gates puffed out his concave chest and charged that Noorda was growing "increasingly paranoid." Gates's number two, Steve Ballmer, a bull of a man with a megaphone voice, decried Novell as a "dirty" competitor selling a packet of "lies" to the press. And from there the fight escalated. "Bill Gates's behavior is an insult to the industry and to the world," Noorda said in another interview. He dubbed Gates "Pearly" and Ballmer "The Embalmer" and then proudly explained his little joke to anyone who asked. Gates was Pearly because he promised you heaven, while behind the scenes Ballmer prepared you for burial. Noorda organized meetings with executives from Lotus, WordPerfect, and other companies selling software products so successfully that Gates seemed to take it personally. "We're all a bunch of sissies," Noorda declared. "Let's stand up to that little squirt!" Feature articles about Noorda, a man well into his sixties when most of his counterparts were still in their thirties, tended to use terms such as "avuncular" and "grandfatherly" to describe him, but Microsoft let it leak to the press that it tended to call old Ray the "grandfather from Hell." Noorda has gotten so personal, Microsoft's executives would cluck. They'd shake their heads and talk about the toll Noorda's outbursts were taking on Gates. Poor Bill, they'd say to one another with tight frowns. Business is one thing, but saying Bill has no heart? That's just plain cruel. Ballmer is Gates's best friend, but it was Nathan Myhrvold, the company's chief technology officer and Gates's alter ego, who turned to Herman Melville's Moby-Dick during a high-level Microsoft staff meeting, hitting on a metaphor that allowed the group to transcend the sting of Noorda's insults. "Sometimes I think Nathan sees his job as making everyone laugh inside our meetings," says a top chieftain who has witnessed countless episodes of the Bill-and-Nathan show. Another Microsoft employee described the relationship between the two as "an old and complicated marriage that no one outside the relationship can hope to understand." The two make an unlikely match. Whereas Gates is a furrowed-brow pessimist, Myhrvold is the cheery optimist. Myhrvold is so well rounded it's almost frightening, Gates so monomaniacal about business and technology that it makes one shudder. Every time Gates loyalists hailed his ability to discuss a wide range of topics, not just technology and business, I'd press them for examples. They would mention genetic engineering, physics, world economics, artificial intelligence, satellite technology--every example offered fell under either the hard sciences or business. Myhrvold is every bit Gates's intellectual match, but by contrast he's an accomplished chef (with a first-place finish in the worldwide barbecue cook-off held in Memphis, Tennessee), an amateur photographer, a fly fisherman, a race-car driver, and a bungee jumper. Excerpted from The Plot to Get Bill Gates: An Irreverent Investigation of the World's Richest Man... and the People Who Hate Him by Gary Rivlin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prologue: Lord of the Manorp. 3
Part 1 The Great White Whale
1 Captain Ahab's Clubp. 21
2 Nowhere, Utahp. 40
3 Five-Card Stud, Jacks or Better to Openp. 51
4 Bill Gates for Dummiesp. 58
5 The Big Onep. 74
6 Opening the Kimonop. 89
Part 2 Call Me Ishmael
7 The Great Internet Land Grabp. 117
8 Bill Envyp. 135
9 Animal Housep. 147
10 Java Highp. 163
11 The Borgp. 184
12 "Bill Gates Is Satan"p. 202
13 What About Me?p. 219
14 The Silver Medalistp. 240
Part 3 Floating Coffins
15 Resistance_Is_Futile.Comp. 259
16 The Anti-Billp. 277
17 The Love Song of Ralph Naderp. 291
18 Bill Gates 3.1p. 318
Appendix: A Compendium of Bill Gates and Microsoft Jokesp. 335
Acknowledgmentsp. 339
Indexp. 343

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