Behind the scenes at the start of Microsoft
Apr 28th 2011 | from the print edition
ASKED to pen an endorsement for Paul Allen’s new autobiography, Bono, a well-known musician, declares that the co-founder of Microsoft’s “…intellect and generosity of spirit are there on every page”. He is only half right. “Idea Man” does provide plenty of insights into the ways in which Mr Allen has helped revolutionise everything from software to space travel. But its pages are also permeated by a bitterness towards Bill Gates, the man with whom he created a company that transformed the world of technology. Indeed, there are enough sour grapes in these pages to fill an entire vineyard.
The irony is that the primary focus of Mr Allen’s resentment—his co-founder’s intense competitiveness—is also one of the things that propelled Microsoft to greatness. That trait, and the tension that it provoked between the two men, is evident from the time they meet at school. Mr Allen describes how Mr Gates became apoplectic when a practical joke he played on Mr Allen backfired. In another vignette, he portrays his pal sweeping the pieces off a chessboard in fury when he lost yet another game to Mr Allen.
As any veteran of a start-up will tell you, the strains of building a company can be enough to undermine even the strongest partnerships. In the case of Microsoft, set up in 1975, the surprising thing is that the union between the two men lasted as long as it did given the tension that already underlay their friendship. Mr Allen eventually walked out of the company in 1983 (although he kept his stake in the business), leaving Mr Gates in sole charge of Microsoft, which then went on to turn both men into billionaires.
The main reason the tandem held together for more than a couple of years was that each of the entrepreneurs brought something valuable to the table. Mr Gates’s single-minded focus on winning everything, whether a chess game or a vital business deal, was complemented by his partner’s ability to see the bigger picture—an ability reinforced by Mr Allen’s eclectic set of outside interests, ranging from music to sport and science fiction. Mr Allen acknowledges that the two men were “extraordinary partners”. He likens their union to that of Bill Hewlett and David Packard, or Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google.
But rather than going on to give Mr Gates the considerable praise he is due for turning Microsoft into a corporate Leviathan as its chief executive, the book instead dwells on the clashes that the two men got into over the size of their respective ownership stakes while they were still working together—arguments that were stoked by Mr Gates’s fear that his partner was not sufficiently committed to making Microsoft a success. In the end, Mr Allen, who has already suffered two bouts of cancer, decided to leave to pursue other projects.
True to the title of the book, many of these have involved experiments that explore the limits of human ingenuity in realms such as private space flight, brain science and digital knowledge-gathering. Using his Microsoft riches, Mr Allen has also accrued some of the typical trappings of billionairedom: professional sports teams, famous friends such as Bono, and a mega-yacht, the Octopus. He has also given away a great deal of money. Mr Allen has clearly done a lot. Perhaps one day he will also find the generosity of spirit to admit that Mr Gates deserves far more credit for making all of this possible than he gets in “Idea Man”.
艾倫(Paul Allen，1953 - )，微軟的合夥創辦人，1983年離職。
Paul Allen 日前出版的回憶錄 The Idea Man 可以說是引起了一陣不小的騷動，特別是 Paul Allen 提及他跟比爾大叔私底下、工作上的交往、關係，其內容也吸引了美國 CBS 電視台 60 Minutes 的興趣，邀請他老人家上節目打書 談談心路歷程。 而在訪談過程中，Paul Allen 跟書中一樣直言不諱，直接了當的表示 Bill Gates 是個天賦異秉的生意人，然後嗜好是當個渾球，因為他沒事就喜歡跟員工爭吵，如果有人跟他意見不和，他則會毫不保留的給予人身攻擊；Paul Allen 還說他一直都對 Bill Gates 很容忍，不過心中有一句話其實憋了很久，就是我愛你『跟你共...
想 像一下親身參與某個新產業的誕生。這是個以創新技術為基礎的產業，其中有幾家知名企業銷售高度專業的商用設備，但也有越來越多新興公司在製造新穎的玩具、 專供玩家收藏的玩意兒，以及其他有趣的利基產品。這也是個極為分化的產業，少有共通的標準或平台；計畫很複雜，進展相當遲緩，實際應用也相對稀少。儘管有 種種激勵人心的消息與承諾，事實上卻沒有人可以確定這個產業何時（或甚至能否）達到臨界質量（critical mass）。不過如果達到的話，世界很可能就此改變。
當然，這段話也能用來描述1970年代中期的電腦產業，那時艾倫 （Paul Allen）和我剛剛創辦了微軟。回到當時，各大公司行號、政府部門與其他機構，全都採用昂貴的大型主機支援運算，一流大學與業界實驗室的研究員正在創造 資訊時代的基本構件；英特爾剛剛推出8080微處理器，雅達利（Atari）正在販售紅極一時的電動遊戲「乒乓」（Pong）；在自家成立的電腦俱樂部 裡，熱心人士努力想發掘出這項新科技究竟能帶來什麼好處。
但我心裡所想的是更遠的未來：機器人產業的興起。這項產業的發展和 30年前的電腦業有許多相似之處。想想看，當今自動裝配線上所使用的工業機器人，就如同昨日的大型主機。這項產業的利基產品包括手術專用的機器手臂、部署 在伊朗與阿富汗地區用來掃除路邊詭雷的檢查用機器人，以及清理地板的家用機器人。電子公司生產了會模仿人、狗或恐龍的機器玩具，玩家也急欲擁有最新版的樂 高機器人系統。......
Microsoft founder lashes out at Apple and Google
Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, says Steve Jobs is 'monomaniacal' and describes Google duo's 'elbows and claws'
After his views on his co-founder, Bill Gates, emerged last month when extracts from his memoirs were published in the US , Allen is now focusing on his rivals.
He describes Steve Jobs, the boss of Apple who is on medical leave, as "monomaniacal". In an interview with the Sunday Times, Allen criticises Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the co-founders of Google, for their corporate mission statement: "Don't be evil". Allen talked about their "elbows and claws" in their pursuit for growth.
"I chuckle when I see people pushing the boundaries all the time of what they can do to monetise things, capture things – and then say, we're not evil, as if their default is not to push the boundaries," Allen said.
"If your default is to push the boundaries, to just go for it, and then see if you get pushed back, then don't say you're not evil," he added.
Google was criticised after it emerged that while it was gathering the images for its Street View site, it was also collecting information on email addresses and passwords.
In his autobiography, Idea Man, Allen describes how he and Gates were inseparable at school in Seattle but their relationship later soured and he describes Gates as a sarcastic bully who tried to force him out of the company.
Allen describes how Gates brought in Steve Ballmer, the current boss, and how after returning from fighting Hodgkin's lymphoma he heard the pair trying to reduce his influence – and confronted them about their intentions.
It sparked Allen's resignation and he refused an offer to buy him out for $5 a share – a sensible move given the share price is now $25 and his fortune is estimated at $13bn.