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The Plot to Get Bill Gates (1999)

TPTGBGThe Plot to Get Bill Gates: An Irreverent Investigation of the World’s Richest Man … and the People Who Hate Him (1999) is a book by Gary Rivlin. The book is not only about Bill Gates and how he created the world’s largest fortune, it is also about the “other sovereigns” (computer industry entrepreneurs) who wanted to and tried to “get” Bill Gates. In Rivlin’s own words, his book is  “a fun, warts and all look at the World’s Richest Man and the corporate titans who, despite their age and all the’ve accomplished, become teen-boy-like obsessed with proving themselves bigger, better, or smarter than Gates.”

So, who are these corporate titans who desperately tried, but ultimately failed, to unseat Bill Gates. Rivlin discusses Jim Manzi of Lotus and Phillipe Kahn of Borland in the 1980s, Ray Noorda of Novell, Larry Ellison of Oracle, and Scott McNealy of Sun in the 1990s. By the turn of the century, Gates was so successful, so dominant, and so rich that he was outside the reach of most (if not all!) business tycoons. And, then of course, there was the US Government and the EU who went after Microsoft and Bill Gates, but ultimately had to back down. Rivlin himself seems to be no Gates fan either, as is description on Gates suggests:

Gates “voice is a high-pitched whistle that teteers on the edge of whininess, giving his talks a pleading, almost desperate sound. He speaks with a forced enthusiasm, tinny and false, and exudes no warmth, humor, or personality, despite hours of sessions with a speach coach. His one asset on stage, other than his fame, is his ample memory. He never fails to touch each of his talking points.”

This book is certainly an interesting read. At 342 pages it may be considered somewhat long, but what makes it particularly engaging is the description of “behind-the-scenes’ strategies and tactics that were employed by companies as they competed to dominate the computer industry. So many of the entrepreneurs, chief executives, and business tycoons who thought they could out-maneuvere Bill Gates have been relegated to the footnotes of history. For people who like to understand how things came to be the way they did, this is a great book!


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