Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Barbarians Led by Bill Gates

Rate this book
"Microsoft, a rather new corporation, may not have matured to the position where it understands how it should act with respect to the public interest."-U.S. District Judge Stanley Sporkin. Teamed with the daughter of one of Bill Gates's closest associates, thirteen-year Microsoft veteran Marlin Eller shows us what it was like at every step along Gates's route to world domination, making all that's been written before seem like a rough guess. If the Justice Department had Eller and Edstrom investigating the current-headline-making antitrust case, they would have on the record many of Microsoft's most respected developers directly contradicting the "authorized" version of events being presented in court. They would know the real scoop on how Windows was developed in the first place, shedding new light on the 1988 Apple v. Microsoft lawsuit over the alleged copying of the Mac. They would even know the real story of how Microsoft killed off Go Corporation, told for the first time by the man who did the deed, Marlin Eller himself. Revealing the smoke-and-mirror deals, the palms greased to help launch a product that didn't exist, and the boneyard of once-thriving competitors targeted by the Gates juggernaut, this book demonstrates with often hilariously damning detail the Microsoft muddle that passes for strategic direction, offset by Gates's uncanny ability to come from behind to crush whoever's on top.

256 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1998

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Jennifer Edstrom

2 books2 followers

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
28 (18%)
4 stars
49 (32%)
3 stars
55 (36%)
2 stars
14 (9%)
1 star
4 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews
Profile Image for Shital.
5 reviews2 followers
March 22, 2010
This book is fascinating first hand stories directly from a dev lead who worked on various things in early Microsoft (late 70s to early 90s). The title and cover design of this book is truly unfortunate because this book isn't as biased or as negative on Bill Gates as it sounds. Infect I find this book very well balanced and honestly written to give reader taste of what's going on without any restraints and plenty of first hand communications. The stories are written in very engaging and entertaining way (I tried to avoid the book at night because I can't put it down making me get up late next morning!).

There are so many quotes, private communication, meetings etc disclosed that I find hard to believe that this book is even legally out and people haven't sued each other (or may be they have). For example, authors describe in full detail how team sent a spy to record prototype of first tablet from competitor company GO and tried to copy it as Pen Windows product. It's tantalizing to know from a lead of Microsoft's little known Pen Windows that it's entire purpose was to put other company out of business and thereby eliminating threat to OS business. He also gives first hand account of meetings that describes how Bill Gates was obsessed with first Mac and was pressing hard on Windows 1.0 team to make Windows look like Mac even if it meant taking out features. There are lots of inside stories that I'd heard elsewhere but actually originated from this book like the time when Steve Ballmer intentionally called 9 AM meeting on Easter Sunday without any real agenda and threatened to take attendance just to see if the team was "committed". There are many of author's encounters with his manager Nathan Myhrvold which will remind many in software profession of similar personalities. From all these stories Bill Gates comes out as very normal guy, neither genius nor evil, who made tones of mistakes, blew millions of dollars on unnecessary projects, frequently hired incompetent people and gave no strategic directions when one was required. Authors have, however, prevented giving opinions most of the time and stayed focused describing first-hand account of on series of events with actual conversations that went on except in last few chapters. In any case I remain baffled why authors decided to have title and such an armaturish front cover that otherwise gives impression that this book is about typical anti-Microsoft and anti-Gates rants. Infect author defends Microsoft on many occasions and how Gates respected his agreements like one with Apple by forbidding developers on Windows 1.0 to take a look at Mac prototype until it was released.

This is by no means complete or rigorous account of early Microsoft. Stories are mostly limited to the groups that authors actually worked in and pretty good feel of how the characters such as Gates, Mundie, Myhrvold, Rikes etc worked. Author also gives pretty good taste of Microsoft small enough when author and Gates had offices on same floor to the times when there were several layers of management between them. There is not much of a detailed account of already popular events like Windows NT race, IBM divorce etc covered in other books (Hard Drive, Show Stoppers etc) but this book sets itself apart by holding its own where other books haven't ventured in parts of Microsoft's history. Highly recommended for all Microsoft enthusiasts.
Profile Image for Shemp DeYoung.
11 reviews4 followers
August 5, 2008

Leo Laporte mentioned this book on TWiT. (This Week in Tech is an Internet radio show OK, podcast that has an audience of about 250,000 people each week. www.twit.tv)

I decided that I should pick up a copy and bone up on some of the behind the scenes stuff that was going on back in the early days at Microsoft.

I am really glad I did. I was able to fill in some back story on a lot of people whose names I have heard but didn't really know much about.

If you are even a little curious, check this one out!
Profile Image for Cloay.
627 reviews8 followers
September 9, 2013
I still enjoy re-reading this book recently (before I donating it).

I still don't believe the position in defending IE from Microsoft side, as written in last chapter. The "browser war" as we know, many innovative products & companies were killed by gate & his team, else the power of the Internet will be much bigger than we can imagining.
Profile Image for Ross Taylor.
6 reviews
July 13, 2020
Really interesting account of early(ish) history of Microsoft. It's written from a single perspective, but I like how it breaks down the idea that things were meant to be. The pivotal moment seems to be a skunkworks project that enables Windows to run in protected mode.
Profile Image for Dylan Meadows.
12 reviews
February 2, 2019
This kept me thoroughly entertained from start to finish, I had no idea about the court cases, microsofts disorganization, or the elements that were pure luck.
Profile Image for Dave.
35 reviews9 followers
August 25, 2023
Covering most of the material from Hard Drive and Over Drive the book is mostly a ghost written account of Eller’s thirteen years in the pre internet Microsoft.
360 reviews4 followers
March 4, 2020
Amusing, but I wonder if the author(s) had too many axes to grind to be objective.

It's funny, but less relevant over time as Bill G is far from the picture. He's either patenting the world-ending virus, donating money to fight the world-ending virus, or hiding from the world-ending virus.

As nutty as he could be, when the same traits are in Steve Jobs it's all about the heroism. I think some irrational behavior is to be expected from software giants. They aren't meant to think about the average, or what ought to be possible, or benchmarking. They oversell. They push teams beyond all possible belief. They annoy conventional types who then wonder why they aren't richer.

Look, then, at what came later. Jack Welch passed the baton to Jeff Immelt, and GE probably won't survive. Bill passed it to Steve Ballmer, and MSFT has at least appeared to survive so far.
Profile Image for Harry.
526 reviews
October 10, 2022
This book is really not for a general audience but if you started programming windows back in the DOS days, right up to cell phones, living through the crazy releases, law suits, and bugs, it is fantastic. It helps to see the other side of the API's and systems (16/32/64 client/sever) at various stages and realize the agony we went through using the libraries was an equal pain for the developers. Backward compatiblity rules.
Profile Image for Siddharth.
71 reviews37 followers
January 17, 2016
A novel... best describing Gates and his ways. Kind of Inspirational too.
Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.