Few companies graduate from success to cultural icon, but Microsoft is clearly such a company. Under the helmsmanship of Bill Gates, Microsoft dominates the ever-changing world of computer technology to such an extent that the launch of its Windows 95 program triggered frenzy--and long lines of customers--throughout the world.
And yet, to read Overdrive: Bill Gates and the Race to Control Cyberspace (John Wiley & Sons, $24.95 cloth) by James Wallace is to be reminded of just how difficult it is to dominate in an ever-changing world. With the cautionary example of IBM's decline looming at all times, the Microsoft Wallace describes is keenly aware of its smaller--and perhaps, nimbler--competitors. " `We are scared all the time,' [Gates] had told an audience celebrating the 25th anniversary of the University of Washington's computer science department,' the author reports. " `We're always saying, Is this the day we've reached our peak?' "
You'll realize after reading Overdrive that this isn't the rhetorical question it might at first appear to be. Largely centered around the battle to rule the Internet, Wallace's highly readable account of the triumphs and travails of Microsoft is bound to pique the interest of techies and nontechies alike.