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Paul Allen's memoir, 'Idea Man,' shows Bill Gates in a mixed light


Paul Allen's memoir, "Idea Man," won't be in stores until April 19, but Vanity Fair has an excerpt that's telling. In it, Allen remembers the 13-year-old Bill Gates -- they were classmates -- as smart, competitive, persistent and entrepreneurial. He also writes that as he was suffering from cancer, Gates and Steve Ballmer "were scheming to rip me off."

From the excerpt in Vanity Fair:

One evening in late December 1982, I heard Bill and Steve speaking heatedly in Bill's office and paused outside to listen in. It was easy to get the gist of the conversation. They were bemoaning my recent lack of production and discussing how they might dilute my Microsoft equity by issuing options to themselves and other shareholders. It was clear that they'd been thinking about this for some time.

Unable to stand it any longer, I burst in on them and shouted, "This is unbelievable! It shows your true character, once and for all." I was speaking to both of them, but staring straight at Bill. Caught red-handed, they were struck dumb. Before they could respond, I turned on my heel and left.

I replayed their dialogue in my mind while driving home, and it felt more and more heinous to me. I helped start the company and was still an active member of management, though limited by my illness, and now my partner and my colleague were scheming to rip me off. It was mercenary opportunism, plain and simple.

There was a reconciliation -- Allen includes an apologetic note from Gates, and a conversation with Ballmer -- but Allen, who was a co-founder of Microsoft, had already decided he was ready to go. He left his position at the company in February 1983.

Allen's company, Vulcan Inc., has a portfolio that includes technology companies, the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers. He has been a funder of the Experience Music Project; the Alien Telescope Array; the Paul Allen Institute for Brain Science; and Tier One, the team that won the Ansari X prize to successfully build and fly the first suborbital commercial spacecraft.

"Idea Man" is being published by Penguin.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Paul Allen and Bill Gates in 1981. Credit: Microsoft Corp. via Bloomberg News

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Not sure if this occurred before or after MS ripped off Apple.

If before, then it's likely that all three schemed to rip it off. If it was after, then it's likely that only Gates and Ballmer did it.

"before or after MS ripped off Apple" Don't you mean before or after Steve Jobs ripped off windowing operating systems & the mouse from Xerox?

It is NOT the "Alien Telescope Array", it is the "Allen Telescope Array"! Please correct the article.

at this point, apple didn't really have anything worth "ripping off"... yet.

digital research's cp/m, on the other hand...

Exactly Tyrone, Apple stole the operating system from Xerox so they were in no position to complain about Microsoft. Didn't Steve Jobs say there is no money to be made in software?

Isn't this the same guy who now files patents for all kinds of things that he had NOTHING to do with developing and then sues the companies that violate his 'patents'?
Bill Gates is known for being a pretty smart guy - perhaps he saw a bit of Mr. Allens true character and decided to jettison the guy who wasn't being productive and who steals other peoples ideas.
Idea Man, my a$$. It's one thing to be a hypocrite - and another thing altogether to write a book about what a hypocrite you are. Allen was the money man, the investor. He made huge sums of money off of the work of others when he was with MS - what does he have to cry about?

For that amount of money, the Dalai Lama would "scheme".

It's nothing to brag about, being responsible for Microsoft Word and other such crappy products. This is the most counterintuitive and horribly designed software. It's near impossible, in Word 2008 for Mac, to know if you've gotten the Markup out -- and even how to do it.

I got my first Mac in 1985, through the University of Michigan student discount program. Outside of the first cute little recording about how to turn it on, etc., I've never had a manual or so much as a direction sheet for it...never needed one.

The guy is a 7-figure BILLIONAIRE and he is trying to tell us that "Bill Gates screwed him?" I have softened up on Bill Gates a lot in recent years, he is trying to do something with this wealth he has amassed, rather than buy sports teams.

Bill Gates has always inspired a lot of love/hate in me. I use MS Windows stuff all the time, and yet often I find that it can be so annoying and user unfriendly, it makes me angry. Still, what would I do without it? I would very much like to read Paul Allen's book, though there are at least two sides to every story. Will it be as interesting as The Social Network? Maybe Allen won't be as good a writer, but he was there. I can't wait to read this book.

Apple purchased the patents to Xerox-Park technology.

bill gates never impressed me as having much integrity......he was a bright kid who realized he did not have to finish harvard to get ahead fiancially....he and his pals were in the right place at the right time to gain from others developments through their scheming......there is a documentary about gates and ms...........he is a billionaire and thinks that just because he throws a few bones to charity that he is elevating his standing in the pantheon of inventors and great people.......his os constantly has to be upgraded......it is pretty good but why do they have to tweak it constantly??........im glad that we have it, but the ends don't necessarily justify the means..........perhaps his philanthropy and good ideas regarding education will make up for his sheer arrogance and greed..........dr j

perhaps you fellas are right about allen.........it takes one to know one.........like i said..........hopefully gates will help reform education and other worthy causes......it would be instructive to me to check wikipedia to research what gates, and the gates foundation are really doing to make this a better country and world..........i hope to find that he is contributing to helping solve our problems with global warming and helping to level the playing field for emerging economies..........also is he contributing to public health like the carter foundation.....such as the eradication of the guinea worm in northern africa.......i did a research paper on that topic in a public health course........dr j

i love nerd drama.

"Apple purchased the patents to Xerox-Park technology."

It's Xerox PARC, and they actually made a stock deal (http://www.mac-history.net/the-history-of-the-apple-macintosh/rich-neighbour-with-open-doors-apple-and-xerox-parc). Unfortunately for Xerox, they vastly underestimated the future worth of their research.

On the topic of who ripped off whom, the Microsoft team had also visited Xerox PARC and seen their work, and so could reasonably claim to have been inspired by their work and not Apple's (even though Microsoft never paid Xerox). When Steve Jobs confronted Bill Gates after the release of Windows 1.0 about ripping off the Macintosh, Gates said "Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbour named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set and found out that you had already stolen it."

Gates' theft was literal while Jobs' was only figurative, but he had a point, and the courts later sided (more or less) with Gates.

John Dingler, artist: Xerox GAVE the GUI to both Jobs & Gates. Xerox was no longer interested in the computer bidness,

This would make a great movie. And Sorkin could write a great script for it.

It's getting a little tiring that in the last 15 years low-information people don't like the facts so they make stuff up.

I believe these are the facts as I've read this in several places and heard it in interviews;

Jobs and co. were invited to Xerox PARC (it's PARC, not Park, for Palo Alto Research Center) by some mutual friends because the guys at Xerox PARC had invented the mouse and the GUI and excitedly and repeatedly showed it to the executives upstairs who told them it was not interesting, it was going nowhere, and to stop bothering them or they'd be getting a career path adjustment.

So they got Jobs et al in, who were blown away by it, and who subsequently asked said same execs if Xerox was willing to sell the technology. They were so happy to get rid of it, they sold it cheap to get it out of the building.

Jobs is no saint, but as a youngster, it was about the computers as this was long before there was any money in it.

You know, like how in the old days, musicians learned how to play instruments and write songs because it was art.

Now it's a computer making music in a bedroom to see how much money can be made.

No! I can't believe that Bill Gates has ever shown any dishonesty or self-interest!

Lot of gray facts being tossed around in this post regarding how Apple, Microsoft and Intel went on the front stage of computing in the 70′s against the titans of their time - HP, IBM and XEROX. I would give you fine folks a more accurate depiction of computing history, but I need to repair my spectacles and get back to coding.

A little history:

Gates took 'community computer code' and put a little frosting on it, and then proceeded to shock his computing associates by doing what had never been done before – he SOLD software, in an era where it was previously developed and passed around freely.

Later, he promised a non-existent operating system to IBM who suddenly had PCs with no operating system due to a fall out with Digital Research over rights to CP/M. When IBM took the bait, Gates quickly bought the rights to QDOS, also known as 86-DOS, from Seattle Computer Products, for a mere $50K, then turned around and proceeded to license it to IBM for millions.

Gary Kildall, of Digital Research stated: "He is divisive. He is manipulative. He is a user. He has taken much from me and the industry."

Thus Gates is a cut-throat, amoral businessman, not a boy genius programmer, and deserves to be disrespected as such.

you mean this is news ???? happens all the time in business---why america suffers loss

Trust noone.

Capitalists will be Capitalists. It is the nature of the beast that the ruthless and unprincipled will make it to the top. Some call it "The Lord of the Flies" syndrome.

People like Paul Allen, Larry Ellison, Bernard Madoff and Neocons are the real ones screwing our people in the world and SHIFTING the blame to young boys like Bill Gates who they teached evil skills. I dont even know the name of Larry Ellison's true father and as far as aggressive litigation is concerned , no one can beat the rasputin.

Go find a movie "Pirates of Silicon Valley". (Warner Bros 1999)

"XEROX didn't know what the idea was worth" because it wasn't worth anything, as an undeveloped idea. Only now, in hindsight, can we imagine this profitable technology had value at every stage of development.

The reason Microsoft went on to dominate personal computing software is, Gates had the idea that software need not be specific to any one manufacturer's model, about the same time a guy named Dell decided you should be able to have a custom-made IBM clone for less than the price of a car. The same OS ideas, in the hands of Apple, weren't worth as much, because Apple was still operating the way games consoles do now: buy our mainframe and we'll scramble to put out exclusive use software to make it worthwhile. And it was worth even less to Xerox because they weren't going to develop a personal computer mainframe; all Xerox would have done had they known its value, would have been to try to charge more for the patent or the license to a developer.

And today Paul Allen in a patent vampire. Who's to blame Paul? Paul.

"I'm shocked, SHOCKED that there's gambling going on in this casino."
"Your winnings, sir."

In Microsoft's early years, Gates poured over biographies of Napoleon. He said that Napoleon was his hero; he once went to a costume party dressed as Napoleon. Microsoft owes much of its elephantine success to Gates's applying Napoleon's maxims of fighting. All this is splendidly laid out in Sweet's The Principles of Fighting, which shows the degree to which Gates emulated Napoleon.

Did Allen think that someone whose hero is Napoleon would treat him well and fairly?

Oh dear, Social Network 2, The Prequel in theatres soon.

People like Paul Allen, Larry Ellison, Bernard Madoff and Neocons are the real ones screwing our people in the world and SHIFTING the blame to young boys like Bill Gates who they teached evil skills. I dont even know the name of Larry Ellison's true father and as far as aggressive litigation is concerned , no one can beat the Rasputin.

To this, I want to add that Paul Allen is patent vampire because our courts and lawmakers are bigotted and favor certain races and religious groups. Today the supreme court disfavoured a black man, who was terribly wronged. Certain groups have dominated the government and look at how court let a rapist like Roman Polansky go scott free.

Has anyone recently heard of Peter King - the king of hate ?

A "stock deal" is like a purchase, so, if Apple made a stock deal, Apple did not steal the Xerox-PARK intellectual property.


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