x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Like the man himself, don't give up

As long as you take a cue from Paul Allen and don't give up, his book, Idea Man, is worth a read.

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. Ramin Talaie / Bloomberg News
Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. Ramin Talaie / Bloomberg News

Review: Idea Man, by Paul Allen

Paul Allen describes his role in co-founding one of the world's most recognisable companies, Microsoft, as a "one-dimensional" period in his life, which eventually gave him the wealth to pursue all the other things he was passionate about.

And from a reader's perspective, this is certainly evident. Although his fractious relationship with Bill Gates, the co-founder, is an interesting insight into the development of a global giant, the first half of the book is too technology heavy. So much so that most people would simply keep turning the pages. Jargon such as "8080 circuits", "CP/M friendly CPU" and "FORTRAN" causes the layman to sigh and hope that some description of "real life" to which readers can relate actually makes it on to the page. And it eventually does.

The liberation with which Mr Allen talks of leaving Microsoft and the wealth it created is felt by the reader because we get to hear about basketball teams, astronauts and life-threatening illnesses. It is then that we truly understand what a remarkable life Mr Allen has experienced, having the money to go out and invest in sports teams, develop spacecrafts and give hundreds of millions of dollars to charity. His wide-ranging views and interests make the rest of the book easily digestible.

The dialogue with Bill Gates certainly makes interesting reading, but it is so one-sided that the reader gangs up with Mr Gates for the sake of trying to represent a balanced argument. In the description of one ferocious encounter, Mr Allen quotes Mr Gates as ignorantly repeating: "You've got to do what the customer wants!"

So if you're interested in technology or Microsoft, then this book will push your buttons. If you're not, but you've ever wondered what to do if you won the lottery a hundred times over, the book is also worth buying.

The Quote "Some people are motivated by a need for recognition, some by money, and some by a broad social goal. I start from a different place, from the love of ideas." Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft

rjones@thenational.ae