Microsoft was founded in 1975; had its operating system MS-DOS 1.0 introduced on a personal computer made by IBM in 1981; and went public in 1986 – those facts are indisputable. The rest of the story, however, gets a bit murky, at least according to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, whose unreleased memoir is causing quite a bit of controversy in the business world.
Paul Allen is the Steve Wozniak to Bill Gates’s Steve Jobs. The two have known each other since they were young and there has been little reported in the press over the years about any rivalry between the two – unlike, Mark Zuckerberg and the seemingly endless press coverage of the beginnings of the world’s biggest social network.
Gearing up for the release of his memoir, “Idea Man: A Memoir by the Co-founder of Microsoft,” Allen is causing quite a stir with some accusations he lobs at his former business partner, Bill Gates, who is often regarded as the genius behind Microsoft. The Wall Street Journal obtained an advanced manuscript of the book and Vanity Fair posted an excerpt of the book on its Website on Wednesday – and it doesn’t exactly paint a very positive picture of Allen’s relationship with Gates.
The book is rife with accounts of Allen’s feeling betrayed by both Gates and the company: According to Allen, when he was being treated for cancer during the early days of the software giant’s existence, Gates conspired to take shares from his co-founder. It’s stories like this that have rocked the business world, where many have long viewed the two as close friends. Sources close to both men said the book is causing a rift in their relationship.
David Postman, a spokesman for Allen, said the book is “a very balanced portrayal of their relationship,” affirming that “Paul clearly values the input and the ideas and energy of Bill Gates.” However, some people with intimate knowledge of Microsoft’s beginnings have questioned Allen’s recollection of many events.
In one instance, Allen writes that he visited Palo Alto, California to attempt to bring a brilliant computer scientist – who would later become one of the company’s most important programmers – to Microsoft, but people familiar with the meeting said it was actually Gates who made the trek and not Allen.
Moreover, throughout the book Allen claims that he was the driving creative force behind a number of Microsoft’s biggest achievements, playing down Gates’s role in many cases, the Wall Street Journal reports: “Woven throughout the book is a bitterness Mr. Allen expresses for not receiving more credit for his work throughout his career and more shares in Microsoft,” the newspaper notes.
Carl Stork, who joined Microsoft in 1981 as a technical assistant to Gates and worked there for 20 years, said that Gates was the true genius behind the company – much like Zuckerberg at Facebook or Jobs at Apple. “I am surprised that Paul would have felt that it helps his legacy to express dissatisfaction with the share of Microsoft he received,” Stork said. “While all of us considered Paul a friend and valued his contribution, there is no question that Bill had a far larger impact on the growth and success of Microsoft than did Paul.”
For his part, Gates has remained mum on the book, issuing a statement that is about as neutral as one could expect. “While my recollection of many of these events may differ from Paul’s, I value his friendship and the important contributions he made to the world of technology and at Microsoft,” Gates affirmed.
The book will be released April 17 and already it is surging up best seller lists as consumers with a love of drama and in-fighting look to get an insider’s look at the founding of one of the world’s most influential, successful and game-changing companies.