World War 3.0: Microsoft and its Enemies, by Ken Auletta, published by Random House (ISBN 0375503668)
You've got to feel for Bill Gates. It's not so much that he is universally despised, or even that the US government and judiciary seem intent on breaking up his business. It is that Microsoft's days as a synonym for IT are numbered, at least they are if you follow Auletta's devastating account of the company and its leader.
At one level this is the fullest account yet of the US anti-trust case. But it is far more than a real-life Grisham drama. It is the story of a company's tactics and one man's hubris, which in turn illuminates the violent battle for control of the networked economy.
Auletta is an industry insider. This is not a book from a pundit who has never set foot inside the Redmond fortress. Auletta has been at the top table – whether he'll be invited after World War 3.0 is another point.
His account is fair and comprehensive, but it is his painting of the armies surrounding Microsoft that almost makes one feel sorry for Gates.
Of course the AOL/Time-Warner goliath has the power to lift the Navigator browser into an unassailable position without falling foul of anti-trust legislation. But it is not the traditional powers – the government and the courts – it is the new powers – the Open Source software community and young mobile media start-ups – that threaten to consign Microsoft to a particular moment in business and IT history.
Auletta quotes one Microsoft insider: "In a network-based world, Microsoft's lock on computing becomes less. This is no longer the Pax Microsoft era."
Auletta has written a very fine obituary.