Microsoft Corp. bestrides the widening world of PC software like a colossus, and here two technology-oriented academics show how the multinational company's success can provide noteworthy lessons for other commercial concerns jockeying for position in volatile high-tech markets. Drawing on apparently unrestricted access to an organization at work over an eventful two-year span (1993--95), Cusumano (MIT) and Selby (Univ. of California, Irvine) offer a by-the-numbers briefing on what makes Microsoft paradigmatic. They identify seven key strategies CEO William Gates and his top lieutenants employ to keep their enviably profitable and resolutely anti-bureaucratic enterprise well ahead of the pack. Devoting a lengthy anecdotal chapter to each of these operating precepts, Cusumano and Selby start with a detailed account of how the fast-growing firm screens and selects programming personnel. They go on to evaluate the company's effective management of technical talent and the ways it has dominated major sectors of the computer industry, e.g., by obsoleting mainstay products long before rivals are able to do so. Covered as well are the means used by Microsoft to focus the creativity of software developers (mainly by breaking large projects into wieldy tasks for which benchmark priorities have been established) and to meet shipment deadlines for bug-free products--most of the time at any rate; the loudly promoted introduction of an upgraded and features-laden operating system dubbed Windows 95 this summer affords a case in point. The authors also assess the extent to which the company learns from itself and customers. In a rousing windup, they comment approvingly on how Microsoft (despite constant run-ins with the Global Village's tougher antitrust agencies) continue to ""attack the future,"" based on contemporary calculations of demand, supply, and technology trends. A structured but illuminating overview of a decidedly free-form corporation that may well serve as a textbook exemplar of excellence in ongoing innovation.