THE MICROSOFT WAY

THE REAL STORY OF HOW THE COMPANY OUTSMARTS ITS COMPETITION

An offbeat overview of Microsoft, the Johnny-come-lately enterprise that dominates the widening world of PC programming and is now laying careful plans to make itself a force to be reckoned with in the as yet undefined field of multimedia. Granted open access to the company's files and staff, Stross (Steve Jobs and the Next Big Thing, 1993) eschewed a traditional corporate history in favor of a four-part audit that puts fast- growing Microsoft and the aspirations of Bill Gates (its quirky cofounder) in an appreciably clearer perspective than that to be found in the grumbling of green-eyed rivals or the clueless complaints of would-be trustbusters. The author (Business/San Jose State Univ.) first examines the company's personnel policies and operational practices; he concludes that hiring brainy people for financially rewarding as well as professionally challenging assignments, and a willingness to commit sizable sums to R&D, rank among the principal secrets of Microsoft's continuing success. Stross goes on to review how this Washington State firm with global reach has conducted a patient campaign to break into consumer outlets (most notably, with a CD-ROM encyclopedia dubbed Encarta), and the stiff competition it faces from Intuit in personal-finance software. Covered as well are Microsoft's efforts to develop a commercial stake in interactive TV (an endeavor the company's chief scientist likens to playing a game of 500-card stud), its late start in the Internet sweepstakes, and the unwelcome attention of Justice Department attorneys whose predecessors watched the high- tech marketplace do what they could not in over a decade of trying: downsize and dismember IBM. Stross finishes with a jarring chapter on the philanthropic purposes to which a still young Gates might eventually put his billions. Apart from this, a perceptive briefing on a consequential corporation that arguably qualifies as a national treasure.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-201-40949-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

CAPITAL AND IDEOLOGY

A massive investigation of economic history in the service of proposing a political order to overcome inequality.

Readers who like their political manifestoes in manageable sizes, à la Common Sense or The Communist Manifesto, may be overwhelmed by the latest from famed French economist Piketty (Top Incomes in France in the Twentieth Century: Inequality and Redistribution, 1901-1998, 2014, etc.), but it’s a significant work. The author interrogates the principal forms of economic organization over time, from slavery to “non-European trifunctional societies,” Chinese-style communism, and “hypercapitalist” orders, in order to examine relative levels of inequality and its evolution. Each system is founded on an ideology, and “every ideology, no matter how extreme it may seem in its defense of inequality, expresses a certain idea of social justice.” In the present era, at least in the U.S., that idea of social justice would seem to be only that the big ones eat the little ones, the principal justification being that the wealthiest people became rich because they are “the most enterprising, deserving, and useful.” In fact, as Piketty demonstrates, there’s more to inequality than the mere “size of the income gap.” Contrary to hypercapitalist ideology and its defenders, the playing field is not level, the market is not self-regulating, and access is not evenly distributed. Against this, Piketty arrives at a proposed system that, among other things, would redistribute wealth across societies by heavy taxation, especially of inheritances, to create a “participatory socialism” in which power is widely shared and trade across nations is truly free. The word “socialism,” he allows, is a kind of Pandora’s box that can scare people off—and, he further acknowledges, “the Russian and Czech oligarchs who buy athletic teams and newspapers may not be the most savory characters, but the Soviet system was a nightmare and had to go.” Yet so, too, writes the author, is a capitalism that rewards so few at the expense of so many.

A deftly argued case for a new kind of socialism that, while sure to inspire controversy, bears widespread discussion.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-674-98082-2

Page Count: 976

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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