Book Review
By David Kirkpatrick

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Microsoft is a great company. But you knew that already. After its antitrust case, the company has become more image-conscious. You probably knew that too. Unfortunately, a new book, Microsoft Rebooted: How Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer Reinvented Their Company, by former Time reporter Robert Slater, doesn't tell you a whole lot more.

Can you really take seriously a book that begins a chapter with this: "If one character trait illustrates best what Gates is all about, it is his devotion to thinking."? I can't. Such worshipful nonsense infects vast swaths of pages, which sadly are also diseased with numerous typos and errors. But the book suffers an even worse malady: It's boring. Endless pages are taken up recapitulating company memos. Dramatic developments, including Microsoft's battles to fend off the Linux open-source operating system and its huge headaches with security lapses, are barely mentioned.

The drama of the book, such as it is, revolves around how Steve Ballmer brought more discipline and image-consciousness to Microsoft after founder Gates relinquished the CEO title. But what Slater specializes in is parachuting into companies (GE and Wal-Mart, to name two) and drawing broad management truths from those operations. Trouble is, a software monopolist with the world's richest man at the helm and his best friend and college roommate as CEO doesn't lend itself to such analysis.

There is some good stuff--especially on the company's early history. But most of that has been told repeatedly in earlier books. Some of the best material was culled (with attribution in endnotes) from magazine stories, including several in FORTUNE. Ultimately Slater concedes that Microsoft's "rebooting" is incomplete and its ultimate success unknown--a revelation that is hardly worth the cover price. --David Kirkpatrick