Rarely do I use my blog to write book reviews, but rarely do I enjoy books as much as Charles Arthur’s new Digital Wars: Apple, Google, Microsoft and the battle for the Internet. Not only is this highly informative, but it is extremely well written. I used every spare moment – in other words take offs and landings on recent flights, when laptops have to be switched off – to read it! He somehow manages to craft an exciting thriller out of what could have been written in a very arid and boring way – the recent history of Apple, Google and Microsoft. This really excellent book builds on Arthur’s journalistic work over the last 25 years, and combines deep insights about the evolution of these companies with fascinating interviews with people who have been involved from the inside in their evolution.
Digital Wars begins with accounts of some of the key personalities involved – Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. His story then kicks off with Steve Ballmer’s elevation to CEO at Microsoft, and the aftermath of the Antitrust trial, which Arthur sees as having had an enormous effect on the company. At a rapid pace, the book is then structured around four themes:
- development and control of “search” – seen primarily as a conflict between Google and Microsoft
- the innovative shaping of a digital music industry, in which Apple outplayed Microsoft
- the creation of smartphones
- the emergence of tablets
This book is a “must read” for anyone who really wants to understand some of the changes that have taken place in the ICT industry over the last 15 years. In some ways, the book can be read as being about the demise of Microsoft, and the rise of Google to be the lead player in search, and Apple the dominant force in digital music (iTunes) and top-end telephony (iPhone). However, it is much more than this. Arthur manages to weave into the text fascinating insights into leadership, the ways through which small individual decisions – both good and bad – can shape the future of whole corporations, and the ebb and flow of recent corporate takeovers.
Do get hold of a copy and read it. There is much to be learnt about the past from Digital Wars to help us shape the future.