TECH
04/19/2011 08:09 am ET Updated Jun 18, 2011

Paul Allen: Microsoft's Strategy Was To Clone Rivals, Take Their Ideas

Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Paul Allen's memoir Idea Man is out and the book contains numerous details on Allen's tenure at Microsoft, his relationship with Bill Gates, and his thoughts on the future of technology.

In one passage, he describes Microsoft's rivalry with Google and the search giant's rapid rise, which Allen says Microsoft was not prepared for.

In the mid-nineties, the company's strategy was to copy quickly, the book recounts.

Allen says Steve Ballmer told the company its strategy was as follows: "[The competition] can be taken. But the only way we're going to take them is to study them, know what they know, do what they do, watch them, watch them, watch them. Look for every angle, stay on their shoulders, clone them, take every one of their good ideas and make it one of our good ideas."

But fast following was less effective in the Internet age and Google's rise seemed to have caught Microsoft off guard.

According to Allen's account, "years before" Google grew to be the "goliath it is today," Allen "repeatedly asked Bill [Gates] how Microsoft was going to catch up in search, or whether the company might consider buying Google instead. Bill was unimpressed by his then much smaller rival."

Allen says Gates kept answering, "In six months, we'll catch them."

Steven Levy's In the Plex, which recounts Google's rise, also recounts that Gates was somewhat dismissive of Google's Gmail when it first launched. Read more about Gates' thoughts on Gmail here.