Paul Allen was born in 1953 in Seattle, in the United States. This is where he meets Bill Gates, in elementary school. The two boys share the same interest in computers. “Our geometry teacher believed that the study of books should be accompanied by real-life experiences. He also understood that we should understand something about computers when we go to college, ” explained Paul Allen in Vanity Fair magazine in 2014.
This teacher pushes the acquisition of a teletypewriter for the school, an ancestor of the computer, equipped with a keyboard but without screen, useful for writing and receiving messages. “The machine made a terrible noise, a mixture of buzzing and machine gunfire, and the keyboard Chaka-Chaka-Chak,” recalled Paul Allen. “But even if it was noisy and slow, and it was a stupid terminal with no screen or lowercase letters, it was a work of art. I was fascinated. I thought I could do something with this machine. ”
A few years later, Paul Allen, then a student at Washington State University, decided to stop studying to become a programmer. He will convince Bill Gates to do the same. The latter leaves the prestigious Harvard University. In 1975, the two friends officially founded Microsoft. The name is an idea of Paul Allen.
The aim of the two partners is then to sell a platform capable of executing computer programs on personal computers. It is IBM who, five years later, will turn their lives upside down. The American company wants to release its first PC. She asks Microsoft to program an operating system for her machine. A small society has never developed one yet. For lack of time, Paul Allen negotiates the purchase of an operating system created by another developer, Tim Paterson. He renames it “MS-DOS”. The beginnings of Windows, officially launched in 1985, have been asked.
Paul Allen leaves Microsoft management fairly quickly to take care of his health. In 1983, at the age of thirty, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. His relationship with Bill Gates has also deteriorated. In his autobiography, Paul Allen will assert that his friend would have sought to buy his shares in Microsoft, arguing that he had worked more than him to the success of the company. He would have refused the deal. Microsoft’s success, and its IPO, will make it a billionaire.
The dark side of Bill Gates, who allegedly conspired to reduce the shares of his co-founder in Microsoft, is revealed in the autobiography of his former partner Paul Allen, “The idea Man.”.
In an interview with the program “60 Minutes”, of which CBS television published extracts before its broadcast, Mr. Allen assures that this book, “Idea Man” (“Man of idea”) is not a “revenge” against Bill Gates, the second richest man in the world and one of the greatest philanthropists on the planet.
But he admits that the day they talk about it face to face, “it will be a lively discussion”. An extract published in the monthly Vanity Fair tells how in 1982 when Mr. Allen suffered from cancer, Bill Gates would have tried to “rip him off”.
The two men had founded “Micro-Soft” seven years earlier after a test proved the value of their BASIC program. Allen says he always expected they would split the company 50/50. “But Bill had another idea,” reserving 60% because he would have done more of the programming work.
Shortly after, when the program was licensed to the NCR group for $ 175,000, Mr. Gates claimed 64%. “I could have haggled (…) but I was not motivated,” says Allen.
Paul Allen says it took several years before trying to “reconstruct the thought” of Mr. Gates to arrive at this figure. “I think Bill knew I would protest a two-on-one split, and that 64 was the best he could get.”
In 1980, the two men hired a former college buddy from Bill Gates at Harvard, currently, general manager Steve Ballmer, to help them manage the group.
Two years later, while suffering from Hodgkin’s disease, cancer, Mr. Allen objects to Mr. Gates on a decision for the group and begins to consider his departure.
It was then that in December 1982, Mr. Allen overheard a conversation between Mr. Gates and Ballmer: the two men discuss “how they could dilute my shares in Microsoft by granting options, to themselves and to other shareholders”.
“I walked in and shouted, ‘It’s amazing! It reveals the true nature of your character, once and for all!'”. “I was speaking to both, but I was looking Bill in the face,” said Allen.
For this businessman, whose other businesses have either failed or met with limited success, the attitude of his two colleagues was inconceivable: “I had helped found the company and remained an active member of management, even if I was limited by my illness, and my colleagues were plotting to rip me off. ”
Despite a six-page letter of apology from Mr. Gates, Mr. Allen decides to leave Microsoft. Mr. Gates would then have made an offer for five dollars to buy back his shares. Mr. Allen instead asks for 10 dollars per share, and if there is no agreement, he remains a shareholder. Hence his fortune: he is the 57th richest man in the world.
The book was criticized by several Silicon Valley observers, such as independent expert Rob Enderle, who was very close to Microsoft at the time.
Regretting a “sad autobiography” which “rewrites history”, Mr. Enderle affirms in particular that Mr. Gates and Ballmer had not sought to “rip off” Mr. Allen in 1982, but rather to retain control of Microsoft in the event of death, when “the heirs (of Mr. Allen) could theoretically have done something drastic, like forcing a sale of the company or its assets. ”
On “60 minutes”, Mr. Allen explains that he wanted to tell “an important part of the history of technology”.
He also spoke of Mr. Gates’ concern during another battle against cancer in 2009. “There is an undeniable link between us, I think we both feel it.”