现在情况变了。现在艾伦的名字到处都是。《名利场》（Vanity Fair）杂志节选了书中的一段精彩文字，内容是关于比尔•盖茨和微软现任首席执行官史蒂夫•鲍尔默是如何图谋稀释他在微软的股权的。他还上了CBS电视台的《60分钟》访谈节目，上周末甚至还在纽约市的92nd Street Y文化中心露了面。这些都是为了自己的新书《谋士》（Idea Man）作宣传。本书全面讲述了他与比尔•盖茨的恩怨情仇。故事从他十几岁的时候开始，一直讲述到现在。当年他总是和盖茨一起摆弄学校里的电传式ASR-33计算机终端，当时盖茨还是个瘦瘦的、满脸雀斑的毛头小子，但是一点也不缺乏雄心壮志。
从此以后，艾伦一直关注着微软。微软先是借Windows操作系统成了个人电脑市场的霸主，最近微软又努力在移动和搜索领域保持一席之地，不过苹果和谷歌已经分别在这两个领域上抢占了鳌头。（“现在每个公司都在硬件软件两手抓。”）艾伦暗示道，微软在Windows Phone 7项目上要做的还很多。
艾伦表示：“即便在比尔•盖茨离职前，有一段时期里，微软推出了Vista以及IE（Internet Explorer）等一些其它产品，它们都不算出色的产品。那时公司并没有强烈地专注于为消费者做产品，不过他们现在在这方面做得用心多了。”例如他提到了微软游戏机Xbox 360的Kinect控制器，它解放了玩家的双手，靠摄像机捕捉三维空间中的玩家动作进行操控。Kinect于去年11月上市，迄今已经卖出了1000万台。
For decades, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen kept a low profile, or at least as low as his $14 billion fortune probably allowed. He's occasionally spotted on his $162 million private yacht, palling around with Brad and Angelina, and taking in a Seattle Seahawks or Portland Trail Blazers game -- he owns both teams, of course -- but by and large, he's shied away from the spotlight.
Not anymore. Allen is everywhere now: a scintillating book excerpt in Vanity Fair about how co-founder Bill Gates and current CEO Steve Ballmer plotted to dilute his company shares, a 60 Minutes sit-down, even an appearance at the 92nd Street Y in New York City over the weekend. It's all to promote Idea Man, a tell-all spanning his days as a teen hanging out around his school's Teletype Model ASR-33 computer terminal with a gangly, freckle-faced -- but no less driven -- Gates to the present day.
Allen told Fortune he hasn't seen the 60 Minutes segment which recently aired, a brief, but fascinating peek into his rarefied lifestyle. Currently single, Allen comes across as brilliant, if isolated, surrounded by extravagance, sheltered in an awesome glass loft space hundreds of feet above street level, to the point where interviewer Leslie Stahl compares him -- twice -- to Howard Hughes.
"I'm doing so much TV right now, and sometimes I like to just blast through it," he says. "We shot it a few weeks ago, so it's done and it's out there, and I'm just trying to be fresh for these next few things."
To be fair, Idea Man isn't just about Microsoft. There are wholly unrelated chapters dedicated to other aspects of his life, like his investments in space tourism, AOL or Metricom, a failed broadband mobile data provider. But the reason most people will pick it up will be to learn more about his complex relationship with Gates, one that started fine enough but lost equilibrium as Microsoft quickly grew into a software giant and Ballmer, a Harvard classmate of Gates's, joined to handle the business side. As we now know, shouting matches between Gates and Allen were common, and Allen even went so far as to compare that time as "being in hell."
"I think there were different personality styles involved there," Allen reflects. "I'm a very logical, thoughtful person when you're talking about trying to decide something. Whether it's Bill or Steve Ballmer, they're much more high volume. Intense. They'll kind of argue something through and then come to a conclusion. After some years in that, it wore me down."
But he's also quick to point out that despite all their disagreements, he and Gates had a rapport that simply worked.
"We had this ability to be kind of a yin and yang on problems: one guy would say that's unsolvable, and our roles would flip back and forth. In the book, I talked about that first version of BASIC that we wrote in under 2 months back in Boston. Bill said that was probably the best piece of pure technical coding we ever did ... That was a lot of fun, and we were very complementary. But there this was kind of trajectory which happens in companies where over time, where roles change and people's styles don't mesh as well. That's why I ended up leaving."
In the years since, he's kept tabs on Microsoft as it came to dominate the PC market with the Windows operating system and then more recently, struggle to keep up in areas like mobile and search where Apple and Google respectively excel. ("Now everybody is scrambling in both hardware and software.") On the subject of Windows Phone 7, he implies more work needs to be done.
"It's not bad for a first release, but to get people to stop using their iPhones... Years ago, I went over to Microsoft to put in my two cents. Look, people are going to walk into a phone store, and you want something they're going to hold in their hand, and they're going to get excited about it immediately because there's something unique in the interface or the way it feels in their hand. Or its capabilities. So it's a big challenge, but they're pulling out all the stops."
In his book, Allen attributes Microsoft's current problems to the company's leadership, scale, and mediocre culture. On the subject of under-performers for instance, he writes that one executive complained, "I wish I could shoot every fourth one." These culture problems are presumably behind some of the company's sub-par product releases.
"Even before Bill left, there was a period when Vista and some of these other products like IE [Internet Explorer], well, they weren't great products," he says. "There wasn't the intense focus on doing products for the consumer, but now they've internalized that a lot more." To boot, he points to Kinect for the Xbox 360, a motion-sensing hands-free game controller that's sold 10 million units since launch last November.
If there's anything he's learned all these years, it's that a lot of factors need to be in place for success: the right team, the right ideas, the right areas for innovation. But when asked what Microsoft needs to do to succeed today, Allen's answer is relatively simple: "be ready for the competition, and have some agility to react."
Good advice for the company he helped build from scratch.