The Plot to Get Bill Gates by Gary Rivlin. Random House, 360 pages, $25.

For some, he's a brilliant visionary; for others, a monopolistic copycat. Either way, Bill Gates is a formidable business opponent who has made more than a few enemies on his way to becoming the world's richest man.

In his new book, The Plot to Get Bill Gates, journalist Rivlin chronicles the interactions and confrontations of the computer industry's major players, including Jim Clark and Marc Andreesen of Netscape, Larry Ellison of Oracle, and Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems.

Rivlin highlights how for men to whom business is always business, a rivalry with Gates has become irreconcilably personal. Gates' business practices seem inherently unethical to them, derailing the respect that is found among even the fiercest competitors. According to Rivlin's account, for example, McNealy made it almost a personal mission to publicly bash Gates wherever he was invited to speak.

But this is more than a history of how Gates has affected his competitors. It is a look at a country that has become so completely preoccupied with one person that there are 25,000 Web sites about him, complimentary or not. The media practically genuflect to Gates, judging from Rivlin's account, publishing public relations material that they would ignore for other companies and giving ink to almost every move Gates makes.

Mining newspaper articles, books (by and about Gates), Web sites, court documents, and insider interviews, Rivlin offers a fascinating exploration of one of America's most controversial icons.

Copyright 1999 Soundview Executive Book Summaries