Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who portrays the company's current chief executive, Steve Ballmer, as scheming in his, says that Ballmer, in a conversation two weeks ago, confirmed Allen's account of the events.
"Steve said, 'Yeah, those things did happen' that I recount," Allen said during an appearance at the Town Hall Seattle speakers series. Allen was interviewed on stage by GeekWire's Todd Bishop, a longtime technology reporter in Seattle.
In his book, "Idea Man: A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft," Allen writes that in 1982, he overheard Ballmer and Bill Gates discussing a plan to reduce Allen's 36 percent stake in Microsoft shortly after Allen was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. Allen writes that he burst in and shouted, "This is unbelievable! It shows your true character, once and for all." He calls the plot "mercenary opportunism, plain and simple."
Gates only vaguely disputed the allegation, saying in a statement that "my recollection of many of these events may differ from Paul's," adding that he still values their friendship. Ballmer, though, has declined to comment publicly. Allen, however, says Ballmer never challenged any of the facts during their conversation.
Allen also said he gave Gates a copy of "Idea Man" months before its release. But the two haven't talked since the book came out on Tuesday. Allen fully expects that conversation to happen.
"I'm sure there are things in the book that Bill will want to discuss," Allen said. "That discussion will be very, very intense. He will be very direct, and so will I."
Bishop asked Allen why he felt compelled to write a book that was so candid, that showedof his time at Microsoft. "I wouldn't be doing justice to my own story if I didn't tell [the key moments of my life] the way they happened," Allen said.
The interview event often felt like a homecoming for Allen, whose book promotion tour has seen him appear on "60 Minutes," "Charlie Rose," and American Public Media's "Marketplace" radio program. In Seattle, Allen was greeted warmly by a crowd of roughly 800 people that included, among others, his college girlfriend, Rita, whom he writes about in the early chapters of "Idea Man."
Allen was relaxed and often charming, telling stories and cracking wise. Asked about his Twitter account, the sometimes reclusive billionaire joked that he contemplated tweeting recently, "Look out Howard Hughes. Going to Vegas today."
Allen laughed about descending deep into the ocean in submarine that's housed inside his massive yacht. "The animals are really strange. But if you put on some Pink Floyd, it's fantastic," Allen said.
Given the Seattle crowd, Allen seemed to soft pedal criticism of current-day Microsoft in "Idea Man." In the book, Allen writes that "complacency has taken its toll," as Microsoft struggles to compete in growth markets such as smartphones and tablets.
In the conversation at Town Hall, Allen didn't offer criticism about specific missed opportunities. Instead, he alluded to Microsoft's missteps with business truisms, speaking broadly about new platforms that emerge. "You have to recognize those and jump on the opportunity and be as competitive as fast as you can," Allen said.
Allen's book tour will take him to Palo Alto, Calif., next Tuesday, where he'll be interviewed by Stanford University President John L. Hennessy in an event hosted by the Commonwealth Club.