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Hypergrowth: The rise and fall of Osborne Computer Corporation

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30 review for Hypergrowth: The rise and fall of Osborne Computer Corporation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Meadhbh

    This is Adam Osborne's account of the rise and fall of the Osborne Computer Corporation (OCC); an early developer of "portable" micro-computers. Osborne founded his eponymous company in the 1980 to fill the niche left when Apple, Commodore and Tandy produced only desktop micros. Though we treat laptop computers as ubiquitous today, in the early micro era, they were considered a fantasy. IBM had famously produced the 5100, a "portable" computer in the mid-70s which failed to attract much attentio This is Adam Osborne's account of the rise and fall of the Osborne Computer Corporation (OCC); an early developer of "portable" micro-computers. Osborne founded his eponymous company in the 1980 to fill the niche left when Apple, Commodore and Tandy produced only desktop micros. Though we treat laptop computers as ubiquitous today, in the early micro era, they were considered a fantasy. IBM had famously produced the 5100, a "portable" computer in the mid-70s which failed to attract much attention. But Osborne followed an approach similar to the IBM PC product managers: let other companies build your hardware & software and act as a marketer and integrator. Osborne was quick to admit his skills lie in product management and technical writing, not corporate development. The early Osborn Computer Corporation bounced between business crises but eventually released the Osborne-1 to much fanfare. Industry folklore tells Osborne's bankruptcy can be traced to the premature announcement of the Osborne Executive, the follow-on machine to the Osborne-1. The story commonly told is after Osborne announced the Executive, sales for the Osborne-1 dried up immediately, leaving large amounts of inventory in dealer's warehouses. Osborne, and co-writer John Dvorak, tell a different, more nuanced story. According to Osborne, the "premature announcement" story was a lie told to a Wall Street Journal reporter. When asked about the cash-flow problems of his business, he panicked, not wanting to reveal the depth of chaos at OCC. Osborne places most of the blame on Bob Jaunich and bad timing. Jaunich was brought in to run Osborne when it was clear the first product was a success and to guide the company into an IPO. Osborne contents Jaunich contrived an accounting crisis as a bargaining chip for a higher percentage of the company. Through meticulous notes and Profit & Loss statements, Osborne shows many of Jaunich's statements about the state of the company were not completely accurate. But sadly, after an detective story told from the point of view of a forensic accountant, no smoking gun emerges. Contemporaneous notes from executives and board members confirm differences between stated objectives and some of Jaunich's actions. According to Osborne's theory, it was the collapse of TI & Atari's home computer products that threw a spanner in Jaunich's plan. Had the market continued to grow, the accounting irregularities at OCC would have been a footnote in an investor's prospectus. But because they occurred at a critical moment, precisely when Osborne needed additional cash and credit, no one emerged to cover the company's debt. What followed was a sadly frequent occurrence in silicon valley; a company that months before had been a market darling descended into Chapter 11. The story of Osborne Computer Corporation is told with skill and only mild acrimony. If you're a fan of accounting stories or computer history, this might be the book for you. The rest of us may find it interesting as a memoir of a time long past.

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