May 27, 1998 4:05 PM PDT

New thriller based on Microsoft

It's the story of a Seattle software firm led by a power-minded billionaire, and it's not about Microsoft.

It's about Megasoft.

The latest in a string of new books about large software companies--this time by a former Windows 95 program manager--Ulterior Motive is a thriller about a Megasoft program manager who witnesses a murder in the company garage and subsequently finds himself fired, framed for the murder, and marked for destruction.

The programmer, along with his journalist cohort and future bride, wind up having their identity erased by computer technology: Their credit cards cease to function, and bogus emails and computer-generated videos help incriminate them.

Meanwhile, the fictional software giant is pushing a program that will install itself on computers worldwide and enable the company to keep close tabs on all users.

Author Daniel Oran said he got the idea for the novel walking through the Microsoft parking lot while employed there. Oran claims authorship of Windows 95's start button and toolbar. He acknowledged that Megasoft is closely modeled on Microsoft.

"The book definitely portrays the culture and ethos of Microsoft," said the programmer-turned-novelist. "Though I certainly didn't see any murders there."

The rise of computer technology has long been feared as a death-knell for traditional book publishing. But large software firms seem to be fueling a cottage industry of books about them. Most of these are nonfiction titles, including Barbarians Led by Bill Gates, a critical tell-all about Microsoft cowritten by a former Microsoft developer and a journalist; and Speeding the Net, two journalists' account of Netscape Communications' struggle against Microsoft.

Apple Computer, like Microsoft, is the subject of a book by a former employee: erstwhile chief executive Gil Amelio.

Another computer industry executive recently penned his memoirs, portraying a cut-throat world of Internet start-ups in the book Burn Rate. Ulterior Motive differs from the recent rash of industry books in that it is fictional. The book jacket promises "intelligent, up-to-the-minute suspense in a sinister tale of politics and PCs that may make every one of us think twice before booting up our home computer."

 

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