Strategy Rules

David Yoffie and Michael Cusumano Harper Business, 272 pages, $29.99

Adulation of its leaders is a feature of the information-technology industry. Like "Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs," dozens of books sing the praises of the famed bosses of Microsoft, Intel and Apple.

Attempts to compare and contrast these chief executives, however, are rare. Reducing this deficit is the mission of David Yoffie, of Harvard Business School, and Michael Cusumano, of MIT's Sloan School of Management, in "Strategy Rules." The book provides plenty of insight to help navigate a world that is ever more driven by IT.

Gates' strength was in software and strategy, both needed in abundance to establish an operating system. Grove focused on discipline and execution, which explains Intel's unmatched capacity to churn out chips. And Jobs was obsessed with detail and design. That turned out to be secondary in personal computers, but proved vital in smartphones.

The lessons the authors draw from all this may sound classically business-school, but they are particularly important in this fast-moving industry. One is to "look forward" to spot industry shifts early, and then "reason back" to work out what to do about them. The most important is that in order to make it big in IT, one has to offer not just products, but platforms. These are the foundations for entire chunks of the IT industry, as Windows is for PC software.