Renegades of the Empire

Renegades of the Empire (1999) by Michael Drummond is a book about the team that created and launched DirectX, the package of libraries that make gaming work well on windows and their subsequent attempt to launch a 3D browser.

The book looks extensively at Alex St John, Craig Eisler and Eric Engstrom and their creation of DirectX, which was a triumph. The brutal wars within Microsoft and their success in challenging other groups is remarkable. However, it paints a portrait of a company full of people who are really awful. The results of the DirectX team were remarkable but they were achieved against huge odds of serious infighting within the company.

The second part of the book looks at the ill-fated Chromeffects 3D browser that MS tried to launch in the late 1990s. It’s interesting to see that even MS failed trying to bring 3D to the web. The book does not ask the question about whether 3D makes sense on the web. 10 years later it looks like the answer is no.

The book is an interesting book to have read after having read Inside The Plex, which is a very positive book about a company. Instead in Renegades of the Empire MS looks like a company full of smart, vicious people who war constantly with each other. It’s a very unflattering portrait. It’s not a badly written book but the subject matter leaves a bad taste. It’s of interest to anyone who is interested in the birth of DirectX and a view of MS’s corporate culture in the late 1990s.

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