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August 25, 1996|CHARLES SOLOMON

I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC: A Year With Microsoft on the Multimedia Frontier by Fred Moody (Penguin: $12.95, 311 pp.). Moody was given unprecedented access to the inner working of Microsoft to document the creation of "Explorapedia," the multimedia children's encyclopedia. Instead of the well-organized company he expected, Moody found a collection of highly paid but frustrated people squabbling over details, reinventing the wheel and battling over sandbox fiefdoms to the point of paralysis: "It was a corporate Escher drawing, with each team looking anxiously toward someone else, in hopes that he or she could do something to get the rest of the team moving. The arrangement of anxious glances came around full circle in a devious way, as is typical of Escher's drawings, and could be seen only after intense scrutiny." Alternately comic and depressing, Moody's report suggests that the software giant has succeeded in spite of itself.

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