I will say I am a bit late in reading this book, but thanks to an old Microsoft friendship I was loaned a copy of the book. As far as biographies go this is a pretty amazing book about an amazing man. I underscore amazing. I love the history of the technology industry. Primarily because of what we do, what we create and what we envision. However for me it is the individuals that have shaped and transformed the industry that truly make it exciting and if you had to pick the best, the person who has done the most to transform the industry and the society at large I think many would say, Apple founder and technology visionary Steve Jobs. In one of hos final acts he had the foresight to give author Walter Isaacson rare insight and freedom to write Steve Job’s epitaph.
The book goes through Steve’s entire life and it is obvious that Steve gave Walter Isaacson the liberty of writing an honest book. It is not always a flattering portrayal of the man as we learn throughout the book. It is quite apparent that whatever Steve Jobs did he was obsessive about the way he did it and how he did it. Everything from his relationships, to his spirituality,to how he ate, to his music (a devoted Bob Dylan fan), to how he went about the various business en-devours he was involved in. No matter what he seemed to do he threw himself into it. It is also apparent to most who knew him that he was an ass. His social skills were lacking. he often did not treat people well. When he did it often comes across that he was using them for his own personal gain. There was also the issue of the Steve Jobs “Reality distortion field”. How he would manipulate things to ultimately meet his end objective often taking credit for things that he really did not do. In the end we seem able to overlook those flaws.
Though not a huge focus on the book it does come up often enough to satisfy the reader was his relationship with Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates. The only person who could challenge Steve’s throne as greatest technology visionary of the last fifty years. What comes across early is Bill had no problem handling Steve, no matter how ballistic Steve might get at Microsoft and Bill. Bill seems un-phased and arrogant in hos own special way. These two figures meet several times in the book and the last meeting is touching and fitting. It is not often in history two icons can be as well documented as these two and if anything this book should be a great read just for this insight.
The creation of Apple is interesting. It is well-known and documented, but what separates Steve from Steve Wozniak (I read iWoz…he was a real geek, in an away that Steve and even Billg were not) is the creation of the Mac. To me in the book his marriage of design and technology so early on in the PC world was well ahead of his time. At the time in the industry people were just trying to make functional PC’s that consumers would by, but Steve was envisioning an emotional attachment to the computer. Involved in every little detail from how a rectangle should look to how the circuit boards should appear on the inside of the Mac. He succeeded with the Mac but not in the mass scale he hoped for, the scale would go to Microsoft for the next decade. He was creating something the mass market was not ready for, that would come later.
I know when I coach soccer my teams learn more from their losses than their wins. In Steve’s case once ousted from Apple he learned more from his failures than his success. His time in the wilderness allowed him some reflection time and time to attempt something new, which was NeXT computers. He got involved with other projects outside of NeXT, one of which was a company called Pixar. He reflected on everything that was meaningful to him and though NeXT failed it was acquired by Apple, which led to his re-birth.
The final two chapters that are covered in the book can be done in two-words: Apple and Cancer. The first is Apple and what he did is one of the great success stories in the history of technology. It seemed nearly everything Apple touched over the course of the next decade would turn to gold and refine not just the industry but society at large. It reflected the marriage of design and technology. Starting with the iMac and PC’s in color on through the iPad. His attention to detail was impressive being involved in everything from the devices to the Apple Stores to the new Apple Campus he was working on prior to his death. Some of the things I felt were things that only Steve Jobs could have pulled off such as the iPod, Music was a big part pf Steve Jobs. He was fanatical Bob Dylan fan. So the marriage of music, design and technology came naturally (At Microsoft with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer at the helm..this could not have happened). I think that was Steve’s great legacy is the ability to marry all his great interests into great products.
Cancer was the last battle and perhaps one can easily look back and say Steve’s odd personality got in the way of doing things the correct way. Beating cancer early. But even as death approached we find our selves somewhat moved and inspired. Love him or hate him, this book I think will leave you feeling satisfied with this book. There is a whole lot I did not cover but you will just have to pick up and read yourself.
Good Night and Good Luck
Hans Henrik Hoffmann October 22, 2012