- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From Barnes & NobleOur Review
Silicon Valley Saga
Most CEOs don't banish smoking and institute vegetarian-only cuisine on their corporate campuses. Nor do they fire and rehire the same people while making a habit of terrorizing their employees. And they don't tend to spend millions of dollars and countless hours designing the perfect office and factory instead of creating a marketable, successful product.
Even if they were to pull off such behavior, as Steve Jobs did in his various professional endeavors from 1985 to 2000, would they still be worshiped and canonized as he has been? Few others could fall from grace so publicly and have the wherewithal to return so triumphantly. Job's homecoming to Apple Computers, the company he founded, after his humiliating ousting in 1985 heralded one of the most astonishing business turnarounds in corporate history. Bringing Apple's stock price, sales figures, and market share to all-time highs in a PC-dominated world stunned the industry and reestablished Jobs's place in the corporate pantheon.
It's one of many experiences that have made Jobs such a fascinating subject of the many works that have focused on him. His legendary charisma, exceptional genius, and the cultlike following he inspires make for an extraordinary character, but not one without considerable flaws, all of which are explored from an insider's perspective in Alan Deutschman's intriguing book, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs.
There's little doubt that Jobs is a visionary and revolutionary, but the substance of The Second Coming of Steve Jobs reduces him to human scale by recounting his often irrational and repugnant behavior through more than 100 interviews with Jobs's friends, employees, and professional contacts.
The Second Coming of Steve Jobs feels like a 304-page magazine profile, a style that fits the author, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair magazine and a former Silicon Valley correspondent for Fortune. The content of the book is two-thirds gossip and dish and one-third chronology and analysis. The result is an entertaining page-turner that reads like an episode of VH1's Behind the Music, complete with the classic rise, fall, and rise again plotline, obscene displays (and misspending) of wealth, betrayal, and appearances by other notable players, like Bill Gates of Microsoft, Jim Clark of Netscape, Larry Ellison of Oracle, and Michael Eisner of Disney.
Steve Jobs's successes are far less interesting to read about than his failures, the most outstanding of which is NeXT, his mid-'80s, post-Apple computer company. Jobs started NeXT in an attempt to outdo and exact revenge upon Apple but ended up alienating his core team of professional confidants, burning through money at a phenomenal rate, and ultimately seeing his company liquidated garage-sale style. After reading about the way in which Jobs ran the company, it's actually little surprise that it was such a stunning failure.
According to the book, Jobs spent more time obsessing about finding the perfect furniture for his office, building the most aesthetically pleasing hardware, and spewing vitriol against Apple than focusing on how to develop a killer computer. He fleeced enormous sums from investors, only to empty his coffers on the company's logo and factory and end up in the red. NeXT barely shipped computers and never met its sales projections. Jobs ignored advice about reconsidering his strategy and rejected buyout offers. Toss in the climate of fear that he created within the company, and it's a perfect recipe for disaster.
But Jobs refused to deal with any of that. Deutschman paints a portrait of a man so obsessed by the concept of perfection, so embittered by the injustices he felt he suffered, that he'd become blind to reality. This is best evidenced by his egomaniacal dealings with the creative founders of Pixar, the computer animation company behind the movie Toy Story.
Jobs tried to impose his way on the familial corporate culture of Pixar, insisting that his money gave him the right to run the company in his image. But eventually, a broken Jobs realized that the company's virtues lay in the creative spirits of its founders and artists, and he lost his battle for control. Instead, he waged war against Disney and won unprecedented lucrative contracts from them, took Pixar public, and reclaimed the wealth he lost with NeXT.
The Pixar episodes are among the most interesting material in The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, providing revealing perspective on a less-discussed aspect of Jobs's professional history. They also reveal an incarnation of Jobs that encapsulates his best and worst qualities as a businessman, negotiator, and visionary. As reviewed in the chapter of the book called "Being Steve," Jobs is a walking contradiction, an insecure, capricious, childlike man whose fierce tenacity engenders his legendary resilience. Although he's a great man who often feels that the rules don't apply to him, he's also suffered greatly, which together make him someone who will no doubt continue to capture media and literary attention for years to come.