Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

4.2 1683
by Walter Isaacson
     
 

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From bestselling author Walter Isaacson comes the landmark biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. In iSteve: The Book of Jobs, Isaacson provides an extraordinary account of Jobs’ professional and personal life. Drawn from three years of exclusive and unprecedented interviews Isaacson has conducted with Jobs as well as extensive interviews withSee more details below

Overview


From bestselling author Walter Isaacson comes the landmark biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. In iSteve: The Book of Jobs, Isaacson provides an extraordinary account of Jobs’ professional and personal life. Drawn from three years of exclusive and unprecedented interviews Isaacson has conducted with Jobs as well as extensive interviews with Jobs’ family members, key colleagues from Apple and its competitors, iSteve is the definitive portrait of the greatest innovator of his generation.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
If not the greatest of computer moguls, the late Apple Computer co-founder was certainly the most colorful and charismatic to judge by this compelling biography. Journalist Isaacson (Albert Einstein) had his subject's intimate cooperation but doesn't shy away from Jobs's off-putting traits: the egomania; the shameless theft of ideas; the "reality distortion field" of lies and delusions; the veering between manipulative charm and cold betrayal; the bullying rages, profanity and weeping; the bizarre vegetarian diets that he believed would ward off body odor and cancer (he was tragically wrong on both counts). Isaacson also sees the constructive flip-side of Jobs's flaws, arguing that his crazed perfectionism and sublime sense of design—he wanted even his computers' circuit boards to be visually elegant—begat brilliant innovations, from the Mac to the iPad, that blended "poetry and processors." The author oversells Jobs as the digital artiste pitting well-crafted, vertically integrated personal computing experiences against the promiscuously licensed, bulk-commodity software profferred by his Microsoft rival Bill Gates. (Gates's acerbic commentary on Jobs's romanticism often steals the page.) Still, Isaacson's exhaustively researched but well-paced, candid and gripping narrative gives us a great warts-and-all portrait of an entrepreneurial spirit—and one of the best accounts yet of the human side of the computer biz. Photos. (Oct. 24)
Kirkus Reviews
An unforgettable tale of a one-of-a-kind visionary. With a unique ability to meld arts and technology and an uncanny understanding of consumers' desires, Apple founder Steve Jobs (1955–2011) played a major role in transforming not just computer technology, but a variety of industries. When Jobs died earlier this month, the outpouring of emotion from the general public was surprisingly intense. His creations, which he knew we wanted before we did, were more than mere tools; everything from the iPod to the MacBook Pro touched us on a gut level and became an integral part of our lives. This was why those of us who were hip to Steve Jobs the Inventor were so moved when he passed. However, those who had an in-depth knowledge of Steve Jobs the Businessman might not have taken such a nostalgic view of his life. According to acclaimed biographer and Aspen Institute CEO Isaacson (American Sketches: Great Leaders, Creative Thinkers, and a Heroes of a Hurricane, 2009, etc.) in this consistently engaging, warts-and-all biography, Jobs was not necessarily the most pleasant boss. We learn about Jobs' predilection for humiliating his co-workers into their best performances; his habit of profanely dismissing an underling's idea, only to claim it as his own later; and his ability to manipulate a situation with an evangelical, fact-mangling technique that friends and foes alike referred to as his "reality distortion field." But we also learn how--through his alternative education, his pilgrimage to India, a heap of acid trips and a fateful meeting with engineering genius Steve Wozniak--Jobs became Jobs and Apple became Apple. Though the narrative could have used a tighter edit in a few places, Isaacson's portrait of this complex, often unlikable genius is, to quote Jobs, insanely great. Jobs was an American original, and Isaacson's impeccably researched, vibrant biography--fully endorsed by his subject--does his legacy proud.
Janet Maslin
[Jobs's] story calls for a book that is clear, elegant and concise enough to qualify as an iBio. Mr. Isaacson's Steve Jobs does its solid best to hit that target…[It] greatly admires its subject. But its most adulatory passages are not about people. Offering a combination of tech criticism and promotional hype, Mr. Isaacson describes the arrival of each new product right down to Mr. Jobs's theatrical introductions and the advertising campaigns. But if the individual bits of hoopla seem excessive, their cumulative effect is staggering. Here is an encyclopedic survey of all that Mr. Jobs accomplished, replete with the passion and excitement that it deserves.
—The New York Times
Michael S. Rosenwald
Isaacson's biography can be read in several ways. It is on the one hand a history of the most exciting time in the age of computers, when the machines first became personal and later, fashionable accessories. It is also a textbook study of the rise and fall and rise of Apple and the brutal clashes that destroyed friendships and careers. And it is a gadget lover's dream, with fabulous, inside accounts of how the Macintosh, iPod, iPhone and iPad came into being. But more than anything, Isaacson has crafted a biography of a complicated, peculiar personality—Jobs was charming, loathsome, lovable, obsessive, maddening—and the author shows how Jobs's character was instrumental in shaping some of the greatest technological innovations of our time.
—The Washington Post

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781451648539
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
10/24/2011
Pages:
656
Sales rank:
108,914
Product dimensions:
6.60(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.74(d)
Lexile:
1080L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt 1

His personality was reflected in the products he created. Just as the core of Apple’s philosophy, from the original Macintosh in 1984 to the iPad a generation later, was the end-to-end integration of hardware and software, so too was it the case with Steve Jobs: His passions, perfectionism, demons, desires, artistry, devilry, and obsession for control were integrally connected to his approach to business and the products that resulted.

The unified field theory that ties together Jobs’s personality and products begins with his most salient trait: his intensity. His silences could be as searing as his rants; he had taught himself to stare without blinking. Sometimes this intensity was charming, in a geeky way, such as when he was explaining the profundity of Bob Dylan’s music or why whatever product he was unveiling at that moment was the most amazing thing that Apple had ever made. At other times it could be terrifying, such as when he was fulminating about Google or Microsoft ripping off Apple.

This intensity encouraged a binary view of the world. Colleagues referred to the hero/shithead dichotomy. You were either one or the other, sometimes on the same day. The same was true of products, ideas, even food: Something was either “the best thing ever,” or it was shitty, brain-dead, inedible. As a result, any perceived flaw could set off a rant. The finish on a piece of metal, the curve of the head of a screw, the shade of blue on a box, the intuitiveness of a navigation screen—he would declare them to “completely suck” until that moment when he suddenly pronounced them “absolutely perfect.” He thought of himself as an artist, which he was, and he indulged in the temperament of one.

His quest for perfection led to his compulsion for Apple to have end-to-end control of every product that it made. He got hives, or worse, when contemplating great Apple software running on another company’s crappy hardware, and he likewise was allergic to the thought of unapproved apps or content polluting the perfection of an Apple device. This ability to integrate hardware and software and content into one unified system enabled him to impose simplicity. The astronomer Johannes Kepler declared that “nature loves simplicity and unity.” So did Steve Jobs.

Excerpt 2

For Jobs, belief in an integrated approach was a matter of righteousness. “We do these things not because we are control freaks,” he explained. “We do them because we want to make great products, because we care about the user, and because we like to take responsibility for the entire experience rather than turn out the crap that other people make.” He also believed he was doing people a service: “They’re busy doing whatever they do best, and they want us to do what we do best. Their lives are crowded; they have other things to do than think about how to integrate their computers and devices.”

This approach sometimes went against Apple’s short-term business interests. But in a world filled with junky devices, inscrutable error messages, and annoying interfaces, it led to astonishing products marked by beguiling user experiences. Using an Apple product could be as sublime as walking in one of the Zen gardens of Kyoto that Jobs loved, and neither experience was created by worshipping at the altar of openness or by letting a thousand flowers bloom. Sometimes it’s nice to be in the hands of a control freak.

Jobs’s intensity was also evident in his ability to focus. He would set priorities, aim his laser attention on them, and filter out distractions. If something engaged him—the user interface for the original Macintosh, the design of the iPod and iPhone, getting music companies into the iTunes Store—he was relentless. But if he did not want to deal with something—a legal annoyance, a business issue, his cancer diagnosis, a family tug—he would resolutely ignore it. That focus allowed him to say no. He got Apple back on track by cutting all except a few core products. He made devices simpler by eliminating buttons, software simpler by eliminating features, and interfaces simpler by eliminating options.

He attributed his ability to focus and his love of simplicity to his Zen training. It honed his appreciation for intuition, showed him how to filter out anything that was distracting or unnecessary, and nurtured in him an aesthetic based on minimalism.

Unfortunately his Zen training never quite produced in him a Zen-like calm or inner serenity, and that too is part of his legacy. He was often tightly coiled and impatient, traits he made no effort to hide. Most people have a regulator between their mind and mouth that modulates their brutish sentiments and spikiest impulses. Not Jobs. He made a point of being brutally honest. “My job is to say when something sucks rather than sugarcoat it,” he said. This made him charismatic and inspiring, yet also, to use the technical term, an asshole at times.

Andy Hertzfeld once told me, “The one question I’d truly love Steve to answer is, ‘Why are you sometimes so mean?’” Even his family members wondered whether he simply lacked the filter that restrains people from venting their wounding thoughts or willfully bypassed it. Jobs claimed it was the former. “This is who I am, and you can’t expect me to be someone I’m not,” he replied when I asked him the question. But I think he actually could have controlled himself, if he had wanted. When he hurt people, it was not because he was lacking in emotional awareness. Quite the contrary: He could size people up, understand their inner thoughts, and know how to relate to them, cajole them, or hurt them at will.

The nasty edge to his personality was not necessary. It hindered him more than it helped him. But it did, at times, serve a purpose. Polite and velvety leaders, who take care to avoid bruising others, are generally not as effective at forcing change. Dozens of the colleagues whom Jobs most abused ended their litany of horror stories by saying that he got them to do things they never dreamed possible.

Excerpt 3

The saga of Steve Jobs is the Silicon Valley creation myth writ large: launching a startup in his parents’ garage and building it into the world’s most valuable company. He didn’t invent many things outright, but he was a master at putting together ideas, art, and technology in ways that invented the future. He designed the Mac after appreciating the power of graphical interfaces in a way that Xerox was unable to do, and he created the iPod after grasping the joy of having a thousand songs in your pocket in a way that Sony, which had all the assets and heritage, never could accomplish. Some leaders push innovations by being good at the big picture. Others do so by mastering details. Jobs did both, relentlessly. As a result he launched a series of products over three decades that transformed whole industries.

Was he smart? No, not exceptionally. Instead, he was a genius. His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected, and at times magical. He was, indeed, an example of what the mathematician Mark Kac called a magician genius, someone whose insights come out of the blue and require intuition more than mere mental processing power. Like a pathfinder, he could absorb information, sniff the winds, and sense what lay ahead.

Steve Jobs thus became the greatest business executive of our era, the one most certain to be remembered a century from now. History will place him in the pantheon right next to Edison and Ford. More than anyone else of his time, he made products that were completely innovative, combining the power of poetry and processors. With a ferocity that could make working with him as unsettling as it was inspiring, he also built the world’s most creative company. And he was able to infuse into its DNA the design sensibilities, perfectionism, and imagination that make it likely to be, even decades from now, the company that thrives best at the intersection of artistry and technology.

Excerpt 4

The difference that Jony has made, not only at Apple but in the world, is huge. He is a wickedly intelligent person in all ways. He understands business concepts, marketing concepts. He picks stuff up just like that, click. He understands what we do at our core better than anyone. If I had a spiritual partner at Apple, it’s Jony. Jony and I think up most of the products together and then pull others in and say, “Hey, what do you think about this?” He gets the big picture as well as the most infinitesimal details about each product. And he understands that Apple is a product company. He’s not just a designer. That’s why he works directly for me. He has more operational power than anyone else at Apple except me. There’s no one who can tell him what to do, or to butt out. That’s the way I set it up.

Excerpt 5

When Jobs gathered his top management for a pep talk just after he became iCEO in September 1997, sitting in the audience was a sensitive and passionate thirty-year-old Brit who was head of the company’s design team. Jonathan Ive, known to all as Jony, was planning to quit. He was sick of the company’s focus on profit maximization rather than product design. Jobs’s talk led him to reconsider. “I remember very clearly Steve announcing that our goal is not just to make money but to make great products,” Ive recalled. “The decisions you make based on that philosophy are fundamentally different from the ones we had been making at Apple.” Ive and Jobs would soon forge a bond that would lead to the greatest industrial design collaboration of their era.

Ive grew up in Chingford, a town on the northeast edge of London. His father was a silversmith who taught at the local college. “He’s a fantastic craftsman,” Ive recalled. “His Christmas gift to me would be one day of his time in his college workshop, during the Christmas break when no one else was there, helping me make whatever I dreamed up.” The only condition was that Jony had to draw by hand what they planned to make. “I always understood the beauty of things made by hand. I came to realize that what was really important was the care that was put into it. What I really despise is when I sense some carelessness in a product.”

Ive enrolled in Newcastle Polytechnic and spent his spare time and summers working at a design consultancy. One of his creations was a pen with a little ball on top that was fun to fiddle with. It helped give the owner a playful emotional connection to the pen. For his thesis he designed a microphone and earpiece—in purest white plastic—to communicate with hearing-impaired kids. His flat was filled with foam models he had made to help him perfect the design. He also designed an ATM machine and a curved phone, both of which won awards from the Royal Society of Arts. Unlike some designers, he didn’t just make beautiful sketches; he also focused on how the engineering and inner components would work. He had an epiphany in college when he was able to design on a Macintosh. “I discovered the Mac and felt I had a connection with the people who were making this product,” he recalled. “I suddenly understood what a company was, or was supposed to be.”

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