Andrea "Andy" Cunningham was so tired when she got home from work that she went to sleep without checking her answering machine. The following morning, around eight-thirty, she played the tape. The message was short and cryptic: Andy should show up at Steve's house at 10 a.m. for a press conference about his new company, Next.
The idea troubled her. Andy was a public relations consultant, one of the shrewdest and most insightful in the technology business. She wasn't summoned to press conferences as a last-minute thought. She was supposed to be the one who orchestrated the events following weeks of careful preparation, reflection, brainstorming, and strategizing, after thoroughly thinking through the message and exactly how it would be conveyed.
She didn't even know where Steve lived. And besides, he wasn't even her client.
She called around to get the address, then drove the five minutes from Palo Alto to the village of Woodside, which lay in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. It was just beyond the Stanford campus. Woodside was not far from the banal concrete sprawl of Silicon Valley but at least it felt isolated and remote, with narrow winding country roads and dozens of bridle paths but no street lamps or sidewalks. Traditionally favored by hillbillies and folksingers, it had more recently become home to a few centimillionaires, who made their money by promoting futuristic visions but, ironically, preferred to live in a semirural hamlet that evoked the romance of a lost era.
A few minutes before ten, Andy pulled through the wrought-iron gate to Steve's house. The gravel driveway was crowded with parked cars. She beheld a sprawling, dilapidated robber baron mansion in the Spanish mission style, that numbingly ubiquitous cliche of California architecture, with the de rigueur stucco walls and the sloping red adobe roofs, like tens of thousands of little anonymous tract houses throughout the valley's brutally cramped suburbs. The difference was that this crumbling monstrosity was large enough to be a real eighteenth-century Spanish mission. It had enough space for an entire order of monks to go about their daily routines.
She passed through the grand arched entrance loggia and came to a huge cavernous living room. Standing around, idle, restless, gossiping among themselves, were twenty reporters Andy knew well. The Business Week correspondent. The Newsweek writer. The reporter from USA Today. They were shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot because there was simply nowhere to sit other than the cold wooden floorboards. The living room was devoid of furniture, barren, austere, unwelcoming, a hollow decaying shell like the rest of the whole empty spooky house, the maze of echo chambers where Steve lived as a solitary bachelor. The closest thing to furnishings was a clear plastic case with an architect's carefully crafted and scaled topographical model of the property--just the lush pure mountainside land, not the presumptuous robber baron manse that Steve had never gotten around to demolishing.
Andy made her way into the kitchen. Still no furniture at all, no tables or chairs, just a few computers strewn across the floor and another bunch of people huddled together. Andy recognized them as refugees from Apple. They had worked with her on the launch of the Macintosh the previous year, in January 1984. Now they were the cofounders of Steve's new company, which was going to do . . . who knew what it would do?
Steve was on his feet, talking about what he was going to tell the reporters.
Screw John Sculley, he was going to say. Screw him!
Screw the Apple board!
We are going to change the world!
Andy was appalled. There was no news for the putative news conference. There was only Steve's impulse to express his anger, his rage, his raw hurt, his need for vindication and healing and honor. He wanted to flail out against the injustices and betrayals he had suffered. It was understandable. It was human. But this wasn't the way to do it, not the time or the place. You don't summon the cynical elite of the West Coast press corps, with their notebooks open and their cassette tapes rolling, to participate in some kind of group therapy session. This wasn't an encounter group or primal scream or gestalt or est, it wasn't some kind of 1970s Californian human-potential seminar; this was business.
At first Andy didn't recognize the man sitting on the floor right beside Steve, though she quickly surmised that this was Steve's new lawyer. He was visibly starstruck, comically awed, his mouth agape, his eyes glazed by the proximity to celebrity. He clearly wasn't in the proper state of mind to offer cautious advice. No one was telling Steve what should have been obvious, a matter of the simplest common sense. No one would confront the legendary figure and play the necessary role of tough naysayer.
Well, Andy thought, I have nothing to lose. I haven't even signed the account.
"I don't think this is a good idea," she told them flatly. Apple was suing Steve and his apostates, accusing them of stealing secrets. And they had no legal strategy for defending themselves. It wasn't going to help win public opinion if Steve treated the reporters to an impassioned tirade against Apple.
She looked at Steve with seeming disbelief at his rashness and thoughtlessness.
"Why did you let all these journalists know where you live?" she wondered aloud.
In the summer of 1985, when Steve Jobs was stripped of power at the company he cofounded, when his office was moved to a vacant building he called Siberia, he didn't know what to do. He was thirty years old, and he owned more than $100 million worth of Apple stock. He didn't have to work, not for the money, at least, and not for the fame. He had appeared on the cover of Time and had accepted the National Technology Award at the White House. His niche in economic history was already secure as the preeminent popularizer of the personal computer. His mention in American cultural history was certain as well. In an era when commerce was equated with conformity, when industry was seen as the staid and soulless province of balding older men, he was an unprecedented phenom. He was a businessman posing as an idealistic revolutionary, striving for social change. He was a capitalist who appropriated the rhetoric of the commune where he had lived. He was a barefooted chairman of the board who took his girlfriend to Grateful Dead concerts and quoted an entire verse of Bob Dylan lyrics at a shareholders meeting. He was a "young industrialist," as he preferred to call himself, an epithet that sounded delightfully unlikely. He was a pop-culture icon, a media hero, a role model, a sex symbol, and teen heartthrob.
Born at the midpoint of the postwar baby boom, Steve Jobs was one of the most enduring symbols of his generation, reflecting all of its virtues and failings and self-delusions. He was the figure who turned business leaders into rock stars, objects of public fascination. And like so many actual rock stars, he could have quit, or faded, after a brief, spectacular career.
Steve told his closest friends that he was thinking of cultivating his garden. He wasn't alluding to Voltaire's famous line. He didn't mean it in the metaphorical sense of exploring his own mind and spirit rather than trying to change the world. He had already explored his mind and spirit in a whirlwind of eclectic experimentation in his late teens and early twenties, when he dabbled in bizarre diets and Eastern mystics and rural communes and primal screams and hallucinogenic drugs. For that matter, he had already changed the world. No, he was thinking of cultivating his garden in the literal sense: he would devote his extraordinary intelligence and his frighteningly intense energy and his unremitting aesthetic perfectionism to planting flowers on his eight-acre plot. Rather than the finale of Candide, his scenario was more like a chapter from Atlas Shrugged, in which the world's most brilliant industrialists drop out of a society that scorns their genius; as a weird act of protest, they apply their heroic talents to conspicuously trivial endeavors. Perhaps a select few friends would eventually have the privilege of visiting his private garden, and they would think: What artistry! What unique creativity! If only those damn fools had let him keep on making truly useful things for the good of millions upon millions of people!
At times he would lay around the house, abject, depressed. One of his closest colleagues, Mike Murray, feared that Steve would kill himself. When Steve emerged from his funk, he pondered all kinds of escapist notions. He thought of asking NASA if he could fly on one of the space shuttles, maybe as soon as the following year on the Challenger. He visited Moscow, where he suspected that the television repairman who came to his hotel room unsolicited, for no apparent reason, was actually some kind of spy. Nonetheless, he considered living in Cold War Russia and promoting computers in the Soviet schools for Mikhail Gorbachev. He talked with shadowy behind-the-scenes political consultants about making a bid for a Senate seat in California. He approached the architect I. M. Pei with the idea of building a perfect new house on the Woodside property once he tore down the robber baron embarrassment. They got as far as making the scale model of the land. Impulsively he ran away to Europe, bicycled through Tuscany. He telephoned one of his loyalists at Apple, Susan Barnes, and said that he had to cancel their dinner plans for that evening because he wasn't in California, he was in the south of France, and he was thinking about staying and living there as an expatriate, assuming the pose of an alienated artist. Barnes listened and cried.
He suffered his midlife crisis at thirty and compressed it into three months, an overachiever even at personal trauma. He spent the summer flirting with romanticized notions of self-imposed exile, but ultimately he wasn't able to resist the siren of public life. For all his accomplishments and fame, he still hadn't fully proven himself, not to his own satisfaction and not to the world.
No one denied that Apple's rise was aided immeasurably by his astonishing energy and persuasiveness and charisma and chutzpah (a word that he loved). And it was his personality that created the company's culture and mystique. He was the media sensation. But from the early days Apple was actually run by older and more experienced businessmen, who were put in place first by the financial backers and later by the board of directors. Steve was allowed to head a renegade division, not the whole company. He never had the authority to approve expenditures of more than $250,000. He could buy a Bssendorfer grand piano for his team of engineers or fill up the office refrigerators with freshly squeezed fruit juices, but he couldn't build a new factory or create a new computer without arduously lobbying for approval from other men. When he had wanted to try something spectacular, like risking $20 million in an effort to build a radically flat computer screen, the Apple board lacked confidence in him and rejected his plans.
By 1985 he hadn't proven that he could thrive as the chief executive officer of an important corporation. Nor had he proven that he could repeat his initial success and show the skeptics that it wasn't just a lucky accident of time and place, a once-in-a-lifetime historical fluke. His latest creation, the Macintosh, was greatly admired by the technocracy and attracted a small cultlike following on college campuses, but it seemed doomed to remain a commercial flop. Apple had optimistically projected sales of fifty thousand Macintoshes a month in 1985. The actual sales fell to five thousand a month, a pitifully low figure, an embarrassment. Wall Street blamed Steve for the financial failure of the ballyhooed machine; when he was ousted, the stock price rose. To the outside world it looked as though he had been fired by John Sculley, the executive he had recruited to run Apple. Their falling-out was incredibly painful, a "divorce," as Steve told his friends. Before the split he had never felt so close to another person as he had felt to John, he said, but now he understood what divorce must feel like.
The rift with Apple's board member Mike Markkula was also wrenching. Markkula had been something of a father figure to him. When Apple was still in Steve's garage, Markkula had invested his own money in the company and helped write the business plan. Now, Steve told his friends, Markkula was bullying him, trying to scare him off, threatening to put him in prison for leaving Apple and supposedly stealing its technology.
Steve needed vindication. He openly ached to show that his vision of the future of computing was correct, that Apple's board was wrong for pushing him aside, that he could change the world again. He left Apple with his cool hundred million, his "fuck-you money," an expression he loved. And now, in September 1985, with the press assembled in his living room, he had the uncensored raw urge to say "fuck you" to Apple.
Andy Cunningham entered his kitchen and talked him out of it.
For her good advice, she received the most dubious of rewards: she was the one who had to go out there and try to tell the impatient reporters that the speech was off.
Apple Computer began in a tract house; Next Computer was founded in a mansion a few miles away. In the early days of Apple, Steve would play Bob Dylan tunes on his guitar in the backyard while his mother, Clara, washed his baby nephew in the kitchen sink. They had the luxury of beginning in obscurity. During the early days of Next, in September 1985, his cofounders lounged on the lawn behind the mansion, reading about themselves in Newsweek. They were on the cover of the Asian edition, which they'd had specially delivered to the house. They had been slated for the American cover, too, but they were knocked off by the devastating 8.1-magnitude earthquake in Mexico.
On the early autumn days they would get some sun and then go back inside and dial away at their Rolodexes. During the daytime they would venture out without Steve to look at office spaces. This way the landlords wouldn't recognize their fabulously wealthy proprietor and raise the lease rates. They had to sneak Steve in at night to see the buildings. They considered making a deal with the Catholic archdiocese to take over an abandoned monastery not far from the Apple campus. The building, with its gracefully proportioned bell tower rising above a straw-colored pasture, looked like it belonged in Tuscany. Working there would have been a nicely ironic twist in Steve's personal history, since he had thought of entering a monastery (albeit a Zen Buddhist one in Japan) instead of starting Apple. Finally they rented a small structure of concrete and glass on Deer Park Road, a secluded stretch of the voluptuous Stanford hills. They would be surrounded by the scenic undeveloped open land where Steve loved to walk, where he had spent hour after hour walking with Sculley. In the divorce Sculley kept Apple, but Steve was claiming possession of the Stanford hills.
From the Trade Paperback edition.