Steve Jobs Book Review
Walter Isaacson was personally chosen by Steve Jobs to write his biography as a person who had written biographies of Einstein and Franklin and was skillful at getting people to talk (Isaacson, 2011, p. 7). The aim of the book is to show Jobs as a person who by combining humanities and sciences infected the world with an insatiable hunger for innovations. Jobs vision has forever revolutionized the industries of electronic gadgets and music. Isaacson takes pains to define what made Jobs tick, what threads of thoughts brought him to his inventions, and in what way his childhood passions and problems influenced him.
Isaacson and Jobs had been friendly for many years since 1984 when Apple needed publicity (Isaacson, 2011, p. 7). Isaacson was a Time editor and CNN chairman and CEO (Aspen Institute, n.d.). Apart from editorial work, Isaacson is a renowned biographer. In addition to the above mentioned names, he wrote a biography of Kissinger and co-authored a book about six important foreign policy advisors to U.S. presidents (Aspen Institute, n.d.). Jobs gave him carte blanche and insisted only on another cover for the book. The content of Jobs biography was up to Isaacsons interpretation (Isaacson, 2011, p. 8).
Isaacson explains a great deal of Jobs eccentricity and desire to control by the fact that he was abandoned as a newborn and made feel special by his adoptive parents. Feeling bored at school Jobs showed a high intellectual level and even skipped a class to have more motivation to study. His new friends were as much geeks as hippies, and that hippish approach to life and work to which he was inclined shaped the way Jobs behaved as well as complicated Jobs relationship with other people on a regular basis. For example, Jobs virtually demanded a job from the video game manufacturer Atari while wearing sandals and sporting unkempt hair and b.o. (Isaacson, 2011, p. 51). Later, Jobs was removed from managing Apple Inc. due to his unbearable behavior. Colleagues often perceived him as arrogant and obnoxious. Jobs had a binary vision of people and everybody was either enlightened or an asshole (Isaacson, 2011, p. 125).
Isaacson gives a very detailed account of Jobs journey to success, starting from the Blue Box that he assembled with his friends and began to sell from his fathers garage to his last iPad 2 launch. A friend who co-founded Apple and helped Jobs in many of his initial projects was Steve Wozniak who had a great engineering talent. He and Jobs ideally complemented each other. Wozniak lacked social skills and abilities to make people do what he wanted, while Jobs benefited from Wozniaks electronic genius. It was Wozniak who offered to add keyboard and screen to the computer. At that, Wozniak would give it for free unless Jobs prevented it. Every time Id design something great, Steve would find a way to make money for us, Wozniak would say (Isaacson, 2011, p. 70). After Jobs and Wozniak improved the first version of Apple computer, made it a serious business together with the venture capitalist Mike Markkula, and acquired a few innovations from Xerox, the Apple computer was able to show both text and graphics and had a modern computer mouse. It made Jobs a rich man since At age twenty-five, he was now worth $256 million (Isaacson, 2011, p. 111).
Isaacson mentions the reality distortion field that was Jobs way of motivating people and persuading them to do what he wanted. Wozniak explains it as an illogical vision of the future with the help of which Jobs was able to make people do what they never knew they could accomplish (Isaacson, 2011, p. 124). That is how most of Jobs products appeared. He shared his vision, motivated people to do the task, and then berated them for insufficiently good results, thus demanding perfection for the end product. For example, Jobs insisted the Mac team had their signatures engraved inside each computer. The Macintosh offered functions that no computer system before it did. They included fonts, charts, and ability to produce sound. The idea was to make the computer a digital hub that coordinated a variety of devices, from music players to video recorders to cameras (Isaacson, 2011, p. 377). Jobs took special pride in an aesthetic quality of Mac that their rivals could not boast of. Later, when Jobs offered to develop the network of Apple Retail Stores, the board was reluctant about it, but the idea turned out very successful and profitable. The situation was repeated with iPod and iTunes. Nobody believed that portable music players could be sold at a profit or that through media player it would be possible to purchase, download, and play music and video.
Jobs one of the all-time rivals was Bill Gates. Occasionally cooperating on various projects Jobs and Gates had very different personalities and leadership styles. Eventually, their paths parted. Each believed that he was smarter than the other. Steve generally treated Bill as someone who was slightly inferior, especially in matters of taste and style... Bill looked down on Steve because he couldnt actually program (Isaacson, 2011, p. 176). Although Gates eventually acknowledged Jobs for his instinct in the world of technology, Jobs never held him high calling him unimaginative and unable to invent (Isaacson, 2011, p. 177).
Isaacson interviewed more than hundred people who personally knew Jobs and were his friends or colleagues in order to make a multisided portrait of a genius who was very difficult to deal with. Jobs was reputed for combining the opposite features. Jobs could be nice and rude, kind and cruel. While being abandoned as a child, he refused to acknowledge his daughter as his own for a few years, thus becoming an abandoner. He called his employees work either the best or totally shitty (Isaacson, 2011, p. 125). Eventually, the colleagues began to decipher Jobs messages and stand up for their opinions. The Mac team even invented an award won by the best worker of the year who could stand up to Jobs. They understood that in fact not bitchiness but his struggle for perfection was at the heart of Jobs demands.
Isaacson duly covers all stages of creation of the Apple products, starting from a general outline of an idea and excruciating searches of an ideal design, casing, and/or CD slot to dramatic unveiling. Not all Jobs creations were always received well. In 2001, skeptics did not believe that Apple Stores would pay off, but they turned out the most profitable in the retail industry. In 2004, iPods were predicted to become a niche product (Isaacson, 2011, p. 225). In 2010, when Apple launched the iPad before it became available in stores, the media criticized it right to the point until they could get their hands on it. However, Jobs always learned from his mistakes. For example, Jobs yielded to the demand of John Sculley, the president of PepsiCo, who run Apple at some point, to raise the price for the Apple computers. Blaming this step for losing the computer market shares to Microsoft in the 80s and 90s, Jobs later had Mac models combining a reasonable price and visual perfection.
Jobs religious beliefs had a significant impact on his life and also resulted in his flat refusal to treat cancer. Jobs was a life-time vegetarian, and his attempt to remove his b.o. with a fruit diet was an example of one of his quirks. When he learned about his illness, Jobs refused surgery and tried to cure it with acupuncture and a strict vegan diet. His friends explained it by a strong desire for the world to be a certain way that he wills it to be that way (Isaacson, 2011, p. 440). When Jobs agreed to have surgery, it was too late. The cancer had spread despite a large section of pancreas was removed. In addition, Jobs never intended to change his eating habits to consume more proteins as all cancer patients have to.
For the book, Isaacson recorded forty interviews with Steve Jobs and talked to more than a hundred people who knew Jobs in order to give a very accurate portrait and to contrast Jobs peculiar features of the character. However, for some reasons Isaacson failed to present the viewpoint of John Sculley, Apples former CEO, as widely as he could. Sculley assisted Jobs in running Apple for ten years and eventually forced him out. He played an important role in Jobs life and was even mentioned in Jobs Stanford commencement speech.
It is a pleasure to read that one persons belief can be so influential and eventually win over ill-wishers or just the narrow-minded. One may feel that Isaacsons book is full of technical details, but it is difficult to avoid them when the subject is the life of a person who invented iPhone and iPad. However, nowadays Steve Jobs popularity is so immense and widespread that a general audience may find pleasure in knowing the miniscule details of the Apple working process. The advantage of the book is the fact that Isaacson gives justice to people whose talents Jobs used to create the Apple products. For example, Jony Ive was behind the new sunflower Mac design when the computer screen was attached to a movable chrome neck as well as the new concept of touch-screen and the streamlines case for iPhone. In a superb way, Isaacson contrasts Jobs passion and assuredness that some ideas of his will succeed with a cool reaction of the board or critics.
Isaacsons Steve Jobs is definitely worth to read. It is always captivating to read about people who were not like others, especially about those who did a lot to change some aspect of our everyday life. Jobs is often referred to as intense. Indeed he was always enthusiastic about everything what he did and could see a few steps further. The Steve Jobs biography helps to remind us how the world looked like before the Apple inventions which we now take for granted.
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