Friday, October 28, 2011

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs
By Walter Isaacson

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Product Description

Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.

At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.  

Although Jobs cooperated with this book, he asked for no control over what was written nor even the right to read it before it was published. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. And Jobs speaks candidly, sometimes brutally so, about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues provide an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.

Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair. But his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple's hardware and software tended to be, as if part of an integrated system. His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.

Product Details
  • Amazon Sales Rank: #1 in Books
  • Published on: 2011-10-24
  • Released on: 2011-10-24
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 656 pages
Editorial Reviews

About the Author
Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, has been chairman of CNN and the managing editor of Time magazine. He is the author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life and of Kissinger: A Biography, and the coauthor of The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and daughter.

Jacket photograph by Albert Watson

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews

128 of 146 people found the following review helpful.
5Story of the man who put a dent in the universe. Well worth reading.
By Dr. Chuck Chakrapani
Steve Jobs wanted to change the world, "put a dent in the universe." And he did. If you are interested in life and want to know how Jobs changed it right before our eyes, you should read this book.

No other book on Jobs has been based on first hand information from the Master himself, his colleagues and his detractors. There is no other way to know the man who changed the way we live and work. The fact that the book is engaging is a big bonus.

First Jobs' personal life, personality and beliefs. Like all fascinating people in history, Jobs was a bundle of contradictions. Born out of wedlock, he was an American icon and yet born of a Syrian Muslim whom he never knew, but had accidentally met. Adopted at birth by working class parents, he became skeptical of the Church as the all-knowing god did not help the starving children in Biafra and alternated between being a believer and a non-believer. He was, at different times, a vegan and a fruitarian (hence the name Apple). Jobs was influenced by the counter cultural ideas of the 60's and the 70's and yet become one of the most revered corporate figures of all time. He was a multi-billionaire who lived on a regular street with no high fenced compound, security or live-in servants; a Zen Buddhist who was obsessed with Zen-like simplicity but did not possess Zen-like tranquility; a son who tried to abandon his child like the way he had thought he was abandoned; a leader who was highly demanding of his colleagues and coworkers; a vastly influential figure in computing who neither built computers not wrote codes himself; a genius who was mean to many people. All these factoids had to have some influence on who he was and who he became and may keep interested psychologists busy for years. Yet, it is not for these tabloid fodder that he is looked upon with awe. To get caught up in the contradictions of a man is to miss the man.

So who is the man then? Isaacson presents Jobs life and work as a play in three acts.

During the first act, two unlikely partners named Steves (Jobs and Woz) create the world's first commercially viable personal computer, Apple II. Jobs then creates the revolutionary but unsuccessful Lisa. Apple goes public, Jobs creates the Mac, which carves itself a distinct niche. He then brings in Pepsi's Scully to manage the company only to find himself ousted from the company he founded. During his exile Jobs creates another revolutionary but not-so-successful computer NeXT. But Jobs other venture, Pixar, an outstanding animation company, is a huge commercial success.

The second act is Jobs' return to Apple. Apple was in decline and it buys the money losing NeXT. Job returns to the company he founded as the interim CEO. Introduces a series of products: peppermint colored iMacs followed b y 21st Century Macs.

The third act is the post-pc revolution, the most dramatic of all: the creation of ipod (almost 10 years ago to the day), paradigm-changing iphone and the category-creating ipad, along with many other things and cloud computing. We can't imagine a world today without ipads, ipods and iphones. The rewards are high. Apple first surpasses Microsoft and becomes the most valuable tech company. Then Apple becomes, for brief periods of time, the most valuable company in the world.

But this is not the story of Apple, but of Job. What was happening in the background while the three act play is being staged - to his family, his health, his odd beliefs that might have cost him his life, and his relationships with other giants of technology - is the focus of this book. The story is told with many interesting anecdotes such as Bill Gates incredulously exclaiming "Do ALL of you live here?" when visiting for the first time Steve Jobs' modest house.

This is an "authorized biography" and I'm wary of "authorized" biographies. Always thought they were full-length PR pieces. This one is different. Jobs gave Isaacson complete freedom to write the book and Jobs didn't demand editorial control. He didn't even want to see the book before it was published. And it shows. You see Jobs as he was. Warts and all. This is Jobs' last gift to those of us who admired his vision of the world, but wondered about the essence of the man behind it all. Now we know.

As you finish reading Job's biography of nearly 600 pages, something strikes you as odd. Steve Jobs' death is not mentioned in the book. Not the date, not the time and not even the fact that he is no more. Strangely fascinating. Like the man himself.

212 of 264 people found the following review helpful.
3Adequate, but not excellent
By R. Bourne
This new, highly-anticipated bio is reasonably comprehensive in scope, but written in a plodding, subjectively fawning fashion that undercuts its impact. Mr. Isaacson doesn't hail from the technology world, and it shows; his feel for the real importance of Jobs' accomplishments is largely constrained to social impact (of the fuzzy, gee-whiz sort) rather than crucial areas of interface, functionality and convergence. Why do Apple's products really work? What impact will they have on how we interact with the digital world, tomorrow and after? Isaacson has no idea. All he seems to know is that 'simplicity' is good, and that 'design' is more than skin deep. And that the little things matter. Millions upon millions of people already know that; the opportunity missed here is to go deep on the subject, and unpack it. That doesn't happen here, because the writer is out of his element.

Apart from that, we learn that Jobs was basically an ass, and that he cried a lot when he didn't get his way. It's implied that he carried a narcissistic disorder, but that's never really explored -- to the book's detriment, as psychiatric context is pretty important to understand how a comprehensive tyrant could achieve so much, and improve the productivity and satisfaction of so many.

The book is also overlong -- a remarkable thing given the richness of the subject. It's written almost as a sequential fact-finding report, rather than as a truly insightful look at a man and his work. We come away with the impression that strong-willed CEOs can do what they want, as long as they make money for shareholders and impart a sense of accomplishment (however painfully won) to their underlings. Not exactly a revelation, but it takes more than 600 pages for Isaacson to drive the point home.

I'm glad we have this bio, but I suspect someone will come along and write a much better treatment of Jobs' life. For now, don't expect to learn any larger truths about Jobs and his world; just enjoy the anecdotes, and prepare to make your own conclusions about the book's fascinating subject.

24 of 28 people found the following review helpful.
4Left me wanting more
By justin
I finished reading it today, two short days after it was first available.
The book is a must read for anyone interested in how Steve Jobs did it, but with the following caveats.

First, I didn't find it particularly well written. To take one trivial but annoying example the word lapidary is used twice in short succession (describing the skills of both Jobs and Gates). I found the writing style dull, it lacked the fireworks of the subject. Luckily Jobs is always there to make things interesting.

Second, the book at first seems long however when you subtract the large index, and other supporting pages it shrinks. This isn't any problem except there are giant holes left for future biographers. An example: AT&T is not even mentioned once in the text! There are exactly zero words written on how Jobs convinced The Phone Company to cede so much control to the iphone. I feel like Jobs revealed a lot of his early life but the last 10 years, the most productive and interesting ones, got fairly fast treatment. Another example: at one point it is revealed that Apple has 70,000 workers in China and 15,000 engineer managers (a figure not even available to hire in the USA). I'm sure Jobs was all over this, yet there is no further exploration.

Third, in retrospect I found the constant repetition of the Jobs reality distortion zone, and his habit of being cruel, well ... repetitive! By his third cruel action honestly all that can be said about unkind Steve had been said. Further digressions and speculations on his personal motivations and so on just never added anything new.

One thought on the legacy of Jobs: Isaacson concludes that despite his flaws, he deserves to be alongside the very few greats (Edison, Ford) in the industrialist hall of fame yet I wonder if the greats of yesterday would appear so great if they had had their life, and particular personal flaws, examined and documented in such detail, and so quickly after their death. A totally impartial judge, with the same level of detail on each life, not just the burnished successes, might well place Jobs ahead of the giants to which he is now thought equal.

PS: It is a shame that the book does not come with links to YouTube videos and other supporting information. For many of the key events and people in the book if you search you can find the original material (videos etc) that are so much more than the paragraph that describes them. I stopped frequently and switched to a browser. What a shame the e-book about such an amazing (and tech oriented) life, describing the pursuit of perfection, could not include even one link.

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