There are few people who haven’t heard of Steve Jobs, both within the tech community and without. This book is based on a lot of interviews with Jobs and his friend, family and co-workers over the course of a couple of years.
As Jobs was so inextricably linked to the company he co-founded, it’s also a history of Apple too, from initial inception through to becoming (at the time) the most valuable company on the planet.
The book seems very heavily weighted towards the later years, with the first half focusing on the time up to Jobs’ return to Apple and the second-half all about his subsequent success with products like the iMac, iPod and iPhone.
Perhaps because so much has been written about Jobs and Apple, I felt I already knew much of what was covered. There were plenty of insights too though, but the book seemed more a biography of the company than Jobs himself.
It did open him up a little, from his legendary bullying, to his propensity to cry in meetings (in the early days at least). What was laid bare was that he was a man who didn’t make compromises in his products. Which nearly killed several of his companies.
It also showed he could see things many in the industry appear to have missed (and indeed, many of his customers didn’t realise they wanted). Hence why he ‘stole’ and made popular many of the ideas he saw at Xerox Parc. It was also how Apple itself came to take a big role in early consumer computing (until then most systems came as a kit of parts). iPods, iTunes, the iPhone and the iPad all show a similar ability to understand how ordinary people would utilise a technology that others in the industry didn’t seem to grasp.
Was Steve a nice guy? No. Was he a great businessman? No (NeXT’s hardware business vanished and it wasn’t far off bankruptcy when it was bought by Apple, Pixar’s early movies were financed by Disney, he even killed several of Apple’s own products, such as the Lisa). Did he change and shape numerous industries? Absolutely. The narrative also shows how he learned from his mistakes.
The book paints a picture of a complex person, riddled with insecurities but who had unquestioning vision. It was an interesting read, but I didn’t feel it opened up Steve the person that much.