Sunday, November 13, 2011


What would you say of a guy who believes that by eating fruit he does need to use deodorant, is an admires zen meditation and practices, but explodes every now and then at work, and can not furnish his house because he is such a perfectionist that he can't find suitable furniture that meet his criteria. Do you think this kind of a guy has any chance of succeeding? Well that was how Steve Jobs was. Still he managed to create a company that has shaken up the market of consumer electronics throughout the past decade or so. The pace has been especially furious since the launch of iPhone in 2007.
If you have not noticed, Steve Jobs died on 5th of October 2011. After his cancer diagnosis in 2005 Jobs wanted a biography written. while he was still alive and in 2009 Walter Isaacson started working on the book. The book was scheduled to be released in March 2012, but the release was moved to October since it became clear that Job's health was declining.
The life story of Steve Jobs is, of course, very interesting and inspirational, but what kind of picture does the book paint of Mr. Jobs and is there something missing from the picture. In this review I try to focus on evaluating the book and not Steve Jobs's persona which is naturally a bit challenging taking into account the topic of book.

As Literature

As a piece of literature biographies rarely are remembered for their literary excellence. The text flows nicely and is very easy to read. At times it feels that Isaacson underlines too much of Jobs's character traits. One good example of this is the way Isaacson brings up how Job's father taught him to pay attention to things that where not visible while two were building a fence. This is brought up quite often when Jobs's perfectionism comes up, like in the case of the power source of original Macintosh.
It could have been a better choice to structure the book around discussions that Isaacson had with Jobs. It would have created a more intimate feel to the book. A feeling that Jobs is talking himself. Of course this is not what the book tried to achieve. Now the book goes with content and objectivity first which is a very good choice.


The book captures well the main points of Apple's history. It is especially interesting to read about the early stages of Apple and home computing. There was really something special happening in Palo Alto and Silicon Valley in the 1970s. How can such a small area become the synonym for innovations and hightech?

Opening up how the creative process worked in Apple when Jobs was still around is one of the most interesting points in the book. Well let's make one reservation, the book is not good at telling how the others teams actually worked. It just simply gives a glimpse on how the teams tried to manage with Jobs's way of leadership. The role of Jonathan Ive in the creative process and the fact that Jobs almost blocked 3rd party apps from iPhone prove that Jobs wasn't the only creative and brilliant individual at the company.

At times it feels that the book is all about marketing Apple products. Especially when you read the story on how Jobs tries to confuse Siri on the new iPhone 4S. Maybe this is inevitable.


In my mind the only way to evaluate a biography is to try and determine if the the biographer has been able to shine light on all the sides of personality of the biographee. Jobs wanted the biography to be realistic. His wife also admitted that Steve's personality, to put it politely, is complicated and wanted it all to be in the book. Clearly, work was number one for Steve Jobs and the book describes mostly his professional personality. I would have wanted to know more about the private side of Steve Jobs. We get to know that Jobs liked walking, photography and was a picky eater, which in my mind isn't that much. I would liked to know a bit more if he had any hobbies, what he did with his kids. The book tells a little about Jobs's relationship with his children. Mostly quite negative things. Of course his kids are still young and it would have been a bit unethical to make young children to evaluate their relationsship with their father.

Without ever having met Steve Jobs or having spent any time with him it is hard to say if the biography is accurate representation of his personality. In order to write a book you need good stories and usually good stories emerger from situations where there is a conflict or problem to solved. Unfortunately, Steve Jobs is portraid as a manic personality. While the book depicts the mercurial personality of Mr. Jobs, it seems to hide the everyday guy and how he was when things went smoothly.

What I kind of miss in the book is Steve's opinion on social media. Did he think it was important or driving for of technological innovation?


The book leaves your opinion about Steve Jobs swinging back forth. Why was this very strange guy able to create two extremely successful companies? What was his magical touch that enabled Apple to grow in to the most valuable technology company during the past ten years? Even though Steve Jobs's personality was flawed he must have had a clear vision of what he wanted. On one level I can understand Jobs. He barely 25 when he suddenly noticed that he had a fortune of 250 million dollars. It is next to impossible that this much money would not affect you at all.
Give it a read and tell me what you think.

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