Everyone is familiar with the brand that is Apple and most know the man behind the brand – Steve Jobs. Although there is no doubt that myriad engineers, technicians, marketers, etc make Apple the well-oiled machine it is, there is no doubt that Steve Jobs was, and still is, the face of the brand. It’s his baby. After his death in 2011, his authorised biography was published – ‘Steve Jobs’ by Walter Isaacson.
Personally, I rarely read biographies as there are few celebrities I find interesting enough to engage me for an entire book, but Jobs is different. I, like millions of others, have an iPod and an iPhone and I have often marvelled at the functionality, the simplicity, the sheer beauty of these products, and when I saw this book I wanted to find out more about the man behind it. And, although Apple is made up of many people, it is clear that Jobs is the driving force behind design and innovation. This book charts his life and achievements from the beginning (he was adopted), covering the beginning of Apple and his subsequent loss of control there, through to his next venture (NeXT), and then following him back to the reigns of Apple again. It shows a man who has many flaws – he was not a people person – but he got things done and created some amazing technology. He was a visionary and fought hard to bring others in line with that vision. He wanted to leave the world a legacy in Apple and Apple products, and it is inarguable that he did just that.
The book is well written and engaging, and was written with Jobs co-operation and apparently without any editing from him. It has many amusing anecdotes about how Apple technologies came into being – for example, Apple’s engineers created the technology to allow documents to lay on top of each other so the one underneath is visible when the top one is moved. Previously this wasn’t possible, and Apple created it as Jobs thought he had seen Xerox working on it and insisted it could be done. Xerox had in fact not done it, and Apple achieved what most believed was impossible. The technician who made the technology- Bill Atkinson – said “Because I didn’t know it couldn’t be done, I was enabled to do it” (p.100).
The book also covers the launches of Apple products and how Apple streamlined ideas (only ever working on two or three design concepts at any one time). The iPad – the latest hardware offering from the Apple stable was actually conceived before the iPhone, but put on the backburner while Apple moved in to corner the Smartphone market with its touch screen technology. The books sums up the excitement that built up when each product was launched and includes key headlines and reports from major players who were watching what Apple did very closely – “The Wall Street Journal struck [an]… exulted note: “The last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it”” (p493).
I started the book not knowing a great deal about Steve Jobs and, as with any biography, it’s hard to tell what might have been subtly altered or simply left out, but I enjoyed it immensely. It seems a fair assessment of a unique personality whose strive for perfection frustrated many people, and delighted millions more. A must-read for any fan of Apple products.