One thing is for certain, Walter Isaacson’s biography of the late Steve Jobs doesn’t pull a punch and neither did Jobs during his life.
Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute as well as author of Benjamin Franklin: An American Life and of Kissinger: A Biography, conducted over forty interviews during a period of two years with the co-creator of Apple Inc. He also interviewed family, friends, competitors, and colleagues over that same period to make the book as well rounded and factual as possible.
Jobs agreed to the book, refusing the right to read it before release nor did he ever ask for any input into the writing. According to Isaacson, no subject or aspect of the computer giant’s life was ever off the table.
Jobs told Isaacson that he believed in brutal honesty. “That’s the ante for being in the room. So we’re brutally honest with each other and all of them can tell me they think I’m full of shit, and I can tell anyone I think they’re full of shit,” Jobs said. “And we’ve had some rip-roaring arguments where we’re yelling at each other.”
And honest he was. In the interviews, Jobs called Bill Gates “unimaginative,” especially when it came to the creation of his operating system.
“Bill is basically unimaginative and has never invented anything, which is why I think he’s more comfortable now in philanthropy than technology,” Jobs told author Walter Isaacson. “He just shamelessly ripped off other people’s ideas.”
Jobs had the same anger towards Google and it’s Android smart phone. According to the biography, Jobs believed to his dying day that the Android was simply a reworked copy of the iPhone. He had been a mentor to Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin and had welcomed Google’s CEO at the time, Eric Schmidt, to be on Apple’s board.
“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong,” Jobs told Isaacson. “I’m going to destroy Android because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this. They are scared to death because they know they are guilty.”
That Steve Jobs was a poor manager may be true. He seemed to live in a world of conflict, feeling that it created a more creative atmosphere. That he was sometimes uncaring of others’ feelings and had a reputation for a violent temper and that brutal honesty that he craved is also one of record. None of what’s in this book will be all that surprising; it’s nothing he hadn’t said out loud in the press, in busines meetings, or at the unveiling of each new Apple product.
But he was a visionary, doing exactly as he always said he would do–making the computer accessable for every desk top. He was also a deep spiritual man, spending time in ashrams and meditation, exploring the religions of the world. Born at the right time, the hippie movement of the sixties and early seventies made a mark on him that never went away.
And before Bill Gates created his foundation, Steve Jobs was donation Macintosh computers to schools and the underprivileged for years. Education was foremost to Steve Jobs, the ability to free one’s mind and learn, to reach the stars and beyond.
I was one of those that benefited from Jobs’ generosity–he had donated several hundred computers to the English Department at Ohio State University. I was in the first class that used those computers, it was for my Freshman Comp class. As I called them then, the Macs were “idiot proof.” I had been intimidated by them at first but the ease of the operating system made them easy for me. I’ve been a Macintosh lover since then and always will be. But it was because of Steve Jobs.
Jobs was a complex man, but a good soul. This biography explores more than just the business side of his personality by those who knew him well and those who probably knew him a little more than they wanted to.
You can purchase a copy of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs locally from Joseph-Beth Booksellers in the Lexington Green Mall on Nicholasville Road or Barnes & Noble in the Hamburg Pavilion Shopping Center on Man o’ War Blvd.
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