200 of 223 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Steve is the star in a rushed, balanced biography
As an avid tech news fan, and Steve admirer, I couldn't wait for the release and quickly finished the book in two days. Steve, not Isaacson, is the shining star and his life makes for a fascinating story regardless of who is telling it. Steve's accomplishments, boldness, twists and turns, wisdom, intelligence, abrasiveness and intuition all contribute to intriguing...
Published on 26 Oct 2011 by Tp Mayne
126 of 148 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed man, Flawed autobiography
I was eagerly anticipating this biography. Steve Jobs is a man who has fascinated me for many years and I looked forward into gaining an insight into the man who has had such a big effect on the modern world. Another reason why this biography was so potentially interesting was that it was authorised by a man who for a long time was intensely private, but was now facing...
Published on 28 Oct 2011 by hammarbytp
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200 of 223 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Steve is the star in a rushed, balanced biography,
Isaacson's job was "fair" for a couple of reasons. On the plus side, Isaacson appeared mainly objective in describing Steve, which is an important and difficult task, giving the controversial nature of someone like Steve. Isaacson, reveals both Steve's brilliant and ugly sides (I was a bit skeptical Steve would insist on a biography only painting him in a positive light). It was great to see his human side and get an understanding of Steve's polarized personality.
However, it was a little frustrating how much Isaacson re-told of which was already out there. I knew much of what he wrote about Steve - elements of his business strategy, dealings and philosophies and the Apple products he helped create and market. Most of the book's contents I was aware of through watching his keynotes, AllThingsD interviews, Stanford address and reading the articles about him on Wired, Time and other tech news sites. In fact, Isaacson often used such sources which I found slightly disappointing - like getting second hand info. On the bright side, I have not noticed any contradiction in these sources with Isaacson's version of Steve - it's accurate.
Having said this, Isaacson does give a fair amount of novel insight into Steve's family life, relationships and younger years which is not readily available through other sources. There is also a fair amount of detail about his Pixar years which I'm sure many are unaware of. Otherwise, light is shed on his relationship with colleagues and much about his personality, health and lifestyle are revealed. I think those unfamiliar with Steve and Apple might find this biography particularly enlightening about this talented, eccentric individual.
Finally, I do have a sense of Isaacson rushing this biography. The early and mid years were well covered, however later years were lacking on fresh insight and thoroughness. Chunks of story seemed glossed over or un-researched such as his relationship with Cook, Mark Papermaster's ousting, the reaction to Steve's passing, the future of Apple and perhaps more about his final days.
Something worth mentioning, is that the book did reinforce lessons I had learnt from Steve, the ones which stand out I will summarise:
* Life is short, make the most of it.
* We stand on the shoulders of giants, and it's our job to extend their work further.
* Focus on a few things you do well.
* Conflict can be very helpful in driving things forward.
* Love what you do and don't do it for money. Money is helpful in that it is there to improve the product/service.
* Keep re-inventing yourself.
Overall I find the biography easy to read, fairly thorough, provides some novel insight and balanced commentary and contains some profound words from Steve too. Reading a book about a man with this amount of intuition, energy, perfectionism, persuasiveness and determination can only enrich your life.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating,
I was not dissapointed. The book really opened my eyes and completely changed my opinion of Steve Jobs and of Apple. Sadly it has changed my opinion for the worst. I was fascinated to read about his drug use and strict diets and it was a real eye opener to read about how he treated people.
Though I do agree in a way with his closed system as it has allowed him and Apple to create amazing devices I feel that this book has soo profoundly changed my way of thinking about Apple that once the rest of the industry catches up I cannot see myself remainign with Apple for my mobile and tablet.
It will also be interesting to see whetehr Apple experiences another contraction back to mediocraty with Jobs at the helm to innovate, or rather take an idea and it better.
All in all a good read, and though others have cited the authors use of a lot of quotes, I feel to do otherwise would not have conveyed Jobs correctly. And though far from excellent grammer etc it was still an easy read.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant beyond words!,
Needless to say it was bought for me from Amazon at an incredible price, and once I started the book I just couldn't put it down. A short way into the book I began to dislike Jobs because of his quirky tantrums and the incredibly rude way in which he dealt with people who worked with him. But, amazingly, I started to warm towards him depite his unusual personality traits and by the end was true Steve Jobs fan in all aspects.
He was such an amazing visionary who knew how to get the best out of people. Having been fired by his own board at Apple, he made the most amazing comeback 10 years later, taking Apple from virtual bankruptcy to being the world's most valuable company. That takes some doing, and I am in absolute awe at how he did it!
It's a long book but the chapters are relatively short, which makes it easier to read in chunks. I finished it in a week and a half, and looked forward to getting my Steve Jobs fix every evening. The author isn't one of these people who writes biographies based on conjecture and poor research, he was asked personally by Jobs to write the book 9 years ago but only got round to doing it in the last 2 years. Jobs had no influence over what was written and it is based on countless interviews with Jobs and others over that period. The narrative style makes it an easy but dynamic read. I felt incredibly inspired and uplifted after reading it, reinforcing my belief that 'anything is possible.' GREAT BOOK. YOU WON'T BE DISAPPOINTED!
126 of 148 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Flawed man, Flawed autobiography,
The book itself is written by famed biographer Walter Isaacson, who had previously written critically acclaimed biographies of Einstein and Benjamin Franklin. However interestingly this is the first time he had written one about a living person, especially one he knew well.
The biography itself starts off promisingly with a description of Steve Jobs early life, his adoption, his immersion in the counter culture and the early days of Apple. I think what is most fascinating is the ability for someone like Jobs to just walk into a job with no qualifications or experience, which shows a lot about Silicon Valley in those days. As the story unfolds we see the other side of Jobs, the petulant individual who could antagonise as much as inspire. It becomes clear that one of Jobs talents was his ability to understand the motivations and weaknesses of an individual. However he as often as not used that ability to destroy as much as achieve.
The story moves on to the breakup with Apple, his creation of NeXT and Pixar and his triumphant return to Apple. It is at that point that I feel the autobiography looses steam. The description of his success at Apple could have been written just as well by someone at Apple PR, and while his successes should be celebrated, there is not enough critic of the mistakes made on the way. We also lose Jobs the individual as it concentrates on Apple and some of the individuals there. Maybe its because the author was talking to people still employed at Apple, but we get less of Jobs the petulant tyrant and more of Jobs the inspirational genius. The book ends with Jobs fight against cancer. This is again where we get a better insight of his true character.
If you are buying this book like me to get a insight into the true Steve Jobs, you may be disappointed. I feel it is not often the biographer pierces the veil. Strangely, probably he is the most open when he is discussing the music he had on his iPod. There is also a nagging feeling that Steve Jobs was using this book to extend his famed reality distortion field beyond the grave and I feel the author to often did not go deeply enough into some of the issues raised. For example Jobs stated a number of time that he felt the use of LSD was an important contributor to his success, but the author never questioned his feelings on drug taking and how it affects society. Also the contrast of a man who was proud of his counter culture values, but at the same time amassed billions, sometimes at the expense of close colleagues, and never was a believer in philanthropy was never adequately explored. In some ways you feel the author got too close to the subject and at times loses his objectivity. In that he is not alone, Steve Jobs had that affect on people.
However despite its flaws it is still a recommended read and if nothing else provides a fascinating insight into the early days of Silicon Valley. It is also the closest anyone will now get to the modern day sphinx that was Steve Jobs.
Just one more comment. The kindle version does not include that iconic photo that graces the book versions cover, despite this being the only part of the book that Steve Jobs was directly involved in. If Steve Jobs was alive now I'm sure his reaction would be that that decision sucked.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography,
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent insight into a complicated man,
From that obsession with simplicity (whose roots perhaps lie in the architectural style of his home when he was a kid), came the greatness of Steve Jobs. Saving that devices should be easy to use can sound so banal you lose sight of just how rare it is to have someone run a technology company that really believes in it and makes it happen. Just look at the mess of multiple remote controls and complicated instructions that make up most people's mix of TV and related devices to see how very different a world Steve Jobs has made for computers, music devices and phones by contrast.
For such a controversial figure as Steve Jobs, and one with such a dramatic working life, Walter Isaacson understandably takes many pages to tell the story. However, for all the book's length, it moves along at a brisk pace, with the detailed research and numerous interviews melded into very clear and readable prose.
It's an excellent read.
50 of 59 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Steve Jobs - "Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers .....They push the human race forward".,
The book starts by covering his adoption by the family of mechanic Paul Jobs who enshrined in his son a love of design and brought him up near Palo Alto the epicentre of a place which was "just about to turn silicon into gold". The development of the Blue Box with Steve Wozniak's innovative design was the starting point. This showed that Jobs brilliance at another key facet namely marketing even though at the time he was a highly opinionated vegan obsessed hippy with a penchant for drugs. The rest as they say is history not least through Wozniak's uber inventive phase in Jobs garage with initially the Apple 2 computer and that seminal moment in 1984. Here the first iteration of the foundation stone of modern computing was released enshrined in the Macintosh where the mouse and GUI sealed the deal. Jobs provided the hard commercial logic behind this although its impact was far from immediate as the world shifted towards its dalliance with Bill Gates.
Granted there are times in Issacson's book when things feel quite superficial and judgements are undercooked. An example is the chapter on Jobs love of music that is fashioned in relation to the ubiquitous question "what's on your IPod". It shows an enduring fanaticism for Dylan and a true fondness for Joni Mitchell's song about her daughters adoption "Little Green" which clearly resonated with Jobs. The problem here and in other parts of the book however is that the text feels like an extended magazine interview and not a weighty biography which in turn is a problem with the books immediacy. In one sense it is all too raw and recent, whilst truly great biographies do require distance and the passage of time. As such Issacson certainly will not be the last word on Jobs. Alternatively the book is strong on Jobs re-takeover of Apple and later involvement in Pixar but absolutely essential in describing the development of the IPhone and IPad. Jobs frustration with attempts to partner with Motorola on a new mobile phone with their cumbersome RAZR product is a key moment. As his frustration builds he exclaims, "I'm sick of dealing with these stupid companies...lets do it ourselves" (Kindle location 8024). The world turned at this moment. Equally on the IPad the brilliance of Apple marketing and technology combined to make the Wall Street Journal excitingly comment on its launch that "the last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it" (Location 8474). Immediately the post PC era was born.
His demise at the age 56 begs the question of where Jobs would have taken Apple in the era of cloud computing and how strong is his legacy. Jobs was a restless and impatient innovator and as Issacson observes he launched products that transformed whole industries. But he also concludes that Jobs "Zen training never produced in him a Zen like calm or inner serenity". And yet in 1997 in Apple's "Think Different" campaign Jobs wrote his own obituary when in high rhetoric he stated "Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers .....They push the human race forward".
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting insights into the Steve Jobs success story,
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.,
It took a long while, three weeks or so, to read this book and at the end, I wished there were more chapters. The book isn't an epitaph to Jobs, if it was it would just cover the nice guy that could e Jobs. This book covers Jobs warts and all and is a credit to both Walter Issacson and especially Steve Jobs and those around him who allowed Issacson into their lives to try and portray the real man who was Steve Jobs and the company he made which is currently the most valuable in the World.
I have read business books and biographies over the years and enjoyed them. But I have seen so much hype and self-congratulation that this book is a welcome relief. It seems to me to, at this pint in time at least, to tell the real truth about Jobs and how others saw him or feared him.
Compromise was not a word Jobs recognized and as a stubborn single focused entrepreneur he made many good and bad person and nosiness decisions which are highlighted in the book.
I for one, and one of many, felt sad at his demise and at the way the book makes you feel at its climax. But he will be remembered and for this generation, and hopefully the next, we will be reminded of his Genius in using his Apple products.
Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that's never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?
We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Well said. Apple. Think Different.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Steve Jobs Biography by Walter Isaacson,
A man in a hurry who never seems to have been particularly happy.
By any measure of business success he achieved a great deal - built a company (Apple), lost and regained control of Apple (including rescuing Apple), shaped another company (Pixar), developed and commercialised a range of outstanding products.
It was interesting to read the book as someone who has lived through most of the same period. In a previous role within KPMG I was very involved in the role out of Apple technology across the firm (and the development of specialist software for the platform). I also recall the subsequent decision to migrate to the Windows platform because of a perceived lack of business applications software for the Apple platform at the time. And in my current role I have not yet returned to the Apple platform - to date preferring the combination of Microsoft, Google and Android.
Jobs is not portrayed in a particularly attractive light as a person nor as a boss/manager. His treatment of people falls far below that expected. Yes he was within his rights to demand focus, attention to detail, brilliant engineering, quality output from his advisors, etc. But the haranguing of employees and vendors, the tantrums, the rejection of ideas and subsequent relabeling as his own ideas - none of these would warm you towards the man.
I suppose Jobs is an example of the entrepreneur who stays in control. In many cases we talk about the need to transfer control from the entrepreneur to the professional management team - on the basis that the entrepreneur brings the idea and the energy for the startup but may not have all the skills to see the startup through to full development into an established company. Perhaps the appointment of Sculley was the attempt to do this. But it failed and failed badly. A couple of points here: it can only work if it has the support of the entrepreneur and the timing is also critical. In Apple's case it happened too late, it did not have Jobs support )in spite of the initial `love-in' and perhaps Sculley was not the tight person. The other essential question though is how do you maintain the innovation momentum when you switch control to the professional management team? In theory the entrepreneur should have more time to devote to product development, research, etc. But would this have resulted in the stream of new products from Apple (post Jobs' return) if he has not been at the top of the organisation? I don't think so.
I often distinguish between those who get projects done and those who play a positive role in corporations. Good project managers will do whatever it takes to get the project delivered on time and on budget - including managing scope and user expectations. Good corporate managers understand the corporate objectives and develop teams of people in this context. Typically the two types are different. Project managers have little interest in anything except closing out the project - leaving someone else to pick up the pieces in terms of people who have been sidelined, over stressed, temporarily over praised. Corporate managers work to a different timetable - seeking to develop the people and move the company toward tis objectives.
Jobs had a vision for Apple and Pixar - and this vision drove him. And he embodied this vision in many of his products - e.g. Toy Story, iTunes, iPhone. But the impression I form from Isaacson's account of Jobs is of someone who was so project focused, delivery focused, that a lot of what is associated with building corporate culture, developing people was dumped. And the interesting summary of all of this is that it worked. Jobs created a company of `A players' and demanded A performance. He got A performance and refused to accept anything less. The result - outstanding products and outstanding commercial success.
So what was the genius of Steve Jobs? A number of thoughts strike me after reading the book and experiencing a number of his products (Pixar and Apple):
* Hard work and sustained application comes in near the top. How many times do we read about getting close to product release and deciding to rework something because it was not quite right? Yes this points to the high standards he set for himself and the team - but also the commitment and willingness to take on the rework to get something right.
* Jobs was comfortable being surrounded by experts - be that brilliant engineers, designers or marketers. He never lost sight of the fact that regardless of their individual ability they were all cogs in the wheel - all with a role to play. He may have had a natural bias towards to design side, but he understood that he needed the best in all areas. His management style may have been questionable - at the very least on a human level - by the did not struggle in an environment of brilliant people
* Tough commercial negotiator - whether dealing with Microsoft, music industry or Disney - and executed a number of his deals from positions of weakness.
* His own consistent advice to others appears to have been to focus - and he appears to have followed this advice himself. He was not short on ideas but focused on specific opportunities.
* Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We can all see now that smartphone, digitised music, etc all make sense. But Jobs saw the opportunity looking forward - he saw the opportunity with the Xerox GUI development at Palo Alto. Jobs saw the opportunity for innovation through technology.
The Jobs/ Gates rivalry is a recurring theme through the book. They both built hugely successful companies in the same period. Isaacson emphasises the basic difference in philosophy being Jobs' obsession with total control (hardware and software) as against Gates' willingness to release his software for different platforms. I think this analysis is an over simplification - Gates was very keen to own the desktop by ensuring it was running his operating system (and today Balmer would like to see mobile phones running a Microsoft operating system). Jobs is dismissive of Android - in fact seems to see Android as a poor quality rip off of Apple. I think this case is unproven.
Having read so much comment about the book in the press was wondering whether I would learn anything from the book itself. Not sure that I fully understood the man himself after reading the book. Isaacson was determined to paint the picture `wars and all'. He probably did this. But I think somewhere in this he missed a trick in summarising the man. I enjoyed reading the biography. It was a rip roaring life when you look at the ups and downs, the product releases, the deal making, the family life. And because we have all been touched by his technology it feels relevant.
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Steve Jobs: The Exclusive Biography by Walter Isaacson (Audio CD - 24 Oct 2011)
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