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on 17 January 2012
I asked for this book for Christmas but knew very little about Steve Jobs other than he started Apple. I saw the book in Asda and when I saw how thick it was I thought, "oh crap!"

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!
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on 2 January 2012
Steve Jobs - 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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on 20 June 2015
This is a really fascinating and seemingly quite an honest portrait of Jobs. He's portrayed as obsessive, rude, driven and yet capable of inspiring great love and loyalty from colleagues, family and friends. His knack for finding the line between controlling everything - in a world where consumers want everything made especially 'for me' - and delivering the consistent experience that these very same consumers want is extraordinary and I thought that the chapter about the development of the Apple stores particularly showcased his ability to put himself in the consumers' shoes, despite the fact he never seemed to (be able?) do the same for the people around him. A great read.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 October 2011
If you're like me the first thing that strikes you as you read this book is that Steve Jobs led a mythological life.

Put up for closed adoption by unmarried parents who eventually married, rejected by the first would be adoptive parents, then adopted by working class parents, it would be difficult to imagine a more inauspicious beginning, or a more auspicious outcome. Steve Jobs would grow up to prove that an apple can fall quite far from the tree, and still blossom. Abandoned, the chosen one, special.

Firstly, I don't think there is any such thing as an illegitimate child, only illegitimate parents.

The public life and business achievements have been well chronicled, and I didn't want to read a book about Apple. I wondered about the family life, the relationship with Bill Gates, were they collaborators or competitors, some of the other cast of characters. I wondered how much of Apple's great accomplishments were due to Jobs, what effect his passing would have on the future of Apple. I wondered about how he got the Beatles music, and the reputedly fractious relationship with Apple records.

Isaacson has put together a narrative never less than fascinating about a mercurial man. My opinion of Jobs did not change as a result of reading this book. He already struck me as being a highly driven type A personality, narcissistic, aggressive, perfectionistic. Certainly these traits contributed to both his successes and his setbacks, and made him a difficult man to get along with, but those high standards imposed by a drive for perfection, and a demanding lack of compassion, would also draw out of people great abilities, enhanced creativity, and great accomplishments.

Certainly, Isaacson's unvarnished portrait, means many people will not find Jobs the man appealing, and will not condone certain of his behaviors, and I commend Jobs for his honesty in allowing that. Perhaps the biggest surprise that he let go of his controlling tendencies, and did not seek to approve the book.

Ironically at age 22, he would find himself in the exact same position as his birth parents at that age, and would not acknowledge his out of wedlock child Lisa. He would eventually reverse that position before Apple went public agreeing to a DNA test, and making an arrangement. I was interested to discover that he has a lost sister Mona Simpson, an author who has written a book, A Regular Guy : A Novel, the main character based on Jobs and the relationship with his daughter Lisa.

Nemesis follows hubris with punishing fall from grace at Apple, betrayed by his hand picked underling, fired by the company he founded, exiled, buying Pixar off George Lucas for $5 million, selling it to Disney for a reputed $500 million, eventually returning as conquering hero to regain his throne, after many lean years the kingdom would once again prosper.

Among his influences were The Beatles, particularly John Lennon, also rejected by both his parents, and raised by an aunt. The Beatles being greater than the sum of the individual parts would inpsire his own management style of making better products through teamwork. Perhaps more surprising was his relating to Captain Ahab from Moby Dick, and that despotic tyrant King Lear.

The strength of this book, unfettered access to Jobs, the uncensored commentary and insights, of family, friends, business associates, even enemies, and critics.

I enjoyed the story of how he met his wife Laurene Powell. Her name is quite similar to my name, Laurence Power, and she has a degree in Economics. I enjoyed the humor and pranks of the early days with Wosniak. I particularly like calling the Vatican prank pretending to be Kissinger, collecting bootleg Dylan recordings, and illicitly mimicing the long distance beeps. I also enjoyed reading of the reality distortion field sometimes employed effectively, sometimes not. He would one day meet his father in a restaurant but neither would be aware that they met.

If you're wondering about hardback v Kindle, I found the Kindle does have photos. Unlike the book which has a central montage the photos on Kindle are present at the beginning of chapters. If you don't already have Kindle, you can download the app here at Amazon, and get a free book sample. By the time you finish reading the sample I predict you will want to read the rest of the book.

The book did answer most of my questions, yet I do not give it five stars. Here is why:

Recently, I have bought several quotation books, and when I learned Jobs illness was fatal, I started looking up quotes by Jobs.

Some quotation books such as Bartlett, Forbes Business quotes, and so forth do not have any Jobs quotes. Oxford and Yale each have two. In fact most quote books do not have many if any quotes by business leaders. Hopefully, this will be addressed. In fact, the The Ultimate Book of Investment Quotations (The Ultimate Series) book I found to be the only decent book that quotes business leaders and investment experts.

If you look at the Stanford commencement speech for example, available where video clips are seen, Jobs has many good quotes, and has great presentation skills. In fact, I understand there are about 100 books due to be published about Jobs.

While Isaacson's book contains many good quotes, most of these are by other people about Jobs, by Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Andy Grove, Al Gore and many others. Perhaps my favorite was the Herman Hermits quote by Bono. What I found curiously lacking were so few great quotes by Jobs himself. When I watched the Stanford speech on youtube, I wrote down six or seven quotes from that speech alone. Isaacson references the speech but barely quotes it.

Certainly, he could have sprinkled some of Jobs best quotes throughout the book. If he had done this I would definitely give the book five stars. Hopefully, this will be addressed in future editions and printings. That would make both an honest depiction and a fitting tribute to a great visionary.

Jobs: The Beatles all want to be on iTunes, but they and EMI are like an old married couple. They hate each other but can't get divorced.

Jobs: Picasso had a saying, good artists copy, great artists steal.

Alan Kay maxim adopted by Jobs: The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Tim Cook: I realised very early that if you didn't voice your opinion he would mow you down. He takes contrary positions to create more discussion because it may lead to a better result. So, if you don't feel comfortable disagreeing, then you'll never survive.

As I read the book, three quotes by George Bernard Shaw came to mind:

The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him. The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself. All progress depends on the unreasonable man.

If I give you an apple, and you give me an apple we each have an apple. If I give you an idea, and you give me an idea, we each have two ideas. Jobs certainly turned apples and ideas into dollars).

Some people see things as they are and ask why. Steve Jobs dreamed things that never were and asked, why not?

As a result we have iPad, iPod, iPhone, iTunes, iMac, iBooks.

iThink you will enjoy it, and iHope this was helpful.
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on 13 July 2016
Jobs is an icon so I wanted to find out more about him, naturally this book was the best place as Isaacson had the blessing of Jobs. It gives an insight into the life and thinking of Jobs, who orchestrated one of the most innovative company's in the world.
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on 7 August 2014
Probably worth declaring up front that I'm generally not an apple fan. I've never owned a Mac computer and have mainly had Android rather than iOS devices. So, my five stars should count for a lot in that context.

This book gives a great insight into the life of Jobs and apple. His approach and quirks are remarkable and surprising in many ways. In addition, this book feels like it gives an unvarnished account. It mentions both the good and bad sides of Jobs personality as well as apple's. My only criticism would be that I've read better written and edited books. I've seen others write that this may be because they rushed it out to cash in on his death? But this still wouldn't cause me to give it less than five stars as it gives a great insight into one of the true legends of our time.
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on 20 April 2014
I waited a long time to read this, having bought it not long after it came out. I wanted the space to come to my own conclusions and wanted to read the book on my own terms.

First of all, I think Walter Isaacson did a great job putting this together. I covers all the major aspects of Steve's life and as much as I can tell, it's a fairly objective presentation of the man as he really was. I am a big fan of Apple and have been since the mid nineties. That said, one of my great frustrations is when people in business talk about the need to be "more like Apple", as if it's a tangible choice. It's like saying to win the 100 metres at the Olympics, you just need to run like Usain Bolt - it's not untrue but it's not especially helpful. In my view the book gave some insight into what made Steve Jobs and Apple successful and it also illustrated some of the behaviors that nearly destroyed Apple, many of them manifested personally by Steve Jobs. I find myself asking if you can reach the highest heights in business without burning bridges as you go. It always takes me back to Bernard Shaw..."The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him... The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself... All progress depends on the unreasonable man." To be the "unreasonable man" (and Steve Jobs could clearly be unreasonable), is an easy enough strategy to take. However, success depends on so much more than choosing to be unreasonable by itself and for many of us perhaps it's a sure fire strategy to achieving less.

So if you have an interest in Apple, Steve Jobs, innovation or building business, this book will definitely have something in it for you!
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on 20 January 2016
isaacson idolises jobs too much to write a good book about him. i learned a few things about jobs, but i wish it had been better written or more arms-length. too much love flowing through the pages; and therefore too much fluff that wasn't worth reading.
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on 25 June 2012
This book was and is a great read about the genius of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. The author takes us on an interesting journey of Jobs life and career from his birth, adoption to his death from cancer in 2011.

Because of Steve Jobs varied career as co-founder of Apple, Pixar and his innovations in the personal computer, computer animation and music worlds.

I felt that Walter Isaacson did a good job of researching the book interviewing Jobs himself many times as well as speaking to former colleagues, family and even the people who Jobs considered rivals or enemies. Because of this the book is very honest and the author allows you the dignity of making your own mind up as to what Jobs was as an innovator and a Human being.

The book is thoroughly engaging from start to finish and will keep you hooked despite the book being 656 pages in length.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys well written biographies and a good story. I don't think you need a particular interest in Apple or computers to appreciate the book as the story is a Human one and for this reason is well worth your attention.
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on 29 December 2014
Overall a great read. It's a big book so don't expect to finish it in a day. Very in depth look into the world of Steve Paul Jobs from early life to his character to his interaction with Pixar and Disney. It's written pretty well, does jump around a little which makes for a tad confusing plot. Jumps between characters, years and situations but overall it has been written well with a good insight. Great book and I would recommended. Great read to go with the legend of Steve Jobs - i wonder if he ever did build that boat?
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