Steve Jobs needs no introduction. Everyone knows him as the founder of Apple and the force behind the iPhone and the iPad. Before I read his biography, I thought of him as a being, who conjured masterpieces that defied reality - A wizard whose ways we could never fathom. Though I could grasp his thoughts and beliefs represented in the book, I also realized that emulating him would result in as shoddy a copy as those iPhone clones - It would lack the spirit behind it.
Walter Isaacson does a brilliant job of writing this biography. It is meticulously researched and doesn't soften up Jobs' personality. It delivers an honest rendition of Jobs' life from various perspectives, collected via numerous interviews with those involved in his life. You could see a level of perfection in the writing and flow, which even Jobs wouldn't have called a piece of shit.
The book introduces us to a young and precocious Steve, who is deeply affected by his adoptive father. From an early age, he was imbued with the lesson that even the invisible parts should be cared for. It shocked me to learn how deeply he was involved
into vegetarianism and the teachings of "Neem Karoli Baba", when most people just show skepticism. He was also into LSD, which he later claimed to have made a big difference in making him who he was. His independent thinking led him to drop out of college
and pursue any course he fancied, similar to what the character of Rancho did in the movie 3 Idiots. He absorbed ideas, lessons and personality traits which he found empowering, from the people around him.
The first act describes how the two Steves met and created Apple Computers. Steve Wozniak was the engine and Steve Jobs was the driver. It describes their journey from manufacturing in a garage to the iconic Macintosh ad in 1984 and Apple Computers going public. Steve's focus on design was perceived unusual and as an annoyance by many at Apple. But using, what was called by many as "Reality Distortion Field", he would put forth arguments so passionate and powerful, that people would have no choice but change their minds. The book describes events without a filter and lays bare, the atmosphere, the people, the causes and the effects of the existence of Jobs. It becomes obvious, what caused his ousting from Apple.
His second coming is generally attributed to NeXT, but from the book, it seems that it should also include Pixar. Unfettered from what was becoming a profit oriented company, he went to fulfill his imagination with cube shaped computers at NeXT. They failed miserably, but the NeXT operating system would later become the core of Mac OSX, known as the Darwin kernel. At the same time, his interest at the intersection of computers and arts led to him buying Pixar from Lucas Arts. Here, the reader learns his willingness to respect other artists and give them their space. His experience in negotiating with Disney also helped him prepare for what he needed to do to offer iTunes Store to the music industry and the world. These ten years away from Apple gave him the opportunity to start a family.
Jobs believed in a hindu saying: "For the first 30 years of your life, you make your habits. For the last 30 years of your life, your habits make you." He was afraid that after a certain point, people stopped being creative. In the third act, he defied his own beliefs and that of the world's. He revived Apple when it was deemed impossible to do so and his vision gave rise to the iMac, iPod, iTunes Store, iPhone, App Store, iPad and iCloud - an eco-system of seamless end-to-end consumer experience. Apple was no more just a computer company, it became the most valuable tech company in the world. The story so far seemed a lot like the legend of a phoenix rising from its own ashes. Behind this success was his unflinching focus on making perfect products. He was ruthless and fired incompetent employees (in his view) so that the company only had "A Players". He even managed to be the CEO of Pixar and Apple simultaneously, before selling Pixar to Disney.
His success was interspersed with his battles with cancer. The stubbornness of Jobs in taking treatment, his food habits and him accepting his affliction is described so well that the reader would clench their fists or shake their head once in a while, so as to express their frustration at the behavior of Jobs. Yet, you could not but admire him. Even in his pain, he passionately cared about Apple and its future, sometime more so than his family.
Jobs - The Movie only covered the first 20% of the book. The book is rich in details and that makes it very difficult to summarize. You cannot just squint and find out the most important parts of his life. It was the whole journey that makes it possible to gauge and make sense of this visionary, and Walter Isaacson makes the reading experience thoroughly sublime. It exudes authenticity and hard work and makes you want to recommend others to read it.
When Jason visited our office, he was surprised to learn that we admire Apple. Apple is as closed a company as there can be. I now understand the roots behind it and that this closed nature enabled Apple to provide a great user experience. It was their way of making great products, and they made it happen. People focus on the "closed" part and not on the "great product" part. We admire how Apple is dedicated to make great products. We just choose to do that the open source way.
An ad written by Steve Jobs that describes what Apple stands for: