Steve Jobs.

By Walter Isaacson

Printed: 2011

Publisher: Little Brown. London

Dimensions 17 × 24 × 6 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 17 x 24 x 6

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In the original dustsheet. White binding with black title on the spine.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

Walter Isaacson’s “enthralling” (The New Yorker) worldwide bestselling biography of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs.

Based on more than forty interviews with Steve Jobs conducted over two years–as well as interviews with more than 100 family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues–Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing. Isaacson’s portrait touched millions of readers. At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology. He built a company where leaps of the imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering. Although Jobs cooperated with the author, he asked for no control over what was written. He put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. He himself spoke candidly about the people he worked with and competed against. His friends, foes, and colleagues offer an unvarnished view of the passions, perfectionism, obsessions, artistry, devilry, and compulsion for control that shaped his approach to business and the innovative products that resulted.

His tale is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values. Steve Jobs is the inspiration for the movie of the same name starring Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, and Jeff Daniels, directed by Danny Boyle with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin.

Review: 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 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 right 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 had 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 emphasizes 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 oversimplification – 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, I 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 `warts 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.


                                               Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone 4 in 2010

Steven Paul Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011) was an American business magnate, inventor, and investor. He was the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple; the chairman and majority shareholder of Pixar; a member of The Walt Disney Company’s board of directors following its acquisition of Pixar; and the founder, chairman, and CEO of NeXT. He was a pioneer of the personal computer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, along with his early business partner and fellow Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Jobs was born in San Francisco to a Syrian father and German-American mother. He was adopted shortly after his birth. Jobs attended Reed College in 1972 before withdrawing that same year. In 1974, he traveled through India seeking enlightenment before later studying Zen Buddhism. He and Wozniak co-founded Apple in 1976 to sell Wozniak’s Apple I personal computer. Together the duo gained fame and wealth a year later with production and sale of the Apple II, one of the first highly successful mass-produced microcomputers. Jobs saw the commercial potential of the Xerox Alto in 1979, which was mouse-driven and had a graphical user interface (GUI). This led to the development of the unsuccessful Apple Lisa in 1983, followed by the breakthrough Macintosh in 1984, the first mass-produced computer with a GUI. The Macintosh introduced the desktop publishing industry in 1985 with the addition of the Apple LaserWriter, the first laser printer to feature vector graphics.

In 1985, Jobs departed Apple after a long power struggle with the company’s board and its then-CEO, John Sculley. That same year, Jobs took a few Apple employees with him to found NeXT, a computer platform development company that specialized in computers for higher-education and business markets. In addition, he helped to develop the visual effects industry when he funded the computer graphics division of George Lucas’s Lucasfilm in 1986. The Graphics Group eventually spun off independently as Pixar, producing the first 3D computer-animated feature film Toy Story (1995) and becoming a leading animation studio, producing over 27 films since.

In 1997, Jobs returned to Apple as CEO after the company’s acquisition of NeXT. He was largely responsible for reviving Apple, which was on the verge of bankruptcy. He worked closely with British designer Jony Ive to develop a line of products that had larger cultural ramifications, beginning with the “Think different” advertising campaign and leading to the Apple Store, App Store (iOS), iMac, iPad, iPod, iPhone, iTunes, and iTunes Store. In 2001, the original Mac OS was replaced with the completely new Mac OS X (later known as macOS), based on NeXT’s NeXTSTEP platform, giving the operating system a modern Unix-based foundation for the first time. In 2003, Jobs was diagnosed with a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor. He died of respiratory arrest related to the tumor in 2011, at the age of 56, with Tim Cook succeeding him as CEO of Apple. In 2022, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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