Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson

When Steve Jobs died earlier this year. I really felt the loss in terms of the amazing products he had been a part of producing at Apple. I was also aware of his time at Pixar which produced movies that I have enjoyed since my Dad took my brother and I to see Toy Story.

iPods, iPhones, iPads and iTunes have changed the way that we do many things. I am constantly thankful to the technology that makes it possible for me to photograph my children and email them to my Mum in Queensland 5 seconds later. I use FaceTime to share moments with family such as Taj’s first bath with his big brother or Jayden reading Green Eggs and Ham in bed.

I’m not saying that these products were Jobs’ innovations alone but he had a clarity of design, amazing marketing skills and an intuitive knowledge of a product that we can’t live without that last week we never knew we needed.

This book was a great insight into what made Jobs’ tick. It wasn’t particularly well written and was in need of some editing but the detailed look at the people in Jobs’ worlds at both Apple and Pixar was just so interesting.

Everyone new that Jobs’ and Wazniak started Apple in a garage in the Silicone Valley but there were so many incredible feats of ingenuity in their rise to the top that it takes your breath away.

I felt the author let a few things slide that would have been very interesting to know about. For example much of the book detailed Apple’s “end to end” concepts – producing the iPod, iTunes store to work together and the fact that most of his late products are “closed” you can’t even change a battery, and no other developers can change your hardware etc. considering how often this was mentioned I was looking forward to hearing Jobs’ opinion on “jailbreaking” and “firmware” where Hackers open the closed software making it possible to put illegally downloaded content onto an iPod or iPhone for free. It is also possible to costomise icons, and access content that iTunes does not allow. Based on Jobs’ desire to control every aspect of the customer experience and also based on Apple’s hacker heritage I thought this was a big topic to leave untouched.

The chapters centre around different themes, mostly chronologically. I think that the editing may have been missing is some cases where a point has been covered earlier and is then echoed later on in the book, perhaps some people like the reminder … To me it makes a book feel clunky.

The best part about this biography is that although much of it is based on interviews with Steve himself, the biographer doesn’t fail to show the flip side of an argument and the way that Steve has a terrible way with people. In fact his wife apparently asked Isaacson to ensure that Steve was shown as true to life as possible. He was not a very nice person by most accounts. Tyrannical and pigheaded. He was a vegan and had strong opinions on his Zen lifestyle. It is amazing to read about his reaction to his cancer diagnosis and his dogmatic desire to pretend it would go away.

If you own an Apple product then this book is well worth a read. It will give you a much better appreciation of the minimalist design and the teasoning behind them that you have taken for granted.


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