Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Steve Jobs

Author:         Walter Isaacson
Published:   2011
Publisher:    Simon & Schuster
Hardcover:  656  pages

The author Walter Isaacson, wrote this biography on Steve Jobs' request. He is  an acclaimed biographer having written biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein. When he asked Jobs why he chose him , Jobs replied “I think you’re good at getting people to talk". This is precisely what Isaacson did to write this book.
Over a period of two years he interviewed Jobs forty times and talked to over hundred people connected to Jobs - his  family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues.
The level of cooperation extended by Jobs in this exercise was extraordinary and unusual considering his controlling nature and strong defensiveness over his privacy. It seems he asked the interviewees to speak honestly. He asked for no control over the content of the book . He also waived the right to read it before it was published. This turned out to be a sadly prophetic gesture as Job passed away before this book was published.

This book covers Jobs'  life in forty two chapters, beginning with his childhood in his adoptive parents' home till he resigned as CEO of Apple just weeks before his demise due to pancreatic cancer. 
The biography discusses the founding of Apple; his relationship with  co-founder Steve Wozniak ; his short stint in  Reed College; his visit to India on a self-discovery trip;  the development of the Apple I, Apple II, Lisa, and the classic Macintosh ; his ouster from Apple; the founding of NeXT;  the funding of Pixar; his  return to Apple in 1997; the development the iMac, iPod, iTunes, Apple Stores, and iPad. 
The book also deals with Jobs' personal life - his early relationships, his marriage of twenty years, and his four children. It has an interesting account of how Jobs got to know about his biological parents and  sister (Mona Simpson, an award winning author) which has all the ingredients of a typical lost-and-found Bollywood movie, only difference being it all happened in real life.
Also included are Job's complicated relationships with his main competitor the Microsoft co-founder and then-CEO Bill Gates. Not many know that these two icons though disagreed vehemently and openly about their respective business approaches had a great respect for each other.
The book has a theme based narration which at times is confusing. I would have preferred a  chronological narration of events in the life of Jobs.
This book clearly brings out  Jobs' personality as a creative entrepreneur who had a  passion for perfection and who through his ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.
We also come to know about his abrasive personality which simultaneously inspired and intimidated those around him. He also at times had a questionable sense of ethics.
As author mentions in the introduction to the book , Steve Jobs' story is "both instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values."

A very well written book, which every entrepreneur or  professional should read.


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