In Steve Jobs is a scam, a book that actually tries to prove otherwise by using an elaborate fictional set-up of a character that could only have been written by someone who actually did work for the legendary Apple Computer Company. And indeed, there are moments in Steve Jobs that may look suspiciously like moments taken from a long-lost software programmer’s log book – for instance, when he is so excited about being able to design products that are so superior that no one can compete with them. But then, when he is talking to his college student friends, he is reluctant to let them in on his secret, preferring instead to keep it a secret until the events that will result can unfold. As if that were not enough to make Steve Jobs into something other than a fictional character, there is a laundry list of “shocking” Jobs quotes included in this very poorly written book.
One thing that is abundantly clear in this text is that Jobs was obsessed with computers. And indeed, the very fact that Jobs wanted to be called the “Woz” – as in “Woop-Woop” – is evidence of just how deeply he cared about his craft. But then, you would also have to be in violation of patent laws to do something like design an iPhone – which would essentially be a phone based on the Apple corporation’s mobile operating system. In the case of the latter, Jobs would have had to go through the motions of acquiring a company and working with employees to design hardware and software to go along with the phone.
What is curious about Jobs’ obsession with computers is the fact that no one else could have even come close to matching his level of accomplishment. Many people attribute his achievements to his brilliance as a computer engineer, but Jobs could have gotten to where he was because of much luck – and a lot of hard work. His mother, Ariel Albright, was an accomplished computer engineer, and she taught him all she knew. He could have been born into a more affluent family, but he went to Stanford and law school at age 16. By the time he left home to attend the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned a degree in engineering, he’d already completed two decades of work on software designing for companies like Apple and the Xerox Corporation.
In this fascinating look at the lives of the most influential American leaders, you come to learn that Jobs was slightly more worried about the way he was perceived by the press and public than he was about getting the job done. Even when he was already well known, there were still plenty of people who doubted his abilities. As a result, he did everything within his power to prove to these people that he was – indeed, was a – better person than they thought. The Vanity Fair article which followed upon his graduation from Stanford comes closest to explaining the depth of Jobs’ belief in himself, and how he saw himself as being capable of changing the world. The Vanity Fair piece also goes into the extent to which Jobs worked around the negative media attention focusing on him at the time and tries to understand why he did so.
Jobs’s book is very dense with facts about the early days of his career at Apple, and it traces the development of the company over the years.
- It goes into the minutiae of corporate politics;
- deals with the suppliers;
- describes the legal battles which plagued the company at various points.
It’s a very readable read, although Jobs at times seems a little arrogant and can at times seem combative. I do think that, given the enormous attention that such a text receives, and the veracity with which Jobs presents his case, that some of Jobs’s arrogance is unjustified.
The book is organized by Jobs’s arrival at Apple and starts with a thorough account of his rise and fall. Then it goes on to describe the development of the company in the later years, with Jobs as its most important executive. After that comes a look at Jobs’s departure from Apple, and what the company did to replace him. It touches on both the corporate politics of Apple, and the personal dynamics between Jobs and Steve Wosniak, his former employee and close friend.
What I think the strongest part of the book, however, are Jobs’s “culture” insights – or rather, his perception of what a culture should be like. Here is a man who was fired from his first job because he would not dress properly for work, and who would ride a bicycle in the company parking lot instead of riding his bike home. He is a recluse who lives in a monk-like existence. His personality even reads more like a description of a Buddhist monk than a CEO would. These bits and pieces came together to paint a picture of a sort of mystic who is not at all the typical leader who rises to the occasion.
There are many pluses to this book, but some parts may seem a little “off,” especially the sections that deal with Steve Jobs’s personality. Though these parts do add some insight, they are probably unnecessary to most people. The sections that dealt with how Steve Jobs effected the world, and how his “cult” of followers followed him around are excellent, and will give you some background for understanding Jobs better.