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< Insanely Great, Walter Isaacson’s: Steve Jobs

I bought the Walter Isaacson’s ebook about Steve Jobs on the day of its release. One day after release, I finished it, I’m a fast reader and too impatient to read it in small doses. Below are a few thoughts I had on the book. It’s not a review, it’s not out to spoil it for others, but there are bits I want to pick on and quote:

With all the opportunity given to Walter; all the access given to him (he had free reign by Jobs), I think he misses a ton of interesting stuff out. While it’s a good book I felt it could have been better.

First I didn’t think it was well written, the pacing of the book was off (starts with a linear timeline, the chapters jump around and then settles down again towards the end). ‘Steve Jobs’ fleshes out a lot of what we knew, so it ends up mostly confirming certain events that are already public or were headline grabbing; the geek in me says maybe I’ve explored ‘Steve Jobs’ as a subject too much. Story wise it’s lacking a differing perspective that sets it apart from ‘iCon’. Considering what had been handed in Walter’s hands over the course of the two years he had with Jobs, I feel this has been played safe,

The stuff I didn’t know about is eye opening (the rounds with cancer); though there are a few revelations. The excitement from reading the book comes from what Jobs says rather from than the writing style. His conviction really shines through without much help (or need) from Isaacson.

But Jobs surprisingly didn’t contribute that much to the book. This is why it doesn’t feel that different to iCon. It’s not like iWoz, where it’s entirely from Steve Woziak’s perspective, I felt Jobs could have contributed more rather than have the last word on what Walter wrote.
  • Anything about Job’s private is fascinating, there is no question, the book benefits from the included family dynamic, his relationships with women, what inspired a young Steve Jobs. Anything that reminded me that he was human, was worth taking the time to read (Steve hugs a lot of people :)).
  • Anything before Job’s time with NeXT isn’t really that enlightening to those who already knew what happened in the beginning of Apple’s life, as it’s so well covered. I would argue ‘iCon‘ does a better job in a lot of areas. There are a few cute moments though. Especially with Paul Rand discussing the placement of the full stop (period) on Steve’s business card.
  • Early Pixar stuff is always good but again, iCon reveals more about the deals with Disney and describes how shrewd Steve is as a business man. It also makes me wonder why the publisher’s other titles were banned from Apple Stores after it’s release. iCon is a good read even though it’s not official, Walter used it as reference material.
  • The chapters about Steve coming back to Apple reveals a little here and there and strangely introduces Larry Ellison without any sort of reason or motive for the way Ellison acts. Larry is first mentioned in 1997, never earlier in Job’s life (and this is a good friend of Steve’s). The book mirrors this behaviour with other people around Job’s. Only Jony Ive is really explored. Everybody else just floats in and out including Tim Cook and Phil Schiller (I’d buy any book they release).
  • I would say Steve Wozniak doesn’t get enough of a mention but read ‘iWoz‘ and it makes a great companion book.
  • The chapters about Apple from 2000 to present, references a lot of the stuff already quoted by Job’s from various articles and the AllthingsD conference. There is little extra insight here. It does mention the engineer who invented the rubber banding on the iPad though, that was cool. But there is nothing new from Job’s is what I’m saying. Maybe expecting more is wrong, he’s said what he’s needed to say.
  • SJ’s stubbornness and what he went through regarding his treatment for cancer is frightening and you really feel he could have pulled through if he just listened to those around him.
  • Walter Isaac misquotes the “Google are out to kill us” speech and talks about Steve Job’s reaction to Siri, just like Campbell did at the Steve Jobs memorial. That was weird because I only watched the memorial the previous day and heard the story to only read about it the day after in this book.
  •  The last meeting with Bill Gates is really sad but so so touching, you could tell there was so much between both these men; the pioneers and they both knew and discussed what else they still needed to fix in the computing world, it’s obvious (and hopeful) where Apple is going after succeeding with Apple TV, maybe Microsoft as well with a nudge from Gates. I came away respecting Gates more as a person in this book. If you’re expecting an all out attack on him, prepare to be disappointed.
After reading ‘Steve Jobs’, I would suggest reading iWoz and iCon as they provide differing perspectives which after reading this book, go up in my opinion, especially iCon. Anyway, I hope this book isn’t the only source used for the supposed upcoming movie. It’s a good book but it could have been insanely great.

A few bits I highlighted from the book:

- The process began with Jobs and Ive figuring out the right screen size. They had twenty models made – all rounded rectangles, of course – in slightly varying sizes and aspect ratios. Ive laid them out on a table in the design studio, and in the afternoon they would lift the velvet cloth hiding them and play with them. “That’s how we nailed what the screen size was,” Ive said. – Designing the iPad

- ‘Not. Fucking. Blue. Enough!!!’ – Printing the right blue for the iMac promotional materials.

- “The astronomer Johannes Kepler declared that “nature loves simplicity and unity. So did Steve Jobs.”

- Ive realised that most people, himself among them, tend not to be direct when they feel something is shoddy because they want to be liked, “which is actually a vain trait.” – After Steve Jobs shouts at the hotel clerk regarding his room.

- “My intuition told me that joining Apple would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work for a creative genius.” And so he did. “Engineers are taught to make a decision analytically, but there are times when relying on gut or intuition is most indispensable.” – Tim Cook on joining Apple.

- “God gave us ten styluses,” he would say, waving his fingers. “Let’s not invent another.” – Steve Jobs regarding the Newton.

There are many more great quotes but the Dieter Rams one says it all.

“Less but better,” Weniger aber besser”. – Dieter Rams


Check out these podcasts from 5by5 studios that discuss this book here.

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Written by jonathanjk

October 25, 2011 at 22:25

3 Responses

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  1. […] to his own but I quickly got carried away… Me and my big mouth ;) You can check out his take here. As for mine: here we […]

  2. Hey Jonathan,
    I’ve been seeing the title of this post in your RSS feed every night when I sit down with Pulp. But I was reading the book and didn’t want you to spoil anything for me ;)
    I finished it last night and came here as soon as I “turned” the last page (it’s on my iPad): I completely agree with your take. Completely.

    I started writing my thoughts in your comments but it got out of hand. I’ve instead posted a piece on my blog, referencing yours.
    Have a great weekend!

  3. Hey thanks Patrick, I’ll check it out now!


    November 4, 2011 at 17:09

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