Steve Jobs Biography: Book Report

Steve JobsOriginal Post February 17, 2012

This week, Apple, the company founded and steered for a couple decades by Steve Jobs, became the most valuable company in the world.

As I just finished reading Steve Jobs’ biography, written by Walter Isaacson, Jobs’ chosen biographer, I feel like I have a special connection to this story.

As the story unfolded it was really hard for me to like Steve jobs but I could appreciate his creative genius.

Although Isaacson used every description for Jobs’ behavior but “mental illness”, it is my opinion that he exhibited signs of mental illness.  Jobs seemed to have many manic characteristics, perhaps signs of Asperger’s, certainly depression, creative genius, perhaps schizophrenia, or just plain brain damage from using drugs and his erratic pattern of dieting and fasting.

And he was a bully.

If it is true that there is a fine line between genius and insanity, Steve Jobs is the epitome of that. It is sad to read about people who are so bad at interpersonal relationships. His constant turmoil and refusal to forgive and forget is, in my opinion, likely a contributing factor to his cancer, which ultimately took his life.

I don’t understand the apparent worship of Jobs by many people in his life but I do understand their admiration of him despite his many flaws.

Sometimes I wish I were able to separate personal flaws from genius in others but I tend to judge the whole person. My feelings are too easily hurt to work with a Steve Jobs.

I don’t believe people work best when berated and ridiculed but he managed to make things happen in that environment.

I was impressed with Jobs’ insistence that Apple products be made simple and that customers have a WOW experience in his stores. These are some of the reasons I love Apple products. See my blog “Once You’ve Had Mac You’ll Never Go Back”.

So while I didn’t like Steve jobs I must admit he accomplished what he set out to do: to make a difference, to have a profound effect on mankind, to make wonderful products. Part of his success is certainly because of his unique ability to merge art with technology.

I liked his mantra that people want delightful experiences. He was right to create products that work together. Making my life easy is worth paying the extra money for Apple products.

I thought it was interesting that at many times in his life he did not work for the money and yet at other times he insisted on not giving away products and knowledge.

Back when the whole Napster controversy was happening I remember thinking that if the music companies were smart they would make it easy for users to buy music online.  I believed most people would rather buy it than steal it.

Steve Jobs also believed that people would pay for downloaded music and he was right. Unbundling songs from albums was brilliant and likely saved the music business.

In Grade Two I remember understanding the limitations of radio and thinking that it would be cool to have a machine that would play any song I wanted on demand.

Almost exactly 40 years later I got my first iPod and I realized my wish had come true. I was thrilled that I could legally access almost any music, some pieces I hadn’t heard for decades.

I was disappointed that Isaacson went into great detail about various meetings, products and ad campaigns, but did not even mention the “Hi, I’m a Mac” campaign, in my opinion one of the best ad campaigns ever.

I learned that Word and Excel were developed for Mac first. I never knew that Jobs and Bill Gates worked together on some software development. I learned that iPad was conceived before iPhone despite being released after iPhone. I understand why Macs do not need antivirus protection: partly because they’re built on closed, not open code.

In some ways I have greater appreciation for my favorite devices, knowing how important the customer experience was to Steve Jobs and the pains that many people endured on the journey. If only all manufacturers cared this much, we would have less throwaway stuff.

I wonder about the future of Apple without Steve Jobs’ kind of thinking and his strong personality to get his way and make things happen. It appears the company has been able to demonstrate that it is able to follow the path set by their former leader. It will be interesting to watch Apple in years to come.

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