The biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson had been hotly-anticipated by a wide array of technology pundits, business people, and celebrity-watchers since word of the project first appeared a few years ago. Steve Jobs was many things to many different people and, after his death, eagerness for the book meant that its release moved up. Its March 2012 release date was moved to late-November 2011 and then the date became late October 2011.
Given Isaacson’s background in magazines – he was previously the managing editor of Time Magazine – it wasn’t surprising that his book read with a magazine-like crispness. While it didn’t always have the depth that I had hoped for, it did a good job of covering the full spectrum of Mr. Jobs’s life.
The book bounced around at times, devoting chapters to different facets of Mr. Jobs’s past. For instance, Mr. Isaacson focused a chapter on the development of the Macintosh in the early-1980s, then in the next chapter jumped back to cover Mr. Jobs’s personal life over that same period. That approach created an intimate portrait of specific eras, from specific perspectives, but the mechanism was a bit hard to follow at times, since events wasn’t always unfolding in a directly linear fashion. In reflecting back on the book, I took a more linear approach, hoping to tie together the professional and personal events in Mr. Jobs’s life.
This area of Mr. Jobs’s life was the most ambiguous to me and Mr. Isaacson delivered many details. There were vivid mentions of walks with Mr. Jobs through the neighborhood that he grew up in. He’d been born to a woman from Wisconsin and her Syrian boyfriend, who she’d wished to marry but couldn’t, due to the protests of her family. After getting pregnant, Mr. Jobs’s mother decided to keep the child and put him up for adoption, insisting that certain stipulations, such as a college education, be agreed to by the adoptive parents.
Mr. Jobs would later re-connect with his mother and a biological sister – the author Mona Simpson – but never formally reunited with his father. Despite later somewhat-abandoning his own first child for a few years, Mr. Jobs appeared to be very angry with his biological father for initially fleeing the responsibility of raising him. In a bizarre twist, Mr. Jobs would later meet his father when that man was running a restaurant in Silicon Valley, but neither knew of their connection at the time. When they did learn about one another’s identities, near the end of Mr. Jobs’s life, Mr. Jobs did not respond to his father’s requests to reunite.
As it was, Steve Jobs seemed very pleased with the people who raised him and he considered them to be his parents. Paul and Clara Jobs were unable to have a child and were that couple who adopted Steve. It was surprising to see how much of an influence Mr. Jobs’s adoptive father had on him. His father came from a machining background and also tinkered with mechanics on the side. He was a blue-collar man who learned how to fix things and that know-how rubbed off on Mr. Jobs. He was also a craftsman and his perfectionism clearly influenced the young Mr. Jobs. Most telling was his attention to the details that others would never see – like the back of a piece of furniture. His argument was that the creator of the object would know if certain elements were less-than-perfect and that was reason enough to demand complete perfection. Mr. Jobs would clearly follow that advice in designing Apple’s later products, many of which featured artistic touches that most never saw inside their sealed cases.
A discussion of Mr. Jobs’s spiritual side was woven throughout the entire book. His experience with religion appeared to begin within the Christian Lutheran church, which he attended with his parents until age thirteen. His pastor at the time wasn’t able to respond to Mr. Jobs’s satisfaction when confronted with a Life magazine cover showing starving children. Mr. Jobs had a hard time reconciling Christianity with the idea that God could allow some people to starve. He also said that he wished that Christians would “…live more like Jesus, focus less on faith.” If anything, I felt that Mr. Jobs’s beliefs at the end of his life would have been considered more ‘universalist,’ with him believing in some manner of an afterlife, describing it as house that had many doors to get inside. He seemed to waffle on taking any hard religious stances in Mr. Isaacson’s interviews though.
Coming out of his childhood, it should be noted that, aside from his father, Mr. Jobs’s life would be greatly impacted by the mentor-ship of his neighbor Larry Lang and his teenage relationship with Steve ‘Woz’ Wozniak. Mr. Jobs learned about basic electronics from Mr. Lang, who was an engineer at Hewlett-Packard. Oddly enough, Mr. Jobs also had a brief run-in with Bill Hewlett, one of the founders of Hewlett-Packard. After calling Mr. Hewlett at home – his phone number was in the local phone book – and asking for the parts for a frequency counter, Mr. Hewlett obliged.
Despite his harshness towards many people, Mr. Jobs did have a noted respect for Woz, who was actually a few years older than Mr. Jobs. The only rough patch in their relationship seemed to occur in the mid-1980s after Woz left Apple and worked on a remote control device that Mr. Jobs felt borrowed certain design ideas from Apple. Woz didn’t hold a grudge though and the relationship between the men stayed intact.
In their early days as teen friends, neither Mr. Jobs nor Woz would have found their eventual level of success without the other. While it is true that Mr. Jobs didn’t have the same genius for creating early computers as Woz, his contributions to the successful launch of Apple Computer were obvious. Mr. Jobs brought the business mind to the partnership that Woz simply didn’t have. Woz surely would have created the Apple I without Steve Jobs, but he wouldn’t have capitalized on it in the same way that Mr. Jobs ended up doing for both of their benefit.
The Apple II was a massive success, bringing the innovations of the Apple I to the mainstream. Most who were children in schools in the 1980s surely remembered learning on Apple II computers. It was the first real computer for the masses and gave Apple the capital to think bigger.
I was surprised to learn how early Apple was working on graphical interfaces for their computers, as Mr. Jobs made his now-legendary December 1979 tour of the Xerox Parc facility. It was on that trip and later visits that he would see the proof of concept graphical user interfaces that Xerox had developed. Apple would license that work and, over the next four years, develop a more consumer-friendly operating system.
That work would first lead to the buggy and often forgotten business-focused Lisa and, eventually, the Mac in 1984. Mr. Jobs had worked on the Lisa project – not-so-secretly named for his new daughter Lisa, whom he was denying paternity of at the time. However, he was eventually kicked over to the Mac project. Mr. Jobs’s removal from the Lisa project led to compromises by management that allowed it to still ship, even though it was buggy. In turn, Mr. Jobs took on the Mac project with an intra-company competitive spirit. While the Mac looked like a doomed project and its initial sales weren’t as good as many assume today, the resulting product set in motion the graphical user interface being a standard on home computers.
The Mac project also seemed to cement certain perceptions of Mr. Jobs, from his perfectionism to his temper. He was also an incredibly good motivator of those whom he managed. In one instance, he thought that the Mac was taking too much time to initially boot up and calculated how many minutes the average user was wasting per day during its wait time. After scaling that time over thousands of users and several years, he calculated how many equivalent minutes were being wasted in a human’s lifespan. In essence, he was able to inspire an engineer to literally ‘save lives’ by reducing the boot time by a number of seconds.
As legendary as the 1984 Super Bowl advertisement for the Macintosh was for Apple, it almost didn’t happen. Executives inside Apple thought that the commercial was a fiasco and didn’t want it to be aired. One executive even put his head down on a conference table in disgust after viewing it. Mr. Jobs had his supporters for the ad though, with Woz so enamored by it that he’d offered to pay for the airing himself. In the end, Apple’s ad agency went rogue and, despite orders to sell the pre-purchased Super Bowl time block, went ahead with the ad as planned. Finally, Apple executives gave up and allowed the ad to air.
During this period, Mr. Jobs became extra-ordinarily wealthy. He was worth several hundred million dollars in the mid-1980s and was still in his 20s. Not forgetting his parents, Mr. Jobs’ biggest gift was a $750,000 stock grant to his adoptive parents. They used the money from selling the stock to live a comfortable, but modest life.
That modesty was a trait that Mr. Jobs would share in later life. He lived in a bare-bones mansion as a young man and seemed to be acutely aware of the ways in which many of his wealthy peers wasted their money. While he did purchase flashy automobiles, he chose to drive them himself.
Mr. Isaacson’s portrayal of the recruitment of former Pepsi CEO John Sculley to lead Apple in the mid-1980s was simply bizarre. That courtship, which lasted for months, was described as a ‘romance’ between two men who seemed to be fascinated with one another. After Mr. Sculley took the job though, his relationship with Mr. Jobs seemed to rapidly deteriorate. Mr. Jobs had looked for Mr. Sculley to be a sort of marketing mentor to him and, at some point, started to view Mr. Sculley as a less-ideal mentor than he’d originally thought. Sculley went from being a genius to a fool in Mr. Jobs’s mind.
When Mr. Jobs was forced out of Apple – with the board choosing to keep Mr. Sculley in place as CEO – a new chapter began in Mr. Jobs’s life. Ross Perot was a heavy investor in Mr. Jobs’s next venture, the high-end computer workstation firm NeXT. Mr. Isaacson points out that Mr. Perot had what seemed to be a sort of ‘delusional’ relationship with Mr. Jobs, similar to what Mr. Sculley had had with him. Both Mr. Perot and Mr. Sculley had a notion that Mr. Jobs was like them in their younger years and both wanted to associate with him for those reasons. Of course, neither man was really like Mr. Jobs.
While NeXT floundered through years of mediocre results, Mr. Jobs also spend time on the computer animation firm Pixar, pouring $50 million into it after buying the firm from George Lucas. While Pixar won awards and attention for its short films, it wasn’t much for than a cash drain for a number of years.
During this period, spanning the mid-1980s until the mid-1990s, nothing seemed to be going right in Mr. Jobs’s professional life.
In The Wilderness
Mr. Jobs’s personal life seemed to do some catching up during this period. He was in his mid-thirties by this point and this was when he both sought to learn about his biological parents and also settled formally into becoming a parent himself. In finding his mother, Mr. Isaacson quoted Mr. Jobs as stating that: “I wanted to meet my biological mother mostly to see if she was okay and to thank her, because I’m glad I didn’t end up as an abortion.”
Stanford MBA student Laurene Powell’s courtship with Mr. Jobs had a bit of dispute to it, with some painting her as an opportunist, but it seems that she and Mr. Jobs had a genuine love and their relationship a good balance to it. Miss Powell became pregnant with their son Reed before the couple married and they had a number of breakups over a couple of year period in the early 1990s. It was noted by Mr. Isaacson that in Mr. Jobs’s black and white world, where people were either geniuses or bozos, figuring out a romantic relationship was difficult. Mr. Jobs eventually sorted things out with Miss Powell though and got engaged.
Mr. Jobs’s bachelor party was a low-key affair, as he spent an evening with friends Avie Tevanian and Richard Crandall. None of them were really drinkers, but Mr. Jobs apparently sipped on a shot of tequila and they managed to fill the night rolling around San Francisco in a limo.
While Mr. Job’s father doesn’t appear much in references to Steve Jobs’s adult life, mention of him popped up again in relating Mr. Jobs’s wedding to Ms. Powell. Mr. Jobs referred to his father as a “great man” and, when Mr. Isaacson suggests that has father would have been proud of him, Mr. Jobs corrected Mr. Isaacson by stating, “He was proud of me.”
Pixar had a major hit in November 1995 with “Toy Story” and that success signaled the return of Steve Jobs to being a media darling. Despite NeXT never really catching on and being a hit for Mr. Jobs, he was ‘back.’
Back at Apple, things were looking quite dire. Gil Amelio was the new CEO, after John Sculley had been pushed out in 1993. Amelio had previously been CEO of National Semiconductor, but he didn’t know quite what to do with Apple. He made an odd analogy to reporter Gina Smith regarding Apple being a treasure-filled boat with a hole in it. His plan was to get people to row in the same direction, but Ms. Smith pointed out that that plan wouldn’t fix the problem of the metaphorical boat’s hole.
Soon after Amelio took over at Apple, Mr. Jobs was on vacation at his favorite spot on Earth: Kona Village in Hawaii. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison was there as well and Mr. Jobs told Mr. Ellison about his plan to get Apple to buy NeXT. Mr. Jobs felt that he would be able to get a seat on the Apple board of directors and then be standing by for the CEO job. Mr. Ellison didn’t agree with the plan, since he didn’t think that it would maximize the potential for making money off of an Apple turnaround. Hilariously, Mr. Jobs told Mr. Ellison. “Larry, this is why it’s really important that I’m your friend. You don’t need any more money.”
Negotiations for Apple to buy NeXT started in November 1996, with the sale completed in February of 1997. Mr. Jobs pushed Amelio out of Apple and was the CEO by July of 1997.
With the return of Mr. Jobs to Apple underway, Mr. Jobs was already thinking of ways to beat Microsoft. At the time, in the mid-1990s, Microsoft was the most powerful computer firm in the world, having just launched Windows 95. Unfortunately for Microsoft, they grew too powerful and ran into anti-trust violations, which tied them up in court for years. That litigation led to bad publicity and hefty fines. When the litigation began, Mr. Jobs met with the lead prosecutor, Joel Klein, and asked him to tie up Microsoft for as long as possible. In doing so, Mr. Jobs hoped to catch up with them.
The real breakthrough with Apple’s public image, after Mr. Jobs became CEO, was the “Think Different” campaign. That campaign created with the help of Lee Clow, the advertising genius who had been part of Mr. Jobs’s first tenure at Apple.
The iconic “Think Different” commercial featured a playful, yet weighty narration over images of some of history’s greatest ‘thinkers.’ Mr. Jobs did the original narration and only changed his mind at the last minute to have Richard Dreyfuss perform the final broadcast narration.
Behind-the-scenes at Apple, Mr. Jobs greatly streamlined the product output, so that Apple could bring more focus to the product lines. He restructured Apple to have both a “Consumer” and “Pro” track of focus and, within those two categories either “desktop” and “portable” model computers. The goal was to produce exceptional products for each of the four resulting focus areas – “Consumer Desktops” “Consumer Portable Computers” and “Professional Desktops” and “Professional Portable Computers.”
The renewed focus on design excellence was cemented not only by Mr. Jobs but also through the recruitment of Jony Ive, a young designer from the U.K., who would become the head of industrial design for Apple and be Mr. Jobs’s right-hand man for over a decade. They lunched together nearly every day and Mr. Jobs was known on many afternoons to wander around the top secret studio that Ive had on Apple’s campus. In later years, Ive would make statements in which he expressed being upset that his contributions toward Apple’s design strengths were often slighted in favor of Mr. Jobs. That said, the men never had a falling out and continued to work together until Mr. Jobs’s death.
Apple got back on track in the late-1990s with the release of new computers, such as the iMac, but the iPod was what really kicked off Apple’s meteoric rise as a company. Launched in October 2001, the iPod took a couple of years of further refinement and changes in the music industry until it really took off. Its momentum only continued to build and build.
The real genius of the iPod’s success was in how Mr. Jobs was able to rally together the major record labels into offering their songs for sale as singles, rather than albums, all on the iTunes software. iTunes gave consumers an easy way to find and purchase music, while also easily sending that music to their iPod personal device. At the time, the music industry had been decimated by piracy fears and Mr. Jobs promised them that iTunes would help reign in that crisis.
While iTunes did help to prevent some music piracy and helped stabilize the music industry, one could argue that Apple eventually grabbed more than a small share of the record companies’ revenue. Apple made money in several ways, from taking a cut of the iTunes music sales to making money on each iPod that was sold. After the music companies realized the breadth of Apple’s revenue streams, they tried to re-negotiate for a cut of iPod sales, arguing that it was their music that was propelling those sales. Of course, this was true in some ways, but Pandora’s box had already been opened. Apple would later have difficult negotiations with film and television studios over iTunes video offerings, given the perception that developed regarding Apple having taken advantage of the music companies.
The oddest rivalry of all with the iPod was between Apple and Sony, in that Sony should have been the company that had come up with the breakthrough music player. Sony had consumer electronic, computer, and music production divisions; they could not get their divisions to work together towards a common goal. As a result, Sony gave up their longstanding domination of portable music players to Apple. In contrast, Apple didn’t organize itself into autonomous divisions, so there was never the same rivalry between businesses within the company and it was easier for Apple to be cohesive in its fast changes.
During those first couple of years of the iPod though, things weren’t always smooth with the music industry’s transition into the online realm. There was a misunderstanding by Disney’s CEO Michael Eisner regarding common computer audio terms like ‘ripping a CD,’ which he assumed to somehow be an insult regarding ripping off a music company. Many of the music industry companies that signed on to iTunes did so with the assumption that the iPod wouldn’t be more than a niche success – an opinion validated by academics like Clayton Christensen at Harvard Business School. Yet, the music industry’s continual efforts to devise subscription models never took off and iTunes’ domination only grew as the years that passed.
The success of the iPod would later lead to the quantum leap forward that was the touch screen on the iPhone. Interestingly, the iPad was originally meant to debut before the iPhone, but Apple went ahead with the iPhone first after realizing that it could help them quickly make an impact in the mobile telephone market.
Despite so much later success, the aggressiveness and temperament that Mr. Jobs had in his early years at Apple never seemed to disappear. After the MobileMe product had a number of missteps, Mr. Jobs fired the project leader in front of the entire team. Mr. Jobs was also known to be very impatient with anyone who brought PowerPoint presentations to him, as such references made him wonder if the person really knew what they were talking about. He, instead, preferred to simply have a conversation in which he would ask rapid questions and expect rapid responses.
With the launch of the iPad, Mr. Jobs looked ahead to the impact that tablets would have on the educational system in the United States. He had strong opinions regarding the problems with the existing public education system – opinions that were not all that different from Bill Gates, who has led a similar call for reforms. Mr. Jobs felt that tablets, such as the iPad, within education would provide more consistent, easy, and equal access to a wide variety of learning materials.
The influence of Apple also led to Mr. Jobs playing a role in other political discussions within the United States. He supported Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, but would later tell Mr. Obama that he was headed for a one-term presidency if he didn’t make the country more business friendly. Mr. Obama was apparently taken aback by Mr. Jobs asserting why regulation and unnecessary costs in the United States made it significantly easier for Applet to build a factory in China.
The last public appearance that I saw of Mr. Jobs was his speech to the Cupertino city council on June 7, 2011. He came to present Apple’s request to build a massive wheel-like campus that had been designed by the architectural firm of Sir Norman Foster. During the speech, Mr. Jobs talked about growing up in the area and giving back to Cupertino. At the same time, he seemed to be looking ahead, putting into motion what would be the next chapter in Apple’s corporate story.
Arguably, the defining ‘celebrity’ friendship of Mr. Jobs’s life was with Bill Gates. While Mr. Gates didn’t seem to be particularly close to Mr. Jobs, they were one another’s primary rivals for over three decades and had more than a casual relationship.
A debate existed during the length of their friendship about system design. Mr. Jobs argued that it was best for a company to function like Apple and to control every facet of the system, from the hardware production to the software that runs on the machine. Mr. Gates, as was seen in Microsoft’s strategy, was more interested in creating software that ran on a wide variety of hardware platforms. Late in Mr. Jobs’ life, Mr. Gates would admit that both systems were workable, but he continued to feel that a company needed to have a Steve Jobs at the helm in order to make an integrated strategy work.
On a personal level, Mr. Gates was shocked upon first visiting Mr. Jobs’s 5,000 square foot home. At the time, Gates had just completed a 66,000 square foot home for his family. In contrast, Mr. Jobs had neither security staff nor any live-in servants, with his wife essentially running the home, albeit with a hired chef. Mr. Jobs was even known to keep the back door of the home unlocked.
Mr. Isaacson related Mr. Gates’s last visit with Mr. Jobs, whereby Gates came in the back gate and through the open kitchen door. He was referred to the living room by Mr. Jobs’s daughter Eve and the pair had a long discussion about their lives. Poignantly, Mr. Jobs was struck by how Mr. Gates looked so healthy at a time when Mr. Jobs was clearly succumbing to cancer.
Of course, Mr. Jobs had many other friends. Despite his harsh behavior towards many of those in his life, he did manage to retain some friends that dated back to the early years of Apple. In particular, Steve Wozniak never completely left Mr. Jobs’s life. Even if Woz had not been a part of Apple’s daily operations for nearly three decades and, despite some hurt feelings at times, he and Mr. Jobs still remained in touch. Interestingly, Wozniak was never in favor of the ‘integrated’ model for system design that Mr. Jobs pushed for, but he would later revise his philosophy and admit that it wasn’t a surprise that Apple was the company that made that model work.
Oddly enough, late in life, Rupert Murdoch and Mr. Jobs hit it off well enough that Mr. Murdoch had dinner at the Jobs home a couple of times. Mr. Isaacson pointed out that Mr. Jobs joked that he had to hide the dinner knives on such occasions, because he was afraid that his liberal wife might not be able to be trusted around them and Mr. Murdoch
Larry Ellison was also a fixture of Mr. Jobs’s life. Mr. Ellison, like Mr. Gates, led a more financially flamboyant life than Mr. Jobs. Mr. Job’s son Reed, seemingly oblivious to his own father’s wealth, apparently started referring to Mr. Ellison as “our rich friend.”
One of the most interesting things that Mr. Isaacson’s book presented was how Mr. Jobs related to his children. While his relationship with his daughter Lisa was hot and cold over the years, the pair seemed to reconcile in some fashion just before Mr. Jobs died. One could hardly blame Lisa for holding a grudge, given Mr. Jobs’s denials for several years in the early-1980s regarding his paternity of her.
Mr. Jobs’s relationship with his other children seemed much more traditional. With Ms. Powell, he had three children – Reed, Erin, and Eve.
Mr. Jobs would lament to Mr. Isaacson that Reed didn’t understand the music that he loved, but Reed still seemed to be exceptionally close to his father. Besides bearing a shocking resemblance to a young Steve Jobs, Reed also showed a strong aptitude, enrolling at Stanford after graduating from high school. When the iPhone 4 had issues with its antennae, Reed had the privilege of accompanying and observing his father’s handling of that crisis. Mr. Jobs would later get ‘misty-eyed’ while describing how Reed was able to see how he worked.
A tradition that Mr. Jobs started with Reed was going on a personal trip with one of his children and he continued that tradition with Erin, whom he took to Japan. Mr. Jobs seemed to be a bit more neglectful of both Erin and Eve, but they found ways to get his attention. All of the children made a point of taking Mr. Isaacson aside and expressing to him how they understood the importance of their father’s position in the world and they assured Mr. Isaacson that Mr. Jobs had been a good father.
To his credit, Mr. Jobs would refer to his children as his finest creation.
After he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Mr. Jobs apparently felt that a breakthrough in the treatment of cancer was truly around the corner for humankind. That said, he admitted that he was fearful that he might not last long enough to see such breakthroughs arrive.
Most admit that it is hard to predict how differently things might have turned out for Mr. Jobs, had he not spend several months after his diagnosis trying to cleanse his body with a natural cancer treatment regiment. He didn’t want to have an invasive surgery to remove the cancer. Of course, it might be easy to say in hindsight that his delay in seeking treatment doomed him, but Mr. Isaacson pointed out doctors who admitted that it might not have mattered. It is simply unknown if the cancer had started to spread before it was discovered.
The announcement of Mr. Jobs’s 2011 medical leave seemed to alert the world that things were not going well for him and it prompted friends to make a pilgrimage to his home. Famous figures from Bill Clinton to Mark Zuckerberg came to visit. Those visitors found Mr. Jobs to be in an obviously-declined state of health. Mr. Zuckerberg, in particular, sweated profusely during his visit due to the high temperatures that Mr. Jobs kept his home at. At the time, Mr. Jobs’s illness caused him to have severe chills.
As previously mentioned, Mr. Gates was one of the few friends allowed to visit Mr. Jobs near the end of his life. In fact, Mr. Jobs’s wife contacted Mr. Gates after the publication of Mr. Isaacson’s book and apologized on behalf of some of its characterizations of the relationship between the two men. She also revealed that a letter that Gates had sent had remained by Mr. Jobs’s bed until his death. (Riddell, 2012)
Mr. Isaacson’s book went to press before Mr. Jobs’s sister Mona Simpson’s eulogy for her brother was published. In that eulogy, she revealed that the final words of Steve Jobs were:
“Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” (Simpson, 2011)
What could that have meant? Were they the rambling of a man whose body was simply failing him or did Mr. Jobs catch his first glimpse of something that was beyond this mortal life?
A team took over at Apple in place of Mr. Jobs, with Tim Cook as the new CEO and Mr. Ives as Apple’s design head. They replaced facets of the role left behind by Mr. Jobs, but there was not a single person who emerged with all of his characteristics to lead Apple.
It is hard to say what will happen to Apple as a company over the next few years. In the short-term, their success is assured, as Mr. Jobs’s influence will still be present on products that will come out in the next couple of years. Apple is also flush with a massive ‘war chest’ of cash and can buy its way into success down the road. That said, those at Apple will need to work hard in order to prove that the company’s success can continue and that it hasn’t already peaked as a company. At the time of Mr. Jobs’s death, Apple was the most valuable company in the world – how could any company rise higher than that?
Mr. Isaacson did not shy away from presenting both the good and bad sides to Mr. Jobs. Mr. Jobs was not a perfect person and his rigid personality led to him making many mistakes. Yet, Mr. Isaacson insisted that Mr. Jobs knew when he was hurting people, so he wasn’t completely devoid of emotional awareness. In fact, one of his greatest strengths was to be able to size people up and understand what would motivate them – both positively and negatively.
The constant push by Mr. Jobs for one unified system of hardware and software, all controlled by Apple, was what enabled him to give consumers a simplicity in technology that so many observers and customers admired. As Mr. Gates begrudgingly admitted, such a system could work, particularly if it had someone as rigidly focused as Mr. Jobs in charge of it.
Mr. Isaacson may be quite right that Steve Jobs will go down as the greatest business executive of his era. It is hard to think of anyone else – short of Mr. Gates – as being remembered for so defining the early decades of the personal computer movement. Unlike Mr. Gates though, Mr. Jobs had two amazing phases to his career and stayed in the thick of things for nearly a decade longer. Just as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford defined their own movements in business, it is likely that Mr. Jobs will be considered as having put the same stamp on his time.