Monday, March 23, 2015

The War Over Who Steve Jobs Was - by Steven Levy

Walter Isaacson’s official biography of Apple’s genius leader is being challenged by a new book supported by Jobs’s inner circle.

Link to article: The War Over Who Steve Jobs Was
Isaacson’s eponymous biography of Jobs became a publishing phenomenon, selling over a million copies and making Isaacson himself somewhat of a celebrity. But privately, those closest to Jobs complained that Isaacson’s portrait focused too heavily on the Apple CEO’s worst behavior, and failed to present a 360-degree view of the person they knew. Though the book Steve Jobs gave copious evidence of its subject’s talent and achievements, millions of readers finished the book believing that he could be described with a word that rhymes with “gas hole.” A public debate erupted around the question of whether having a toxic personality (as was the general interpretation of Isaacson’s depiction) was an asset or a handicap if one chose to thoroughly disrupt existing businesses with vision and imagination. A Wired cover story (not mine!) asked, “Do you really want to be Steve Jobs?” 
Only now, over three years later, has their dissatisfaction become public. In a February New Yorker profile, Apple’s design wizard Jony Ive conspicuously insisted that, while sometimes withering, Jobs’s harsh criticisms of his employees’ work were not personal attacks, but simply the result of impatient candor. As for Isaacson’s book, Ive was quoted as saying, “My regard couldn’t be any lower.” 
But their unhappiness comes in full view in a new book co-written by the journalist who left early from the memorial service, Brent Schlender, called Becoming Steve Jobs. The reason Schlender had been angry enough at Jobs to turn down a precious final meeting was that his former source had stopped giving him access for his Fortune Magazine stories. But for this book, Apple was rolling out the red carpet for Schlender. In their new tome, Schlender and co-author Rick Tetzeli capture the thoughts of the people closest to Jobs in rare interviews seemingly granted to get the record straight. The subjects include Ive, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Apple’s former head of communications Katie Cotton, Pixar CEO Ed Catmull, and Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs. Others who were otherwise uninclined to cooperate did so at the urging of some of the aforementioned insiders. The implicit message seems to be that although almost all of those people participated in the official biography, they very much feel that the Steve Jobs they knew has still not been captured. Catmull’s authorized quote about the new book is telling: “I hope it will be recognized as the definitive history.”

Related books:

Becoming Steve Jobs (or audiobook)

Steve Jobs - by Walter Isaacson (or audiobook)