Author: Walter Isaacson
Release: October 24, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Biography, Business, Computers, Technology, History
Synopsis: Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years—as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues—Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.
Declassified by Agent Palmer: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson: A Biography of the Man from the Intersection of Humanities and Sciences
Quotes and Lines
“I always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but I liked electronics,” he said. “Then I read something that one of my heroes, Edwin Land of Polaroid said about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.” – Steve Jobs
Both of his parents, he added, “knew the school was at fault for trying to make me memorize stupid stuff rather than stimulating me.” – Steve Jobs
“I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.” – Steve Jobs
“If it hadn’t been for the Blue Boxes, there wouldn’t have been an Apple,” Jobs later reflected. “I’m 100% sure of that. Woz and I learned how to work together, and we gained the confidence that we could solve technical problems and actually put something into production.”
“He was an enlightened being who was cruel,” she recalled. – Chrisann Brennan
“The thing that struck me was his intensity. Whatever he was interested in he would generally carry to an irrational extreme.” – Robert Friedland
“Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important–creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could.” – Steve Jobs
Bushnell agreed. “There is something indefinable in an entrepreneur, and I saw that in Steve,” he said. “He was interested not just in engineering, but also the business aspects. I taught him that if you act like you can do something, then it will work. I told him, ‘Pretend to be completely in control and people will assume that you are.’” – Nolan Bushnell
This fusion of flower power and processor power, enlightenment and technology, was embodied by Steve Jobs as he meditated in the mornings, audited physics classes at Stanford, worked nights at Atari, and dreamed of starting his own business.
“The people who invented the twenty-first century were pot-smoking, sandal-wearing hippies from the West Coast like Steve, because they saw differently,” he said. “The hierarchical systems of the East Coast, England, Germany, and Japan do not encourage this different thinking. The sixties produced an anarchic mind-set that is great for imagining a world not yet in existence.” – Bono
“A realm of intimate, personal power is developing–power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested. Tools that aid this process are sought and promoted by the Whole Earth Catalog.” – Stewart Brand
“He could be very engaged with you in one moment, but then very disengaged. There was a side to him that was frighteningly cold.“ – Greg Calhoun
“Because I didn’t know it couldn’t be done, I was enabled to do it.” – Bill Atkinson
“His design sensibility is sleek but not slick, and it’s playful. He embraced minimalism, which came from his Zen devotion to simplicity, but he avoided allowing that to make his products cold. They stayed fun. He’s passionate and super-serious about design, but at the same time there’s a sense of play.” – Maya Lin
“Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?” – Steve Jobs
As Hoffman later lamented, “The reality distortion field can serve as a spur, but then reality itself hits.” – Hoffman
“He believed that great harvests came from arid sources, pleasure from restraint,” she noted. “He knew the equations that most people didn’t know: Things led to their opposites.” – Lisa Brennan
“Katzenberg and Jobs impressed me as a lot alike,” he recalled. ”Tyrants with an amazing gift of gab.” – Alvy Ray Smith
“Everyone thinks I’m a tyrant,” he told the Pixar team. “I am a tyrant. But I’m usually right.” – Katzenberg
Jobs wanted Apple “to become a wonderful consumer products company,” Sculley wrote. “This was a lunatic plan…. Apple would never be a consumer products company…. We couldn’t bend reality to all our dreams of changing the world…. High tech could not be designed and sold as a consumer product.”
Jobs was appalled, and he became angry and contemptuous as Sculley presided over a steady decline in market share for Apple in the early 1990s. “Sculley destroyed Apple by bringing in corrupt people and corrupt values,” Jobs later lamented. “They cared about making money—for themselves mainly, and also for Apple—rather than making great products.”
Two years earlier Macworld magazine columnist (and former Apple software evangelist) Guy Kawasaki had published a parody press release joking that Apple was buying NeXT and making Jobs its CEO. In the spoof Mike Markkula asked Jobs, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling UNIX with a sugarcoating, or change the world?” Jobs responded, “Because I’m now a father, I needed a steadier source of income.” The release noted that “because of his experience at Next, he is expected to bring a newfound sense of humility back to Apple.” It also quoted Bill Gates as saying there would now be more innovations from Jobs that Microsoft could copy. Everything in the press release was meant as a joke, of course. But reality has an odd habit of catching up with satire.
A dual legacy, actually: building innovative products and building a lasting company. He wanted to be in the pantheon with, indeed a notch above, people like Edwin Land, Bill Hewlett, and David Packard. And the best way to achieve all this was to return to Apple and reclaim his kingdom.
One of Jobs’s great strengths was knowing how to focus. “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do,” he said. “That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.” – Steve Jobs
Because he believed that Apple’s great advantage was its integration of the whole widget—from design to hardware to software to content—he wanted all departments at the company to work together in parallel.
“Plus, for Steve, less is always more, simpler is always better. Therefore, if you can build a glass box with fewer elements, it’s better, it’s simpler, and it’s at the forefront of technology. That’s where Steve likes to be, in both his products and his stores.” – Ron Johnson
…the iPod became the essence of everything Apple was destined to be: poetry connected to engineering, arts and creativity intersecting with technology, design that’s bold and simple.
“It was like the Wild West,” Morris recalled. “No one was selling digital music, and it was awash with piracy. Everything we tried at the record companies was a failure. The difference in skill sets between the music folks and technologists is just huge.” – Doug Morris
“See how simple it is?” he asked Iovine. “Your tech folks are never going to do this. There’s no one at the music companies who can make it simple enough.” – Steve Jobs
Jangling inside him were the contradictions of a counterculture rebel turned business entrepreneur, someone who wanted to believe that he had turned on and tuned in without having sold out and cashed in.
With his final slide, Jobs emphasized one of the themes of his life, which was embodied by the iPad: a sign showing the corner of Technology Street and Liberal Arts Street. “The reason Apple can create products like the iPad is that we’ve always tried to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts,” he concluded. The iPad was the digital reincarnation of the Whole Earth Catalog, the place where creativity met tools for living.
“The tough thing about writing about Apple products is that they come with a lot of hype wrapped around them,” Lev Grossman wrote in Time. “The other tough thing about writing about Apple products is that sometimes the hype is true.”
Newsweek’s cover line was “What’s So Great about the iPad? Everything.” Daniel Lyons, who had zapped it with his “Snooki” comment at the launch, revised his opinion. “My first thought, as I watched Jobs run through his demo, was that it seemed like no big deal,” he wrote. “It’s a bigger version of the iPod Touch, right? Then I got a chance to use an iPad, and it hit me: I want one.” Lyons, like others, realized that this was Jobs’s pet project, and it embodied all that he stood for. “He has an uncanny ability to cook up gadgets that we didn’t know we needed, but then suddenly can’t live without,” he wrote. “A closed system may be the only way to deliver the kind of techno-Zen experience that Apple has become known for.”
The iPad and other app-based digital devices heralded a fundamental shift in the digital world. Back in the 1980s, going online usually meant dialing into a service like AOL, CompuServe, or Prodigy that charged fees for access to a carefully curated walled garden filled with content plus some exit gates that allowed braver users access to the Internet at large. The second phase, beginning in the early 1990s, was the advent of browsers that allowed everyone to freely surf the Internet using the hypertext transfer protocols of the World Wide Web, which linked billions of sites. Search engines arose so that people could easily find the websites they wanted. The release of the iPad portended a new model. Apps resembled the walled gardens of old. The creators could charge fees and offer more functions to the users who downloaded them. But the rise of apps also meant that the openness and linked nature of the web were sacrificed. Apps were not as easily linked or searchable. Because the iPad allowed the use of both apps and web browsing, it was not at war with the web model. But it did offer an alternative, for both the consumers and the creators of content.
Al Gore also talked about the problem at board meetings. “The context for Apple is changing dramatically,” he recounted. “It’s not hammer-thrower against Big Brother. Now Apple’s big, and people see it as arrogant.” Jobs became defensive when the topic was raised. “He’s still adjusting to it,” said Gore. “He’s better at being the underdog than being a humble giant.”
“In a bravura demonstration of stonewalling, righteousness, and hurt sincerity, Steve Jobs successfully took to the stage the other day to deny the problem, dismiss the criticism, and spread the blame among other smartphone makers,” Michael Wolff of newser.com wrote. “This is a level of modern marketing, corporate spin, and crisis management about which you can only ask with stupefied incredulity and awe: How do they get away with it? Or, more accurately, how does he get away with it?” Wolff attributed it to Jobs’s mesmerizing effect as “the last charismatic individual.”
When our discussion turned to the sorry state of the economy and politics, he offered a few sharp opinions about the lack of strong leadership around the world. “I’m disappointed in Obama,” he said. “He’s having trouble leading because he’s reluctant to offend people or piss them off.” He caught what I was thinking and assented with a little smile: “Yes, that’s not a problem I ever had.”
The unified field theory that ties together Jobs’s personality and products begins with his most salient trait: his intensity.
He attributed his ability to focus and his love of simplicity to his Zen training. It honed his appreciation for intuition, showed him how to filter out anything that was distracting or unnecessary, and nurtured in him an aesthetic based on minimalism.
Was he smart? No, not exceptionally. Instead, he was a genius. His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected, and at times magical. He was, indeed, an example of what the mathematician Mark Kac called a magician genius, someone whose insights come out of the blue and require intuition more than mere mental processing power. Like a pathfinder, he could absorb information, sniff the winds, and sense what lay ahead.
Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!’” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.