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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Steve Jobs by Water Isaacson, 2011, * * * *

Steve Jobs asked Walter Isaacson, a former Managing Editor at Time Magazine, former Chairman and CEO of CNN and a biographer of Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin to write his autobiography while he was still alive. Mr. Jobs, the brilliant and protean creator whose inventions so utterly transformed the allure of technology, turned lessons he learned from his father about "doing things right"" into an all-purpose theory of intelligent design. Mr. Jobs, who founded Apple with Stephen Wozniak in 1976, began his career as a seemingly contradictory blend of hippie truth seeker" and" tech-savvy hothead." Based on more than 40 interviews with Jobs as well as with friends, family, adversaries, competitors and colleagues, Isaacson has created a 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.  The book takes us to a time when laptops, desktops and windows were metaphors, not everyday realities and describes how each of the Apple innovations that we now take for granted,  first occurred to Mr. Jobs or his creative team. At a time when America is seeking ways to sustain its innovative edge, and when societies around the world are trying to build digital-age economies, Jobs stands as the ultimate icon of inventiveness and applied imagination. Skeptic after skeptic made the mistake of underrating Steve Jobs saying "Sorry, Steve, Here's Why Apple Stores Won't Work" which Business Week wrote in 2001 or "The iPod Will Likely Become a Niche Product" as stated by a Harvard Business School professor. Steve Jobs had the last laugh each and every time.  Driven by demons, Jobs could drive those around him to fury and despair but his personality and products were interrelated, just as Apple's hardware and software tended to be. His story is instructive and cautionary, filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership and values. Throughout the book Jobs is called rude, insensitive, mean, petulant, obnoxious, vengeful and a bully.  Few dispute his genius and most agree with the nasty adjectives used to describe him but he was also charismatic. He was often quoted as having a "reality distortion field" -- in his presence reality was malleable and he was able to convince anyone of almost anything.  Isaacson tells the story from the making of the first Apple computer to the Mac, the boardroom intrigues, NeXT computer, Pixar and the rebirth of Apple and the products he created in the past 10 years.  The book raises the question of what it took to make the world's most iconic brand -- it is the stuff of legends!

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