Steve Jobs: the Exclusive Biography
A life less ordinary
His story not history
Jobs relationships with other businessmen - almost all alternating between flattery and verbal brawling, is presented simply as Jobs' quest for father figures, even though it's clear that Jobs' adoptive father, Paul, who he considered to be just as much a father as if he had sired his son, remained a major influence on Jobs throughout his life.
Isaacson's relegation of the NeXT, interregnum years is understandable journalistically, but disappointing. Unlike Jobs' early life, the foundation of Apple and the development of the Mac, this is a period not well covered elsewhere, most notably by Jim Carlton's comprehensive 1997 tome, Apple. That book runs through to Jobs' return, and Isaacson takes up the story with equal focus.
Back in charge. Officially
To be fair, it's the period that is less well trodden by other Apple histories, and the one most familiar to readers who are not long-time watchers of the company, or those who've seen Pirates of Silicon Valley.
But if Isaacson treads over a lot of old ground, and provides little in the way of insight - and there's clearly not a lot to be had from a man whose life was so public and so well detailed already in the press - that doesn't make Steve Jobs an unengaging read. Isaacson is probably right: Jobs will be remembered, even if his legacy - a revived, triumphant Apple - proves unable to live up to the example he set.
Thomas Edison. Henry Ford. Steve Jobs?
Visionary? As Isaacson's work shows, products like the iPad and MacBook Air were actually devices Jobs wanted to make 30-odd years ago but was unable to because the underlying technologies weren't there. When technology finally caught up with Jobs' concepts, he turned them into reality. But crucially he could conceive of products like these at a time when computers, even Apple's, were big clunky boxes.
Love him or hate Jobs - a polarity typical of the man himself - there's no doubting the influence he has had on computing and other spheres. We'd never have had Toy Story and Pixar's other hits without him. The world is a better place for them if not for Apple's products.
Always in costume
And even those, frequently maligned as over-styled and over-priced, have changed the way computers are designed, made and sold. Windows wouldn't be Windows without the Mac OS, and participants in the open, collaborative world of Linux and open source wouldn't have had quite the drive they have without being able to kick against the walls Jobs believed it was necessary to erect around technology products.
Isaacson's biography may not bring any surprises, and may tell the fans nothing they didn't already know about Jobs from countless press reports and from his products, but there's no doubting Jobs' stature as one of computing's great characters. ®
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