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Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson • history of Apple • best biographies

Book cover of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson - history of Apple

The biography of Steve Jobs presents an outstanding history of Apple company, but first of all let me tell you a story from this week. Someone asked me – “Why do you read so many biographies? They are all about the same. What do you get from that (in practice)?” I told the person that, although they represent the same genre, luckily, based on my experience, they are completely different. Naturally, there is a common denominator such as inspiration, experience, knowledge of some particular company or industry, but each of these elements have their own individual characteristics. You can’t say that if you have read a book about the car industry you might guess how the film industry or the tech industry works. In addition, you can’t say that deep knowledge of a particular biography gives you a universal pattern, otherwise, we all should be successful.

I have to admit that I’ve never been a fan of Apple. I’m not such a tech geek and, maybe more significant, this brand’s too expensive for me. However, this book was a real mind opener when it comes to tech ideology and all that vouge for apple. By reading the book I had a great opportunity to deep dive into its two major elements.

First, the whole timeline depicting how each Apple product and service was delivered (except Pixar). What mindset was necessary to create one of the most valuable companies in the world. How to master at putting together ideas, art, and technology in ways that invented the future.

So I’m giving just a short briefing:

  • The first Macintosh with a mouse and a graphic interface. BTW the solution was taken from Xerox and it has started the first big quarrel with Bill Gates, who wanted to use this technology in Windows. When Steve got to know that Microsoft was going to use the same idea Bill said “Well, Steve, I think there’s more than one way of looking at it. I think it’s more like we both had this rich neighbour named Xerox and I broke into his house to steal the TV set, and found out that you had already stolen it”. That’s hilarious and so witty.
  • Next, boom, Pixar which opened the world of 3d imagination and revolutionised the whole film industry.
  • Then, the iPod which gave a unique opportunity of having a thousand songs in your pocket in a way that’s Sony, which had all the assets and heritage, never could accomplish.
  • The Apple store which reinvented the definition of a store and its role for a brand.
  • The iTunes Store – a virtual shop that allows users to download songs directly onto their computer and which has saved the music industry already demolished by piracy.
  • The iPhone which reinvented mobile phones into music, photography, video, email and web devices. Someone might say, what’s a big deal here? Now, every mobile phone has a big, touchscreen. At that time, when the iPhone was introduced, we didn’t have that. Anyway, the idea of getting rid of the keyboard was brilliant in a way that I’ve never thought. It allows customising a keyboard to match with an app requirement. It would be a way harder to achieve such an ergonomics by using a keyboard.  I thought it was about the design and the screen clarity. In addition, the iPhone gave us proximity sensors which turn a mobile off when we hold it next to our ear, an ambient light sensor or an accelerometer which switches a screen from portrait to landscape.
  • The App Store, which spawned a new content creation industry.

All the aforementioned products do not exhaust the subject, they are, in my opinion, the most important ones.

So, as I said, the first element in a book was the storyline and tech knowledge. The second one was a story of the company and its corporate life, especially, when Steve was forced to leave the company and when he came back. It was so interesting to get to know what people were saying during these moments, how they behaved, and how Steve Jobs has walked through all of that. The book literally cites discussions, disputes, phone calls etc. And this is, what I would call, a real experience. Normally, we get a cloud of assumptions and outcomes.

When I was starting the book I had an assumption, the book will celebrate Steve Jobs and the history of Apple, regardless I had heard that he was a bully jerk. Fortunately, the book proves it was right, but also it tells why he operated this way. When you want to deliver perfection, you have to be straight, honest and brutal versus mediocrity or deviation. When you know that you are right, and he knew that, you can’t accept defections even if that means firing unsuited people.

The last thing, which I’d like to cite, is about marketing. Actually it’s more about Ford, but anyway, the sentence was used in the book so I’d like to share it. “Some (marketing) people say ”give people what they want”. As Ford once said, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me that they need a faster horse.” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.” I thought about the first sentence in a selfish business way but I was wrong.

Steve Jobs
by Walter Isaacson

Final rating:

Interesting story
Complexity of ideas
Flourish language

Book details:

Size: 656 pages
Published: 2011


Other information and reviews of this book on Goodreads:

Other useful links:
Great page about Steve Jobs:
Steve Jobs on Wikipedia:
Apple website:
Pixar Website:
Other great biographies: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight and Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

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