Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Recently finished reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and found it to be a fascinating study of the man, his life and career.

Isaacson is an accomplished biography writer and the start of this book includes mention of how Jobs didn’t ask for any editorial control and convinced Issacson to write it so there would be an account of him done by someone trusted. The trade off for that which Jobs acknowledged was there would be some stories and details showing him in a negative light.

All in all, though, he comes across as a remarkable individual and some of the things noted by Isaacson that stood out as particularly interesting are noted below:

Differences between Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak - The two met while in high school and were draw to one another by shared interest in electronics as well high intellects. Where they diverged was both socially and in terms of motivations. Wozniak was a brilliant programmer while Jobs wasn't nearly as technical, but could both conceptualize and sell very well. Early on, the two developed technology that Wozniak would have given it away, but Jobs pushed for selling something he knew people would want. This initial successful partnership eventually led to the creation of Apple.

Non-traditional lifestyle choices and views of the world - Jobs at an early age because interested in LSD, fad diets and Eastern Spirituality and Zen Buddhism... to the point of leaving his job at Atari to go to India searching for enlightenment and a guru.

Almost immediate judgements made - Other people & their ideas would oft be decided by Jobs to be either great or horrible. This same hair-trigger determination could then be reversed at a moment's notice, at times with Jobs proposing as his own an idea previously rejected.

Favoring of open rather than closed systems - Jobs early on decided to not license the Macintosh operating system (different than Microsoft and their approach with Windows) and instead had hardware and software bundled together. This same closed system approach came out later on with development of the iTunes store, apps and Apple stores.

Championing of Design over Engineering - Jobs would seek for and identify great design and push for that in the products sold, oftentimes to the chagrin of engineers who would have to figure out how to make work the design. This was a topic throughout Jobs career and he talked about Apple products being "at the intersection of humanities and technology."

A respect for the creative - This manifested itself both in the appreciation of great design, focus on stellar advertising and actions taken while running Pixar. Jobs had respect for people who he viewed as truly creative and that led to him following the lead of John Lasseter and other Pixar creatives requesting money to make animated shorts. This work that was outside of Pixar's initial core hardware business eventually led to Toy Story being made... and started the company on the path to taking over leadership of Disney Animation.


All this said, Isaacson wrote an excellent biography of Steve Jobs and as previously stated, the book wasn't designed by Jobs to be his legacy, but perhaps he would want the famous June 2005 Stanford commencement speech to serve as such...