Former WSJ Apple writer Yukari Iwatani Kane’s long-awaited book based on more than 200 interviews with current and former executives and insiders goes on sale today ($12.74 Amazon/$14.99 iBookstore/Free Audible Audiobook). We got an advance copy, and I enjoyed the first 85 pages or so of background including Steve Jobs’s transitioning the company during the last bout with his terminal cancer. This area included some interesting new tidbits (did you know Apple almost sold the original iPad for $399?).
The middle of the book meanders somewhat aimlessly into the big stories after Steve Jobs’s death, but spending way too much time on Foxconn, the Samsung trial, the DOJ ebooks trial and patent minutia. I frankly had a hard time staying involved in some of these chapters because it was like re-reading old news reports with little new information to keep me satiated.
However, over this period of the book, you start to get an idea of where the whole thing is going. Kane is clearly offended by Apple’s arrogance, and she’s not buying the same old marketing spin that Apple continues to employ after Jobs. When she talks about post-Steve Jobs events, the on-stage jokes are not funny to her (“painful”) and the ‘forced superlatives’ and jabs at the competition are deceptive and betray a deeper insecurity in her eyes. This carries over into Tim Cook’s media appearances including a so-called “disastrous” AllThingsD.
Sure Steve Jobs and company have been telling Redmond to “start their copiers” and making Longhorn gags since forever, but now the jokes and marketing no longer ring true – without someone with the credibility to deliver them, like Steve Jobs.
And that’s the general theme of the book. That Apple cannot be Apple after Steve Jobs. There must be a story arc here and after Steve Jobs, the company must go into decline. In fact, Kane actually says this in the epilogue (but perhaps it should have been in the prologue):
The book concludes exactly how it has been prepared to conclude (sorry, no surprise ending). Apple is in a free fall (increasing sales numbers notwithstanding). Employees are leaving for Google and other Valley startups as soon as their stocks vest, if they can wait that long. Behind the scenes, morale is low and people are scrambling to find that lost sense of purpose. There is no room to believe that Apple could, in fact, have “its most innovative years in front of it”, to use Steve Jobs’s resignation words.
All of that said, I didn’t hate this book like a lot of other Apple reviewers did. I believe it is good for folks like us who often bathe ourselves in pro-Apple news and opinion to get an alternate reality that perhaps the mainstream sees more often in the 24-hour news/entertainment cycle. There were some interesting bits and, if nothing else, Kane’s view of Apple is somehow both cautionary and entertaining.