Review: ‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ depicts a late-maturing iCEO with a growing heart and softened edges

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Several years after Steve Jobs’ untimely death, journalists — particularly ones who previously interviewed or covered Jobs — are still combing their archives for underreported facts or quotes that might justify new books on Apple’s enigmatic CEO. Naturally, the overlap with earlier works is significant, as new authors repeatedly acknowledge leaning on Michael Moritz’s (Return to) The Little Kingdom and Owen Linzmayer’s Apple Confidential 2.0, among many others. But there’s still an opportunity to bring new details to light, which is why Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli’s Becoming Steve Jobs ($12+/Amazon, $13/iBookstore) exists. Over 400 pages in length, it aims primarily to set the record straight about one key facet of Jobs’ life — he was a better man at age 56 than he was at 21 — but includes enough interesting anecdotes about Apple and Jobs’ other pursuits to be worth reading.

Although Becoming Steve Jobs follows a mostly familiar storytelling arc, Schlender and Tetzeli’s strengths come from two sources: direct access to Jobs from the mid-1980’s until 2011, and interviews with major players conducted after Jobs’ death. While their quotes tend to be short and in service of the larger narrative, the list of participating heavy hitters is non-trivial: Laurene Powell Jobs represents the Jobs family, alongside current Apple executives Tim Cook, Jony Ive and Eddy Cue, ex-Apple executives Jon Rubinstein, Tony Fadell, Katie Cotton, Fred Anderson and Avie Tevanian, Jobs’ top ad men Regis McKenna and Lee Clow, Pixar’s Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, and Disney CEO Bob Iger. Given that access, it’s perhaps not a surprise that the book paints a largely sympathetic portrait, but the authors also gave participants room to speak candidly about how Jobs’ “sharp elbows” affected them personally and professionally…

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‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ on Apple, NeXT, and Pixar

Becoming Steve Jobs, the new biography of Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, will be officially released tomorrow by Crown Business/Penguin Random House, and is currently available as a pre-order from Amazon ($12+) and Apple’s iBookstore ($13). While some of the book’s material will be familiar to avid followers of Jobs and Apple, there are some interesting details inside about how Jobs’ companies Apple, NeXt, and Pixar interrelated.

On NeXT: The book notes that the computer industry changed during Microsoft’s leadership, shifting to an environment where companies — the largest buyers of computers — were seeking reliability and stability rather than innovation. According to the authors, NeXT’s key failure was that it successfully identified a real market for $3,000 workstation computers targeted at the higher-education market, but went so far beyond that price point — in some cases in pursuit of industrial design goals — that few actual customers existed for its product.

NeXT, which was headquartered in the same business park where Steve Jobs first saw Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and graphical user interface, came tantalizingly close to undermining Microsoft at a key point in its growth: IBM licensed the NeXTSTEP operating system for use in workstations, and might have used it to compete against Windows personal computers.

“But Steve… held up IBM for more money, leading to another round of protracted negotiations. He overplayed his hand. Cannavino stopped taking Steve’s calls and just abandoned the project, although there was never any real announcement that it was over. It was a minor disappointment for IBM, ending its ‘Plan B’ fantasy of creating a real alternative to Microsoft’s new Windows graphical operating system for PCs.”

And there’s more…

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‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ on how Steve evolved & the Buddhist notion of ‘Becoming’

Steve Jobs Fearless Genius

Becoming Steve Jobs, the new biography of Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, will be officially released tomorrow by Crown Business/Penguin Random House, and is currently available as a pre-order from Amazon ($20/print, $12/Kindle, $30/audiobook or free audiobook with Audible trial) and Apple’s iBookstore ($13). Bringing together years of personal interviews with Steve Jobs and his colleagues, the authors have assembled a substantial collection of insights about how Jobs evolved over time as a person and a leader.

One key focus of the book is reflected in the title: the Buddhist notion “that everything, and every individual, is ceaselessly in the process of” evolving — “becoming” — rather than static.

“[D]espite the fact that he could be almost unfathomably stubborn and opinionated at times, the man himself was constantly adapting, following his nose, learning, trying out new dimensions. He was constantly in the act of becoming.”

For this reason, the authors suggest that Jobs’s personality was misunderstood — at least during his second run at Apple — in part because he decided to cut most of his interaction with the press, except for structured discussions during new product launches. As such, the public picture of Jobs as an intemperate, immature young man wasn’t adequately updated to reflect his later maturity into the wiser and more effective leader who achieved Apple’s historic transformation…

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‘Becoming Steve Jobs’ on Jobs’s Personal Life, Friends, and Enemies

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Becoming Steve Jobs, the new biography of Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, will be officially released tomorrow by Crown Business/Penguin Random House, and is currently available as a pre-order from Amazon/iBooks. I’ve been reading an advance copy of the book, and it’s packed with interesting details — including some not previously known — about Jobs’ personal life, friends, and enemies.

For instance, Schlender and Tetzeli add color to some of the previously known defining moments in Jobs’ life, including the birth of his daughter Lisa and son Reed, and his marriage to Laurene Powell. The book notes that Jobs was not there for Lisa’s birth, which took place at the apple orchard that inspired his company’s name, and later appeared to regret that he’d made a mistake missing the major life event. He became a devoted family man after marrying Laurene — notably at Yosemite National Park — and made time most evenings to have dinner with his wife and kids, but continued to work late into the night from computers at his home. According to the book, Jobs laughed most deeply and often when interacting with his kids, and was there for Reed’s birth; the “hippie” couple even allowed the infant to sleep in bed with them at first…

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Upcoming biography reveals Steve Jobs turned down liver donation from Tim Cook, wanted to buy Yahoo, and more

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More details about the upcoming biography Becoming Steve Jobs have been revealed through the book’s preview on Amazon (which has since been cut down significantly), revealing several interesting tidbits about the Apple co-founder’s life that were previously unknown (via Cult of Mac).

One example is a story about an offer then-COO Tim Cook made to Jobs when the latter was battling cancer. Cook says that he discovered he shared a blood type with Jobs and decided to undergo numerous medical tests before offering to donate part of his liver to the executive.

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Biographer Walter Isaacson on the Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs

Walter Isaacson, author of the Steve Jobs biography, said in the past he omitted certain details and even referred to the book as a “first or second draft” when discussing plans to expand it with an addendum in a future re-release of the best-selling bio. While we have heard nothing official on those plans since, Isaacson just published a lengthy piece for Harvard Business Review titled “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs.”

As noted by Isaacson, he was inspired to write the piece after many attempted to draw management lessons from the biography that he claims, “fixate[s] too much on the rough edges” of Jobs’ personality. Most of the piece focuses on Jobs’ management style, but Isaacson also once again talked about the late chief’s desire to produce “magical tools for digital photography and ways to make television simple and personal.” Here is an excerpt:

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Steve Jobs nominated for Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year”; segments of lost interview shown

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Steve Jobs has been nominated for Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” by NBC’s “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams. If Steve Jobs were to receive the award, he would be the first person to receive it after their death. Mark Zuckerburg was 2010’s winner, who recently told reporters he was inspired by Steve Jobs while building Facebook. Brian Williams said in his nomination speech:

“One guy, who changed our world, and I said to Seth Meyers as we walked across Sixth Avenue, ‘Just look with me on this one block walk at how he changed the world around us. Look at how he changed the world.’ Not only did he change the world, but he gave us that spirit again that something was possible that you could look at a piece of plastic or glass and move your finger– that’s outlandish. You could make things bigger or smaller like that. ‘Oh the places you’ll go’ and oh the way you will change forever the music and television industries. So may he rest in peace, Steve Jobs, and the spirit he represents, are my nominee for Person of the Year.”

A video has also surfaced this evening (above) showing a segment of the never before seen interview of Steve Jobs by Robert Cringely. The interview is due out in theaters soon, but Cringely has revealed a few parts early.

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Early biography publication “not related to any decline” in Steve Jobs’s health (BONUS: front and back cover detailed)


Image courtesy of Simon & Schuster. Click for larger.

The official Steve Jobs biography, which is based on forty interviews and set for publication by Simon & Schuster November 21, sports the memorable front cover shot depicting Apple’s leader touching his guru-like beard, his eyes piercing intensely at the camera and eyebrows slightly lifted as if he is imagining Apple’s next big thing. That image, also found on Apple’s recently revamped PR website under the Apple Leadership section, is the Albert Watson portrait taken in 2009, author Walter Isaacson revealed in a private email exchange with Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt. The back cover?

The back is a Norman Seeff portrait of him in the lotus position holding the original Macintosh, which ran in Rolling Stone in January 1984. The title font is Helvetica. It will look as you see it, with no words on the back cover.

More important to Apple fans, the earlier than expected book launch – which had been originally pinpointed for March 6, 2012 – has nothing to do with the state of Steve Jobs’s health, Isaacson told Fortune’s Elmer-DeWitt. Apple’s boss has gone on an indefinite sick leave in January 2011, his third health-related leave of absence from the company he co-founded. Here’s from Isaacson:

It’s actually not related to any decline. I turned most of the book in this past June. It’s now all done and edited. The March 2012 date (or whatever date it was) was never a deeply-considered pubdate. Like the original cover design, it came about because the publisher wanted to put something in the database last spring.

This is obviously an important tidbit for Apple fans concerned about Steve’s well-being. Go past the fold for the publisher’s long description of the book.  The book is available for Pre-Order at Amazon for $20.

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Official Steve Jobs biography set for November 21 release, based on forty interviews

According to Barnes and Noble’s website, the official Steve Jobs biography – titled Steve Jobs: A Biography – is becoming available on November 21, 2011. This is a big leap from the previously announced March 6, 2012 release date for the first Steve Jobs-approved biography.  In addition, the book seller’s website has seemingly revealed the cover for the biography (shown above), and it is unsurprisingly simple. (via AllThingsD).

The book is also 448 pages long and is based on over 40 interviews with Steve Jobs in addition to interviews with his family and friends. Interestingly, although approved by Jobs, the Apple CEO had no control over the biography’s contents. The Apple CEO had this to say about the biography:

I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of, such as getting my girlfriend pregnant when I was 23 and the way I handled that, he said. But I don’t have any skeletons in my closet that can’t be allowed out.

Here is the full description of the biography (available for pre-order for $20):

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