The Steve Jobs Biography

I bought a Kindle ten days ago (My wife and two daughters now regard me as having joined the dark side) and the first book that I downloaded and read was the recently published biography of the late Steve Jobs. It’s a very good read: if I was to review it on Amazon I would give it four and a half stars (if Amazon allowed me to give fractional stars).

The only bad point I would make is that it is 50 pages too long; there are parts of it, particularly the early days,  that really didn’t interest me.  So here are the good points:

  • Jobs did not interfere in the writing of the book (I think the only thing he insisted on was the cover photograph). Because of this, what comes out of the book is a warts-and-all portrait of one of the titans of computing.
  • The chapter that describes his relationship with the co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak, is terrific. This and other fragments are fascinating glimpses into two different people with two different attitudes to technology and the world.
  • Jobs attitude to design is brought to life. His twin mantras of perfection and minimalism come out clearly. Something both hardware and software developers should take much greater notice off.
  • Jobs comes across not only as a businessman and technologist, but as someone who can think up radical business models, the book is really good at tracking this thinking.
  • The book could so easily have just concentrated on the success, for example the iPhone and iTunes; it also looks directly at the failures.
  • Chapter 26 on design principles and Chapter 36 on the iPhone should be read by every designer who wants to give birth to successful products.
  • The relationship between Apple and Google: their technologies, their ethos and its people is particularly well-handled, albeit quite briefly. The next five years will see Apple vs Google (Android) as a major battlefield and the book provides plenty of background.

There are three titans of computing: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Thomas Watson. Jobs was a primarily the visionary who knew what people wanted tomorrow, Gates was primarily a world class business man and Watson, who created IBM, was a world-class salesman. All, however, had many other subsidiary strengths and this book confirms the panorama of strengths that Jobs possessed.

It is worth saying that one of the depressing things about the media reaction to the book was how it concentrated on the demented genius tag. I would have preferred ‘the man who changed computing’.

Jobs will clearly be missed by Apple; the only remaining question about him is whether he has left enough of his intellectual, business and technical DNA behind to take it into the commercial tussles with companies such as Google and Microsoft.

Here are a couple of reviews here and here. The customer reviews of the book at Amazon are also worth reading. Many are really perceptive.

So what do I think of the Kindle? I don’t think I’m going to use anything else. I have read some books using the Kindle app on my Android tablet; compared with this the Kindle is superior: light, easy to read, long battery life and it can be used outside. Would have preferred a colour screen, but what the heck.

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