I rarely read biographies, but I was given Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs so I read it. In terms of literature, it was pretty good. The book could have been edited better - it is over 500 pages and Isaacson sometimes repeats himself - but overall I felt like I was getting a good picture of the man.
At the end of the day Jobs comes off as complex - as human beings tend to be. I kept wanting to sum Jobs up in a soundbyte as I was reading - the guy was a genius, the guy got lucky, the guy was a lousy judge of people, the guy was an incredible judge of people, the guy was a visionary, the guy was an autocrat, the guy was a jerk, the guy was a prince. He resists such characterization; he's all of these.
I'm not an "Apple guy". And yet I was. My first computer was actually a Texas Instruments machine, but the first computer I fell in love with was the Apple II. I used Apple II+ and Apple IIe in school. I wrote programs in Basic, played chess and Broderbund's Lode Runner on it. The Apple II was an interesting mix of Steve Wozniack's electronics-kit computer and Steve Jobs' vision for an integrated ready-to-use machine for the masses. I loved it. I still love it. If someone put a working Apple II on my desk right now I'd have a mini-orgasm.
Woz kept working away at the Apple II as a mid-level engineer while Jobs developed the Macintosh. The Macintosh was an interesting mishmash of futuristic brilliance and clueless disaster. The graphical user interface Jobs bought from Xerox and improved was obviously the wave of the future, something that PCs wouldn't get right until 1995. But everything else about the Mac sucked. It was ugly, limited, expensive. It was announced to the world in a glorious Super Bowl ad in which a Mac user escaped from the 1984 Orwellian nightmare of thought control of a world ruled by IBM. But ironically it was the Mac that was the one-size-fits-all straightjacket, while PCs (and Woz's baby the Apple II) beat the hearts of budding techies like me.
So I switched to PCs and never looked back. Jobs' next little disaster was the garish iMac, which was as limited as the Macintosh and less ugly, but still, nothing I could stand the sight of. Everyone told me how much easier Macs were to use than PCs, but every time I sat in front of a Mac I felt like an idiot (you eject a disk with a trash can? There's only one mouse button? There's no place to put my peripherals? And don't ask me to find anything with the Finder.). It seemed to me that Macs were easier than PCs in 1984, but not any time after 1995. Plus, I happened to love DOS; I loved that beautiful black screen and the C:\> which told me I could do anything. (Who's Big Brother now?)
Jobs' whole "second act" was about as solid a run as anyone has ever had in business. The iPod. Apple stores. iTunes. The iPhone. The iPad. The iCloud. We're talking about whole industries transformed - telecommunications, music, publishing, retail. A month ago I got an iPad mini, my first Apple product in about 30 years. It's cute. It's useful. I like it. I admit it - Jobs is the modern Edison.
Anybody else read the book?