This week a great chance to burn through the six hundred page Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. It is a great read and provides some detail to my Apple corporate strategy case study.
Jobs was a great visionary and product champion. To work with he could be an ungrateful, ungracious character. It is best this is outed early in life post Jobs. One of the US online journals this week outlined the 16 really bad things Steve Jobs did. Yeah he did them all, storming out of a hotel, chastising suppliers. He could be really heavy on non performing staff. Jobs was not overly strong on people skills yet the close group of Jonathan Ive, Phil Schiller and Tim Cook stayed with him. They lived within his reality distortion field, a field in which time and tasks were folded into a new ever demanding dimension.
Jobs was a great product champion with a fanatical obsession with detail. Shades of colour, degrees of angle, density of material were his every day commitment. One would be exhausted to maintain the pace. He and his wife would spend two weeks in which every night included a debate about US versus European washing machines prior to purchase. In the end opting for Miele, for me it has always been ten minutes begrudgingly spent in Comet to buy anything in white.
Even in great pain, Jobs tore off his oxygen mask complaining of the design, asking for five options from which to choose before taking relief. The doctors should have been told to present all, saving the best until last, just as Jonathan Ive had done with the iPod mock ups ten years earlier.
Jobs was not infallible. It is important to realise our corporate heroes are now without failings or failure. Apple III, Lisa, the Macintosh, the Fremont factory, the Next computer and even the early endeavours with Pixar were failures. A series of lucky breaks with animation led to the success of Toy Story even as the threat of bankruptcy for Pixar neared.
Each of the failures became a building block for later success, not least the failures in integrated manufacturing, which led to the supplier syndication, of itself an essential component in the success of the iPod. The iPod, one thousand songs in your pocket, it was so cool, we should never forget.
Jobs was a product genius and a visionary. Without him, the iTunes store could not have been a success. It would need the power of his personality to convince the record moguls to get on the web page. So too with some of the music stars like Bono, Dylan and the Beatles he got them to sign up and sing on line.
To move towards the end of the book, is to move towards the end of his life. it is sad. To lose one friend to cancer is a tragedy. We watch them emaciate and lose energy, the very hallmark of life and soul. Radiation yields, to emission of a finite resource. It is too much. To lose a hero to cancer, is a great tragedy. In the latter stages, Jobs was grateful to see his son’s graduation. That was the deal with his maker. He probably added a sub clause to get to launch the iPad 2. He could never resist a good negotiation.
Steve Jobs is a fascinating character, a zen loving vegan, wealthy but with no real interest in wealth. Offering to work for a dollar a year on his return to Apple, he refuses fourteen million share options but then asks for twenty million. A visionary and product champion, Jobs realised the potential of the digital hub before anyone. The hub begat the iPod, the iTouch, the iPhone and the iPad. Now all maybe lost in cloud. Rumour has it, he had cracked the Apple television and no doubt he was working on the Apple washing machine. It would have been a cool wash. This is a great book about a great man who will be missed.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson is published by Simon and Schuster USA and Little, Brown, Great Britain.