Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Walter Isaacson’s ‘Steve Jobs’

John Gruber:

There is much that is wrong with Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, but its treatment of software is the most profound of the book’s flaws. Isaacson doesn’t merely neglect or underemphasize Jobs’s passion for software and design, but he flat-out paints the opposite picture.

One of the most memorable parts of the book is Jobs at Jonathan Ive’s studio:

When Steve comes in, he will sit at one of these tables. If we’re working on a new iPhone, for example, he might grab a stool and start playing with different models and feeling them in his hands, remarking on which ones he likes best. Then he will graze by the other tables, just him and me, to see where all the other products are heading. He can get a sense of the sweep of the whole company, the iPhone and iPad, the iMac and laptop and everything we’re considering. That helps him see where the company is spending its energy and how things connect.

There is no corresponding description of Jobs meeting with a top software guy. It’s unclear whether this is because Jobs focused on the hardware (and was especially close to Ive), or because Isaacson chose not to write about it.

Gruber also mentions one of the book’s most egregious lines, a quote from Bill Gates:

Amelio paid a lot for NeXT, and let’s be frank, the NeXT OS was never really used.

Isaacson treats this as fact, yet it’s so wrong that it calls into question all of Isaacson’s judgements. How can he be trusted to tell us the story when he doesn’t understand where Mac OS X came from and thinks that the Intel transition was “akin to writing a new operating system”? I do, however, agree with Gruber’s overall assessment:

Steve Jobs is not literature, but it is a good book, but alas with several holes and egregious errors.

2 Comments RSS · Twitter

[...] It's disappointing that the last and best opportunity to get to know Steve Jobs was squandered by Walter Isaacson. Nobody thinks Jobs always made the best decisions, but it's sad that his poor choice of Isaacson will be regarded by many as his last decision. P.S. Michael Tsai adds more. [...]

[...] Previous reports had described a competition between P1 (the iPod-phone developed by Tony Fadell’s team) and P2 (the OS X–phone) as though Apple waited a long time to decide which way it wanted to go. Ganatra makes it sound as though P2 was always what Apple wanted to do, and P1 was only there so that Apple would have a stopgap product to ship if P2’s development took too long. [...]

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