Thursday, June 7, 2012

Steve Jobs: Walter Isaacson

At the last count there are more than 7 billion people on this planet, that is 7 with 9 zeros. While most of us might not count for much there are, among the living, at least of hundreds of truly brilliant people working for top class innovative organizations in the Silicon Valley, Japan and elsewhere. So it is particularly spectacular that it is just one person who continuously defined and redefined the way we work, communicate, enjoy music and do everything online.

Steve’s story begins with his teenage mother who had to give up her first born to a working class couple, with a promise of giving the baby a university education. Steve jobs was a prodigy growing up, a fact not lost upon him and his adopted parents. They went out of their way to fulfill his every demand, including an exorbitant private university that he ended up abandoning. Apart from his early knack with electronics his major influences in life seem to be LSD and his Indian mysticism. Armed with these, his early successes consisted of commercializing the innovations of his close friends, and apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. The story of how they built the personal computer industry and Apple, his epic struggle with Bill Gates, his arrogant ways, his seduction of the Pepsi CEO (“Do you want to sell sweetened water all your life, or do you want to change the world?”) and his subsequent ouster from the organization that he built from scratch would have made one hell of a riveting story. A fact proven by the excellent movie “Pirates of the Silicon Valley” – a must see.

The legendry bit is that all of the above is just the story before the interval, the first and, as we now know, the dull half of Steve’s life. The second half is a breakneck paced thriller where he rises, forgive the cliché, from the ashes, changes the animation business with Pixar, regains control of Apple and takes our breath away with iMac, iTunes, iPod in his last years the iPad.

With material this rich, it is difficult to go wrong, but not impossible. Walter Isaccson has done justice to the legacy of Steve Jobs with a book that is well written and balanced. Steve Jobs that the author presents us is a thought leader and a great marketer, and like most great men an obnoxious difficult tyrant. The author has presented both these aspects in such a manner that gives us an individual appreciation of both these facets and how they combined to make the man that was.

An inspirational read that that I will rate 4/5.

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