Review

Review: Steve Jobs' official biography

From the start, Walter Isaacson's latest work was highly anticipated. This is the first time ever Steve Jobs had authorised a biography of himself. In the lead up to its release, the tech world snatched up any snippets it could find, hoping that quotes directly from the man himself would draw in the hits. The book had already been announced before his death, but after that the publishers decided to kick things up a notch by bringing the release date closer and adding in more pages. It was clear that this was going to be big.

It's made certain from the very beginning that Steve didn't play any role in the editing of the book. Jobs chose Isaacson because he thought he was "good at getting people to talk". His wife also encouraged Isaacson to go all out, saying: "He's good at spin, but he also has a remarkable story, and I'd like to see that it's all told truthfully."

The results are astounding. Jobs is laid out open for all to see. The reality distortion field (RDF), famously used to persuade loyal fans, reveals itself throughout his life both inside and outside of work. Isaacson notes that Jobs' stories don't always match up with reality, and at several points in the book Jobs is shown to have outright lied. Critics have long accused him of doing this in keynotes, but he even did it to friends and colleagues.

Many readers, myself included, would probably think they know the story of Jobs well enough. But Isaacson digs deeper and exposes the human side, the side never made public while he was alive. Sources speculate that Jobs suffered from a feeling of abandonment throughout his life, stemming from his parents giving him up for adoption. Personal accusations like these are left open, and the book clearly makes an effort to give both sides of events. Was he a good person? It's left to you to decide.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Windows 8 Beta may be on the way

Next Story

Spec shootout: Nokia Lumia 800 vs. Lumia 710 vs. HTC Radar vs. Omnia W

61 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

Its really amazing that Neowin makes news about this when there are other tech orientated autobiographies that are never published as news by Neowin.

What a read. It's easy to say you loved/hated jobs, but this brings us SO MUCH closer to understanding him. After reading this, I can say I liked him--or at least his style, but boy was he an awful person at times. I thought the last couple chapters (about his son, about Gates visiting out of the blue by walking in the back door to his house, etc.) were heartwarming. I thought the bits about Jony Ive and the inside of the design studio (with the foam cnc machines) were fascinating. Worth every dollar.

When you're looking at a celebrity, it's much better for them to have input in the book. I like to have the insight into what they were thinking behind each idea (if they can recall). It makes it all the better.

It's so funny to read all these guys ramble against his egocentrism. The day you all damn hippies learn that ego is great and is even better when there's the brilliance to back it up that day you'll grow a little.

sanctified said,
It's so funny to read all these guys ramble against his egocentrism. The day you all damn hippies learn that ego is great and is even better when there's the brilliance to back it up that day you'll grow a little.

Agreed

sanctified said,
It's so funny to read all these guys ramble against his egocentrism. The day you all damn hippies learn that ego is great and is even better when there's the brilliance to back it up that day you'll grow a little.

I'm pretty sure the common theme of a vast majority of human spirituality, religion, and even much of secular philosophy is the virtue of humility.

Egocentrism sort of doesn't work with that. Let alone Jobs' Buddhism.

Joshie said,

I'm pretty sure the common theme of a vast majority of human spirituality, religion, and even much of secular philosophy is the virtue of humility.

Egocentrism sort of doesn't work with that. Let alone Jobs' Buddhism.

Yep, Buddhism isn't big on materialism, but Apple is the mother of all when it comes to materialistic tech.

The fact that he didn't want to make a Windows compatible iPod or iTunes is hilarious...He parked in handicap spots, drove a new car with a temp tag so as not to use license plates, wouldn't initially let doctor's treat his cancer in favor of carrot juice, talk about delusions of grandeur!

I paid £14 from Tesco and was happy to do so. Looking forward to reading about him. A complicated, clever guy who lead a very interesting life, and created some amazing companies and products along the way.

Even if you're blinded by anti-Apple fanboy rage, surely it's still an interesting enough read to learn about genesis of the technology we all depend on these days? And besides.. the book isn't just going to be a butt-kissing exercise and I'm sure will have plenty of critique about the guy from the people he walked all over in his career!

What they are charging for the book is way too much, i think i seen it around 35 bucks but it ain't worth more than 5-10 bucks. i'll see about it elsewhere.

Since Steve Jobs steals so much and claims he invented it, I pirated a copy of this book and claim that I wrote it.

The guy was a marketing genius and that's to be admired. The problem comes when we start mixing his personal attributes with his professional qualities because THAT'S when we move into fanboi hero status. He wasn't a "hero", he was good at slingin' pretty iPads and such. We can admire that and NOT admire his interpersonal relationships.

Remember that PT Barnum was pretty good at the whole marketing thing, too.

A book like this isn't usually reviewed? Come on Neowin, They write them all the time. You should say, "We don't usually review books, But a book about our "Idol" is an exception".

Joshie said,
Written. "Isn't usually written". Go back and re-read it.

"We don't usually review books, But a book about our "Idol" is an exception". that was my point. Can you comprehend that?

jesseinsf said,

"We don't usually review books, But a book about our "Idol" is an exception". that was my point. Can you comprehend that?

No, your point was based on thinking the article said a book like that isn't usually reviewed, when in fact that is not what was said (which was my point). The article said Neowin doesn't usually review books (which is true), but that a book like this isn't usually written (which is what you misread).

Can you comprehend that?

Joshie said,

No, your point was based on thinking the article said a book like that isn't usually reviewed, when in fact that is not what was said (which was my point). The article said Neowin doesn't usually review books (which is true), but that a book like this isn't usually written (which is what you misread).

Can you comprehend that?

And the conversation was derailed.

For people who are interested in the history of microcomputing and stories like those found in the book, don't hesitate to look up the old show Computer Chronicles. It's freely available to watch in its entirety over at the Internet Archive, and is filled to the brim with what was then real-time coverage, discussions, and demonstrations of emerging platforms and technologies, and often brought representatives from competing companies together to the same table, showing off their products side by side in ways you don't see in the keynote era.

Of note is a particular scene in one episode where a representative from Apple (as it's beginning to open up Mac OS to 3rd party vendors) light-heartedly assures the interviewer that the days of Steve Jobs are over.

My favorite part was the presence of Gary Kildall (creator of the CP/M operating system) in almost every episode from day one till his death.

Doubt its worth reading about this ecocentric selfish guy. Read about how its all me and how i make things the way i want it so people will like it because i give them no other choice.

glad he's gone and industry looks brighter without him.

Punch him in the face more likely..
He's just another who took innovations from others and used gift of the gab to sell it.
No different from any other sales man who sell his mother if he had the chance.
I see no reason to hold him in the praise he's getting, If he cured cancer I'd think about it.
Then again, what has apple/jobs actually done for us/me? Sweet F All is what.

I'd rather use this book to keep the fire stoked and i sure wouldn't buy it.

Dermot said,
Punch him in the face more likely..
He's just another who took innovations from others and used gift of the gab to sell it.
No different from any other sales man who sell his mother if he had the chance.
I see no reason to hold him in the praise he's getting, If he cured cancer I'd think about it.
Then again, what has apple/jobs actually done for us/me? Sweet F All is what.

I'd rather use this book to keep the fire stoked and i sure wouldn't buy it.

You, sir, have not the slightest clue about the recent history of computing. You can not like Steve Jobs all you want, but to act like he's done nothing for technology in the past 20 years is beyond ridiculous.

AJerman said,

You, sir, have not the slightest clue about the recent history of computing. You can not like Steve Jobs all you want, but to act like he's done nothing for technology in the past 20 years is beyond ridiculous.

You indeed have no clue if you think someone like jobs, who couldn't code a fisher price keyboard for a 3yr old had any sole hand in any technology magnificence or sole breakthrough the last 20 years.

But please enlighten me what you think "he" alone did for us/me the last 20 years, and don't even think about talking about the mouse or otherwise, I am a Ex Xerox employee, don't waste your time.

Dermot said,

You indeed have no clue if you think someone like jobs, who couldn't code a fisher price keyboard for a 3yr old had any sole hand in any technology magnificence or sole breakthrough the last 20 years.

But please enlighten me what you think "he" alone did for us/me the last 20 years, and don't even think about talking about the mouse or otherwise, I am a Ex Xerox employee, don't waste your time.

Apple is one of a few computer companies that have played a role in shaping the market. A couple times Microsoft as a company has been pushed forward by Apple, trying to play catch-up. A lot of the design in the original Mac and Lisa was copied by other GUIs. Xerox Star wasn't ready for prime time, Apple did a lot of work redesigning the GUI.

Jobs worked with a talented team, including Steve Wozniak, but the company needed a driven individual like Jobs to get the job done. Just look what happened when John Sculley took over. Jobs was a good salesman, but also a good business leader and a good entrepreneur.

You could always argue, in theory, if Jobs was never alive, someone else or a number of other people independently would have made the same pushes in the technology industry, but Jobs ended up being the man who did it.

brianshapiro said,

Apple is one of a few computer companies that have played a role in shaping the market. A couple times Microsoft as a company has been pushed forward by Apple, trying to play catch-up. A lot of the design in the original Mac and Lisa was copied by other GUIs. Xerox Star wasn't ready for prime time, Apple did a lot of work redesigning the GUI.

Jobs worked with a talented team, including Steve Wozniak, but the company needed a driven individual like Jobs to get the job done. Just look what happened when John Sculley took over. Jobs was a good salesman, but also a good business leader and a good entrepreneur.

You could always argue, in theory, if Jobs was never alive, someone else or a number of other people independently would have made the same pushes in the technology industry, but Jobs ended up being the man who did it.

You mean other people built them, Coded them and jobs marketed them.

My point is "jobs" as a whole, single handed, has done damn all but market the talent of others, I've no doubt he's a talented salesman but apple as a whole will always have that market share now and i personally don't think he deserves such hype, as you said one could argue a lot of things, but I'm just giving my opinion and i think he's overrated and will be glad when the media move to their next sales target.

brianshapiro said,

Apple is one of a few computer companies that have played a role in shaping the market. A couple times Microsoft as a company has been pushed forward by Apple, trying to play catch-up. A lot of the design in the original Mac and Lisa was copied by other GUIs. Xerox Star wasn't ready for prime time, Apple did a lot of work redesigning the GUI.

Jobs worked with a talented team, including Steve Wozniak, but the company needed a driven individual like Jobs to get the job done. Just look what happened when John Sculley took over. Jobs was a good salesman, but also a good business leader and a good entrepreneur.

You could always argue, in theory, if Jobs was never alive, someone else or a number of other people independently would have made the same pushes in the technology industry, but Jobs ended up being the man who did it.

You have no clue what your talking about, Wozniak said Jobs has done nothing more then take credit for what he didn't do, he does give him credit for giving the image that Apple has now.

Pushed microsoft forward? If it wasn't for Gates/Allen and Microsoft, Apple would be dead. Microsoft gave 150 million dollars to Apple after it almost declared bankruptcy, yes they did it for there own benefit, they didn't wanna be a monopoly, if that happend the government would be all over them, and microsoft would be in serious trouble. You never seen the gates/jobs interview in 97? It's famous.

Secondly, as a human being Jobs was...as much as I hate to say it about a person that is no longer with us...a scumbag...He paid so much money to get medicine to live longer, but he never gave money to find a cure or futher the technology of the cancer he had...and you know why? His excuse was that wasn't gonna live long enough to see them find a cure or a vaccine for the disease, so he rather spend money for himself then others.

HardSide said,

You have no clue what your talking about, Wozniak said Jobs has done nothing more then take credit for what he didn't do, he does give him credit for giving the image that Apple has now..

That's fine. Jobs took credit for some tech decisions. Wozniak couldn't have run the business by himself, though. Apple needed a business leader, who had some vision about the future of the technology.

Apple's competition on the market helped push Microsoft in a couple of cases, when Microsoft was bogged down by its corporate culture. Just consider the success of OSX vs. the failure of Longhorn. It helped Microsoft rethink how it should plan OSs. And the success of the iPod compared to the PMC made them rethink the portable electronics market, leading to Zune, which had influence on WP.

brianshapiro said,

That's fine. Jobs took credit for some tech decisions. Wozniak couldn't have run the business by himself, though. Apple needed a business leader, who had some vision about the future of the technology.

Apple's competition on the market helped push Microsoft in a couple of cases, when Microsoft was bogged down by its corporate culture. Just consider the success of OSX vs. the failure of Longhorn. It helped Microsoft rethink how it should plan OSs. And the success of the iPod compared to the PMC made them rethink the portable electronics market, leading to Zune, which had influence on WP.

Sorry but outside USA (and part of Japan and i think in UK) Apple is a rare stuff, a snob product used by a very few ones. Does Apple changed the industry?. Of course not, OSX always was (and is) an underdog in comparison with Windows (and now with Linux).

I stumbled across the book when I was walking past a book store today (they still exist) I didn't realise that it was out already.

The book looked really big and thick to me, much bigger than a novel. Closer to the size of an encyclopedia. I am not scared of big books, I just don't know how I could possibly have the time to get through it all. It is definitely something I would like to read so I will get around to it when I get time on my hands.

The question is, is it better to read it in hardback or to read it on the iPad? I have not read a book on my iPad before, so I am not sure how practical it is for reading books (glare, physical feel, etc.) but reading it on an iPad has the sentimental value.

Or maybe I could read it on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 7" for irony value?

Simon- said,
The book looked really big and thick to me, much bigger than a novel. Closer to the size of an encyclopedia. I am not scared of big books, I just don't know how I could possibly have the time to get through it all. It is definitely something I would like to read so I will get around to it when I get time on my hands.
I tend to find that what's more important about a book is how it's written. This arrived on Monday and I finished it this morning. Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, on the other hand, took me weeks to read even though it was much shorter. I guess it all depends.

Simon- said,
I stumbled across the book when I was walking past a book store today (they still exist) I didn't realise that it was out already.

The book looked really big and thick to me, much bigger than a novel. Closer to the size of an encyclopedia. I am not scared of big books, I just don't know how I could possibly have the time to get through it all. It is definitely something I would like to read so I will get around to it when I get time on my hands.

The question is, is it better to read it in hardback or to read it on the iPad? I have not read a book on my iPad before, so I am not sure how practical it is for reading books (glare, physical feel, etc.) but reading it on an iPad has the sentimental value.

Or maybe I could read it on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 7" for irony value?

Simon- said,
The question is, is it better to read it in hardback or to read it on the iPad? I have not read a book on my iPad before, so I am not sure how practical it is for reading books (glare, physical feel, etc.) but reading it on an iPad has the sentimental value.

Or maybe I could read it on my Samsung Galaxy Tab 7" for irony value?

I got mine via the iPhone Audible app, 25 hours and 10 minutes(unabridged), I like having read to me.

neo158 said,
Just bought the Kindle Version for my Windows Phone, should be an interesting read.

Got the Kindle version for my Android phone + iPad, which makes me wonder.... I wouldn't be surprised if this ends up being the biggest digital release for a book. So many people are buying it in iBooks or Kindle. I'll look forward to seeing sales numbers. They are already saying it's on it's way to be the best selling book of the year, and I bet about half those sales are digital. Steve would be proud, haha.

Decent review. I won't bother to type a lengthy review. I enjoyed the book. Even as a fan of Jobs and Apple it was surprising to see how much I didn't know. I think it's a must read for anyone who grew up in the 70s and 80s. It's amazing to read how the industry was born in garages by hippies. It will be interesting to see if there will be a Bill Gates biography. I think he and maybe Mark Zuckerberg are the only people who's biographies I'd be interested in reading.

Zuckerberg's story would be nothing like this. o.O His place in technology is fairly trivial compared to the titans behind the platforms that made Facebook possible in the first place.

ahhell said,
It's all about the ad money.
The ads don't change for each page and Neowin doesn't get more views for it. I chose to lay it out like this to make it easier to navigate (if you just want the conclusion you can skip to that point). I've made a note about your feedback though and will bear it in mind in future

FoxieFoxie said,
Why is this in 3 pages?

Are we back to 640x480 displays?

I didn't see the big deal. I was actually a nice way to do it since review was longer than most articles.

The book seems to paint a picture of an egotistical ******* who didn't care much for his kids or his friends. Pretty much what I have been saying all along. Too bad people still hold him high on a pedestal.

Aside from the part about saying that all along I agree ... I liked Steve Jobs a lot more before I read the biography. >.<

speedstr3789 said,
The book seems to paint a picture of an egotistical ******* who didn't care much for his kids or his friends. Pretty much what I have been saying all along. Too bad people still hold him high on a pedestal.

You read it already, or just repeating what other people say

speedstr3789 said,
The book seems to paint a picture of an egotistical ******* who didn't care much for his kids or his friends. Pretty much what I have been saying all along. Too bad people still hold him high on a pedestal.

The truth hurts but yeah, the fanboys will never accept how much of a pompus ass he really was.

speedstr3789 said,
The book seems to paint a picture of an egotistical ******* who didn't care much for his kids or his friends. Pretty much what I have been saying all along. Too bad people still hold him high on a pedestal.

I dont care about his friends or his kids, I dont give a rat's ass about his humanity, I care about his mind and about his ego.

I don't have time to read this, which is a shame as its sounding more like something that I would like to read since watching Pirates of Silicon Valley.

Good review though which makes me think that maybe I should try and make the time in the next couple of months

Teebor said,
I don't have time to read this, which is a shame as its sounding more like something that I would like to read since watching Pirates of Silicon Valley.

Good review though which makes me think that maybe I should try and make the time in the next couple of months

You should. I'm only 3 chapters in right now reading in my free time, but it's well worth a read. Steve may not have been the "best" person in the world, but he did what he needed to do to get where he did, and I can have respect for that. Already the beginning of the book has explained so much more about Steve than a lot of people knew. It's a great read about someone who truly made a huge difference in the computing world.