Leander Kahney On Becoming Steve Jobs

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Leander Kahney writing for Cult of Mac:

In my opinion, that’s not necessarily true. Some of the best stories published about Apple come straight from the rank and file. Take Andy Hertzfeld’s Revolution in the Valley, taken from his online Folklore project. It digs into the Macintosh project, as told by the engineers that built that revolutionary computer. In my opinion, the “definitive” book about Jobs would be one that concentrated on his professional life, and blended the Steve-centric view with those of the many people who worked with him at Apple and elsewhere.

For instance, Jobs has a reputation for being decisive — fearsomely so — but in fact, in many cases he was not. A close colleague describes him like this in Becoming Steve Jobs: “People want to paint him as Michelangelo, you know,” former NeXT colleague Mike Slade says. “But he was a real nervous Nelly, like an old-fashioned, tiny, old, small businessman saying, ‘Shall I cut another nickel off it?’ Like a junk merchant.”

It’s the book’s most surprising quote, completely at odds with Jobs’ public image. But Jobs was indecisive, sometimes cripplingly so. He was so unsure about the furniture in his house, it remained famously unfurnished. He even dithered about how to treat the cancer that tragically took his life. In fact, Jobs’ indecisiveness is rich territory to explore. But it’s counter to his image and reputation, so it is left alone in this biography.

I wouldn’t argue that Jobs is a much more complex character than he’s been portrayed in previous books, but his obvious talents and contributions aren’t spelled out in Becoming Steve Jobs. Despite the publisher’s claims, this isn’t the book that throws light on how Jobs operated. It just says it is.

While it’s not really fair to criticize authors for the book they didn’t write, Becoming Steve Jobs suffers from the same problem as Isaacson’s biography and many other accounts — it focuses on Jobs’ personal life, not his professional one.

Leander has written books about Steve Jobs and Jonny Ive which were widely praised so he is considered a good judge for review in this case. I’m currently reading Becoming Steve Jobs at the moment so will consider my own view soon.