The latest Steve Jobs biography was supposed to be more favorable than the last but the Apple founder comes over as a spoilt brat with anger issues and a host of bizarre personal grudges.
Jobs authorized and cooperated with Walter Isaacson for the 2011 biography. Unsurprisingly, it was a best-seller, but it gave rise to the popular image of Steve Jobs as a ruthless tyrant and creative genius. The new biography is winning accolades from those who knew him best, including Tim Cook and Johnny Ive, but the character at the center is still hard to love.
Becoming Steve Jobs, by the journalists Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, tries to shed more favorable light on the icon. “The cliché that Steve Jobs was half-genius, half asshole is based largely on his actions that constituted his first tenure at Apple,” they write in the introduction. In their telling, the story of Jobs is one of change, where the man who saw success and failure in the ’70s and ’80s was transformed by his years outside Apple.
Here are some of the most fascinating bits of the new book.
Steve Jobs really didn’t like Neil Young.
When Neil Young criticized the sound of music on iTunes—he called it “compromised”—Jobs was pissed that Young could “pop off in public like that without coming to talk to us about his technical concerns first.” When one of the authors called him about some LPs by Young, Jobs snapped, “Fuck Neil Young, and fuck his records.”
He wasn’t bitter about being adopted, he was a spoiled brat.
A lot of ink has been given to arguments over the source of Jobs’s legendary anger. A lot of the psychoanalysis has focused on him being adopted, and that was why he was so obsessive, so attention-seeking, so prone to anger. The authors point out that rather than being deprived, Jobs was pretty much given everything his lower-middle-class parents could provide, including them changing school districts after he begged to go to a better school. Instead, according to the authors, the source of his tantrums and fits “was really nothing more than a spoiled brat. Brilliant, precocious, and meticulous, he had always gotten his way with his parents, and had brayed like an injured donkey when things didn’t turn out as he planned.”
Tim Cook wasn’t always so environmentally friendly.
In March 1998, the current CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, arrived. One of his first tasks was getting rid of unwanted inventory. One of his methods was the less than green action of “bulldozing of tens of thousands of unsold Macs into a landfill in early 1998.”
Jobs considered buying Yahoo!
According to the book, Jobs became close with Disney CEO Bob Iger (although he held a grudge against his predecessor, Michael Eisner), offering him advice from time to time—including the “totally impractical” proposal that instead of just opening a resort in Hawaii, Disney should buy the island of Lanai and run a Disney transportation service to it. Apparently in one of meetings, the two “talked about buying Yahoo! together.” It’s not clear what the two visionaries would have done with the struggling company.
Disney CEO Bob Iger was one of the first to know Jobs’s cancer was back.
“I love that guy,” Jobs is quoted as telling his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, when discussing Iger. Before telling his board, before even telling his children, that his cancer was back in 2006, Jobs informed Iger. Jobs told Iger just before Disney sealed the deal to purchase Pixar, and after Iger signed off (along with his general counsel), “Steve just started weeping.”
He held a grudge against Google.
Jobs was notorious for his grudges, whether it be his refusal to have iPhone support Adobe Flash because he thought the company betrayed him when Apple was struggling to the authors’ contention that former Disney CEO Michael Eisner “remained a curse word to him.” The big grudge at the end of Jobs’s career was against Google, and it was so apparent that Iger refused to join Google’s board because Jobs “told [him] he’d be jealous.” Jobs was furious over Google’s phones, and he felt “personally betrayed” by the introduction of Android, particularly by Google’s then-CEO and chairman Eric Schmidt, who “had been a board member and a friend for years.”
Tim Cook didn’t like the Isaacson bio
“This picture of him isn’t understood,” says Cook in an interview for the book. “I thought the Isaacson book did him a tremendous disservice.” According to Cook, and many of the people who worked with Jobs, the Isaacson book was not only “just a rehash of a bunch of stuff that had already been written” but it left people with the wrong impression, namely that Steve was “a greedy, selfish egomaniac.”
Jobs took the “Digital Hub” from Bill Gates
When he introduced iTunes in early 2001, Jobs and Apple also unveiled the idea of the Digital Hub, essentially a vision for integrating and connecting your computers and electronic appliances. It came about after Apple executives held an emergency meeting after Bill Gates gave a speech in 1999 at CES about what he called “consumer-electronics-plus” in which the Windows operating system “would become the central component of ‘home media centers.’” According to Mike Slade, then a member of Apple’s executive team, they turned to each other and said, “Shouldn’t we be doing this? We can’t let Microsoft do it. They’ll just screw it up!”