Tag Archives: Walter Isaacson

Becoming Steve Jobs

Becoming Steve Jobs

Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli (Crown Business, $30.00, 464 pages)

“You cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.” Steve Jobs

Schlender and Tetzeli Connect the Dots

“This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” These words from Maxwell Scott seemed to have come to life in Walter Isaacson’s earlier-released biography of Steve Jobs. Isaacson’s version of Jobs’ story relied on commonly stated “facts” about Jobs, which have become the stuff of legend. And these facts strongly emphasized the less desirable aspects of Jobs’ personality and aggressive leadership style.

This new bio by Brent Schendler and Rick Tetzeli presents a kinder, gentler account of the man who co-founded and led Apple Computer; it seeks to get past “The cliche that Steve Jobs was half genius, half a–hole.” And it largely succeeds by emphasizing that any shortcomings on Jobs’ part were due to his dedication to Apple Computer: “He put the needs of the company ahead of any (personal or) work relationship.” That dedication produced the most successful technology company in the world. (It may also have led Jobs to delay cancer surgery that might have spared his life. When he later had the surgery, he was given only a “50-50” chance of living for five years; he survived for seven post-surgery years.)

This excellent account allows one to get to know Jobs as a living, breathing human being – an imperfect, fully goal-oriented man full of “deep restlessness.” Becoming Steve Jobs is such an effective telling of Jobs’ life story that at the conclusion of the book the reader will grieve his death – the world’s loss, all over again.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher. Becoming Steve Jobs was released on March 24, 2015.

“In this deeply researched book, you’ll find the most truthful portrait of the real Steve Jobs.” Marc Andreessen

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If you loved this book…

Sometimes you read a book and then think, “I wish I could find another book like that!” Well, here’s a visual representation of recommended books for your consideration. Joseph Arellano

If you loved this book…

The Other Wes Moore (nook book)

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The Short and Tragic Life (nook book)

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The Devil in the White City (nook book)

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Dead Wake (nook book)

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steve-jobs-nook-book

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Becoming Steve Jobs

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The Immortal Life

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The Cancer Chronicles

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one day (nook book)

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US (nook book)

The Fault in Our Stars (nook book)

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Hotel on the Corner of (nook book)

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Blackberry Winter (nook book)

How to Be An American Housewife

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Everything I Never Told You (trade paper)

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The Year She Left Us

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Into Thin Air

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Buried in the Sky (nook book)

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Born to Run (nook book)

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What I Talk About (nook book)

Running and Being (nook book)

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Hounded

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David Rosenfelt dog

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Better Days

Haunted Empire (close up)

Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs by Yukari Iwatani Kane (Harper Business, $27.99, 371 pages)

“Tim Cook was a master of spreadsheets not innovation. Since Cook had taken charge, legions of young MBAs had been hired to help feed the new CEO’s love of data crunching… Managers like Cook tended to overly focus on profits, the one thing that (Steve) Jobs downplayed.”

Since the death of its iconic leader, Steve Jobs, Apple Computer has been floundering; suffering from a dearth of innovations and dogged by competition from Samsung. This is the premise behind Haunted Empire by Yukari Iwatani Kane, a former technology reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Kane, who lives in San Francisco, presents Jobs as a legendary visionary (“…brilliant and unforgettable”) and Apple’s current leader, Tim Cook, as a bland manager who specialized in inventory control.

Steve Jobs

It will be up to each reader to determine the accuracy of Kane’s story. I found it to be highly credible. Mr. Cook is well aware of the book and has angrily labeled it as “nonsense.” However, Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson raves that, “Kane brings us inside Apple at this critical moment with great insight and unparalleled reporting.”

Cook-on-Haunted-Empire-nr1

What Kane does extremely well is present a highly disturbing picture of the Asian workforce that builds Apple’s products. The young workers in China who assemble an average of 180,000 iPhones each day cannot buy them with the slave wages they earn. It’s tragic and the company’s insensitive practices may have unleashed a type of negative karma that has come home to roost.

haunter_empire_hero

This is a fascinating, troubling account of an American business.

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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It Was A (Very) Good Year

The Year-End Literary Review

In my opinion, this was a good to very good year to be a reader; not as good as 2010 in terms of its offerings, and hopefully not as good as what’s to come in 2012.   Let’s look at some of the highlights and lowlights of 2011.

The rise (and fall?) of the e-reader

The e-book readers offered by Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Sony began to finally take off in terms of general acceptance.   Even a Luddite such as I am picked up a Nook Color tablet, as the issue of glare seemed to have been resolved with the fine screen manufactured by LG.   But just as e-readers were taking flight, the reading public received some very disturbing year-end news (“…rising e-book prices causing sticker shock.”).

It seems that publishers are about to kill their golden goose by raising the prices on e-books to levels that will match or exceed the print versions.   Yes, it appears to be a replay of what happened with the recording industry…  Music CDs first appeared with reasonable prices of $9.99 and then shot up to double that and more; and the industry then wondered what happened to their sales figures.   Duh.

Fine biographies

It was a good time for biographies, the two most notable being Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and Robert Redford by Michael Feeney Callan.   Both were examples of treating famous people as more than living legends – turning them into three-dimensional figures with true strengths and weaknesses.   Callan’s book is such a fascinating portrait of the actor that you’ll want to see every film mentioned in it.

Intriguing debuts

It’s always fun to discover new writers at the start of their career, and both Proof of Heaven by Mary Curran Hackett and The Violets of March by Sarah Jio were engaging life and love-affirming debut novels.   Kudos!

Mixed memories

It was a mixed front when it came to personal memoirs.   Christina Haag produced a singular New York Times Bestseller with Come to the Edge: A Love Story, her entertainingly nostalgic account of the five years she spent as the girlfriend of John F. Kennedy, Jr.   If you’ve missed this one, it will be released in trade paper form in January – with a cover that’s sure to capture the female reader’s eye!   (Some will remember that JFK, Jr. was once named “The Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine.)

A Widow’s Story: A Memoir by Joyce Carol Oates might have been a groundbreaking account of what happens to a wife after her husband dies suddenly.   But it was preceded four years earlier by Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.   Oates’s account unfortunately read like a note-for-note  cover of Didion’s earlier account.   Oates and Didion are, no doubt, two of our best writers but only one of them could assemble a uniquely first tragic memoir.

A troubling trend

2011 was the year in which a few fictional works were introduced that I wound up calling “plotless novels.”   These were books whose plots generally centered around an ensemble cast of characters, occupying only a few days in time; time in which nothing noteworthy seemed to occur.   Reading one of these novels is like, paraphrasing Jerry Seinfeld, perusing “a story about nothing.”   A few misguided or mischievous critics made them popular by praising them as being clever.   Well, they were clever in getting a few unfortunate readers to pay money for a book without a beginning, middle or ending.

Hurry up, already

Another parallel troubling trend had to do with novels that took 90 or 100 pages to get to the beginning of the story.   Any story that takes that long to get started is, trust me, not going to end well.

Good and very good, but not necessarily great

While there were some good and very good works to read this year, it’s hard to think of standouts like we had in 2009 (Her Fearful Symmetry by Anne Niffenegger) or 2010 (American Music by Jane Mendelsohn, Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott, The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris).   One novel that did receive plenty of attention was The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides, which the average reader seemed to find either brilliant or meandering and tedious.   One hundred and sixty-eight readers posted their reviews on Amazon and these love it or hate it views balanced out to an average 3-star (of 5) rating.

Give me someone to love

Some were troubled by Eugenides’ novel because of the lack of likeable characters, a critique to which I can relate.   If an author does not give me a single character that I can identify with, trying to finish a novel seems pointless.   Why invest the time reading a story if you simply don’t care what happens to the characters the writer’s created?

In summary

This year was filled with unrealized potential.   Let’s hope for a bit more excitement in the publishing world in 2012!

Joseph Arellano

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The Book of Jobs

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (Simon and Schuster, $35.00, 656 pages)

“When Steve Jobs speaks, it is with the enthusiasm of seeing the future and making sure it works.”   Fortune magazine in the late 1970s

“I had a very lucky career, a very lucky life.   I’ve done all that I can do.”   Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, the biography by Walter Isaacson (originally entitled, iSteve: The Book of Jobs) is an engaging biography that’s unique in that it allows us to get to know the man even more than the ultra-legend.   This is the amazingly true story of the person who was given up for adoption at birth, and went on to run the most valuable company on the face of the earth.   Although his contemporary and life-long rival Bill Gates outgained him in personal wealth, Jobs succeeded in earning the respect of both computer technology experts and the average consumer as the developer and producer of increasingly better, always innovative products.

Jobs and Gates were two of the individuals – along with Steve Wozniak – who were more or less present at the creation of the personal computer (PC) age.   Jobs and “Woz” were original members of The Homebrew Computer Club, an informal association in Menlo Park that had a hundred or so members; a club that heard a presentation by a young Gates from the Seattle region.   The Whole Earth Catalog was then popular (some of you will need to ask your parents about it), and Jobs was to adopt its motto as one of his guideposts in life, “Stay hungry.   Stay foolish.”

As Isaacson finely illustrates in this account, Jobs was never afraid to make mistakes with his early and later Apple Computer products – he was to learn and absorb valuable lessons from each of his mistakes right up to the time of “Antennagate” with the iPhone (“Has Apple’s Self-Destruction Begun?” was one of the headlines critiquing Jobs’ decision-making early this year).   If Jobs had been a college football coach, he would likely have been one that rarely called for a punt on fourth down; he would have often elected to go for post-TD two-point conversions.   When it came to beating his competitors, Jobs wanted to “leave no doubt.”

“The journey is the reward.”   Steve Jobs

While this book is not intended to be a comprehensive account of the PC and Silicon Valley, it gives us just enough information to understand where Apple fit in among its hardware, software and search technology alternatives such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Compaq, Google, Oracle, Adobe and others.   If you’ve read numerous histories of the era, you will likely be surprised to see how both Larry Ellison and Bill Gates come off as nothing less than gentlemen in this telling.   Ellison was especially close to Jobs, even offering to buy-out Apple Computer after Jobs’ ouster.   But Isaacson is not afraid to show us that Jobs was a human with flaws.   In addition to possessing a temper which he claimed to be unable to control, Jobs “tended to be generally dismissive of philanthropic endeavors.”   This was the case even though his wife founded College Track, an organization making efforts to help economically disadvantaged kids get into college.   Jobs never visited College Track’s after-school centers in the poor high schools where the program was (and is) located.

Like a hammer that sees everything in sight as a nail, Jobs also tended to view technology as the solution to every one of society’s difficult problems…  A very ill Jobs was to personally lecture President Obama on his view that all education should be digital and interactive (physical classrooms, teachers and whiteboards arguably being obsolete); though, in fairness, Bill Gates has made similar comments – some of which are quoted in Steve Jobs.

Isaacson clearly and comprehensively makes his case that  Jobs belongs up there with Edison and Ford as one of the greatest business leaders in American history.   He was a visionary, a big picture guy who could also master the smallest details.   He was a technological artist who was to identify with both fuzzy inventor-creators and detail-oriented engineers.   And he always understood that a sharp focus is the basic key to leadership, “Jobs insisted that Apple focus on just two or three priorities at a time.”

“…he was a brilliant guy with great design taste and great engineering taste.”   Bill Gates

One of Jobs’ ultimate victories was the knowledge that his adopted father had become enormously proud of his successes and achievements.   This fine and detailed account, an initial draft of history, well makes the case that Jobs (creator of the most successful ever consumer product launches) was a man of whom the entire world was proud.   What he sought as his own less than humble legacy was to come true; he sought “…a legacy that would awe people.   A dual legacy, actually: building innovative products and building a lasting company.”

Steve Jobs – the man who saw the future and built it for us.  

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This book was purchased by the reviewer as a Nook Book download.   It is also available in hardcover form, as a Kindle Edition download, and in abridged and unabridged audiobook versions.

Note: According to this biography, Steve Jobs once met in the late 70s with a class of Stanford University students and showed them a prototype of a laptop computer.   He informed them that this was the type of PC that Apple would be building and selling in the 1980s.   And Apple did so.   Years later, he told a different class at Stanford that they would one day be using PCs “the size of a book.”   And now we have 7″, 8.9″, 9.4″, 9.7″ and 10.1″ tablet PCs. 

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Coming Up Next…

A review of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

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The Nook Color Review

This holiday season many readers are going to decide whether to purchase either an Amazon Kindle Fire for $199.00 or a Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet for $249.00.  But there’s another option, which is to buy a Nook Color e-reader for the newly discounted price of $199.00 (at sellers like Target, Wall-Mart and Staples, in addition to Barnes & Noble).   Since I’ve owned a Nook Color device for a few weeks, I decided to write-up my impressions – for what they’re worth – here.   Maybe my experience will assist someone who is attempting to make an informed decision about the pluses and minuses of owning this 7″ tablet, with a small “t”.

With any reading device the strongest impression is going to come from the quality of the viewing screen.   The screen on the Nook Color, made by LG, is bright, sharp and offers great depth when viewing color scenes.   The depth is so noticeable that it seems to be a 3-D type of effect, and will be greatly appreciated by avid photographers.   When it comes to devices smaller than the now almost standard 10.1-inch tablets, the Nook Color’s screen is second in quality only to the Samsung Galaxy Tab in the 8.9″ Goldilocks-sized version.   Buying the Samsung involves spending $449 to $549.   So, the high quality viewing experience on the Nook Color is literally a bargain.

I’m not able to read books on a PC because of eye strain issues, but eye strain has not been a problem with the Nook Color.   This may be because the screen has been treated with an anti-glare solution, or because it is remarkably easy to adjust the brightness at any time to compensate for a change in lighting conditions.

The web browser on the Nook Color is very, very fast – and definitely faster than when one’s browsing pages on a netbook, low-priced laptop or an antiquated BlackBerry “smart phone” made by RIM.   If you have an opportunity to test a Nook Color, try calling up a Wikipedia page on almost any subject and you’ll see that it loads wickedly fast.   Of course, since the Nook Color is a Wi-Fi only device, actual speeds will vary depending on the capacity of your home wireless network.

I tested the public Wi-Fi feature in a restaurant in downtown Oakland, CA where the system required a log-in password, and it worked effortlessly and flawlessly.   And, of course, you can use the Nook Color in any Barnes & Noble store, where the device automatically connects to the bookseller’s network.   Downloading a book that you’ve ordered from the Barnes & Noble shop takes just seconds (and always less than 10 seconds), and you can read a sample preview of almost any book that’s offered for sale.   With the bestseller Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, the free sample is an excerpt of the first 118 pages!

If the Nook Color trips on occasion, it’s when it comes to memory.   In theory, you can stop reading a book at any point and return to it hours or days later and the device will remember the last page you were on.   However, in practice, this only works about 75 percent of the time…  The more hours/days that you put the Nook Color down, the less likely it is to remember where you were last.   The device is also supposed to let you select a home page of your own, but even after following the very specific directions needed to set your personal home page, the Nook Color will periodically forget your selection and open with the staid Barnes & Noble page.   Sigh.

Battery life seems to be fine while you’re reading or surfing the web, but if you let the device run down to 5% or so of its remaining power, you’ll be sad to find out that it will take a full three hours to recharge it fully.   Three hours seems like an eternity now when the best smartphones can recharge in less than half an hour.

The build quality on the Nook Color seems to be admirable, and it’s a small device with some heft.   On the flip side, it often feels a bit too heavy when one’s spending a good period of time holding it while reading.   The new Nook Tablet is 1.7 ounces lighter, which seems like a positive development.

If the Nook Color were a book rather than a technological device, I’d rate it on the borderline between Well Recommended and Highly Recommended.   As a practical e-reader and web surfing machine, it gets the job done 98% of the time, and the price is just right at $199.00.   But today, for an extra $50.00, you can have a Nook Tablet that’s lighter, faster (with a dual-core rather than single core processor), and has a longer-lasting battery.   All that’s needed now is for some boy or girl genius to develop a turbo-boosted charger for the Nooks that will recharge them in 20 minutes instead of 3 hours!

Joseph Arellano

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