Second Coming of Steve Jobs
"A Tale of Two Valleys,"
In the preface to ''The Second Coming of Steve Jobs,'' Alan Deutschman explains why he chose to profile Apple Computer's founder and C.E.O. Many people, he says, have written overawed articles about Jobs since he returned to Apple in 1996 after nearly 12 years in exile, turning the company from a has-been into a profitable trendsetter and restoring his reputation as a visionary. ''I was looking for Steve Jobs the person rather than Steve Jobs the icon,'' Deutschman writes. ''I set out to discover the deep sources of his character and motivation. I strived to find where he got his unusual ideas about leadership, management and the creative process.''
This is a rather tactful description, since these ''management'' ideas, the author says, include screaming at employees to the point of hyperventilation, firing a PR consultant and refusing to pay her for completed work and taking enough stock options in his animation company, Pixar, to make himself a billionaire while leaving squat for all but a few of its longtime workers. Deutschman gives a truer indication of his quest by quoting the computer industry pundit Stewart Alsop, who posits that the major computer companies that are still run by their founders (Apple, Oracle, etc.) have one thing in common. They're all run by -- to paraphrase Alsop delicately -- complete jerks.
This is the unspoken question of ''Second Coming:'' Just how big a jerk is Steve Jobs? Pretty big, as Deutschman reveals in a study bursting with damning anecdotes, gleaned from interviews with nearly 100 of Jobs's friends and colleagues. Big enough to have refused to support his young daughter, Lisa, financially for years. Big enough to have played a pointlessly cruel practical joke on a naïve underling, pretending to offer him the position of Apple C.E.O. Big enough to park his Mercedes in the handicapped spaces at Apple.
In ''Second Coming,'' which examines the period from Jobs's ouster in 1985 to today, Deutschman, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, links Jobs's business innovations and personal failings -- the ''insanely great'' products emerging from a great insanity. (Jobs has already assailed the book as a hatchet job.) That Jobs is less than a sweetheart is old news; and it would hardly be interesting if not for the nature of his success. Even technophiles probably care little about the real character of, say, Michael Dell. But Apple and Jobs have long received attention far out of proportion to the company's market share because, more than hardware and software, Apple makes symbols. At its peaks under Jobs, it sold its loyal users an image of themselves. In 1984, the graphics-based (rather than text-based) Macintosh made computing accessible. In 1998, the fruit-colored iMac epitomized today's cultural symbiosis of work and entertainment, enshrining a business tool as an artwork.
In other words, an utter jerk helped change society by making computers known for their niceness. Steve Jobs did not succeed so much because he made better widgets but because, at some deep level, he understands us. If he is a jerk, he is our jerk. To understand Jobs, then, is to understand not just his personality -- vain, petulant, cruel, yet irresistibly seductive even to those he abuses most -- but his aesthetic.
It is an aesthetic, Deutschman writes, influenced heavily by modernism and a back-to-the-land ethos -- the combo of spareness, sanctimony and gourmandism now de rigueur at better housewares and fine-foods stores across America. (Jobs wanted the original Apple computers to come in cases made of beautiful blond koa wood.) It was an outgrowth of Jobs's embrace of 60's counterculturalism -- he was a longtime, and rather irritating, vegetarian and lived in a commune. Yet he came of age after these movements were hip or cutting-edge. ''By the time Steve tried LSD,'' Deutschman notes, ''suburban housewives were reading 'The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.' ''
In fact, Deutschman's most damning charge is really this: The aesthete and visionary who saw himself and his engineers as artists is at best a popularizer, at worst a poseur. Driven by ''an innate sense of the importance of aesthetics,'' he was painfully insecure in his tastes, compensating by making safe choices and spending a lot of money. He furnished his home in Spartan chic fashion -- some handmade wooden furniture in the Craftsman style, a $100,000 stereo, a Persian rug'' -- as if to risk as few errors as possible.
Harnessed properly, this attitude made him a business success. He became not so much an artist as a connoisseur -- an artist of spending money, skilled at bargaining and obsessed with hiring the best. When he adapted his spare aesthetic to mass tastes, the results were the original Macintosh and the iMac. Pixar, which made the hit ''Toy Story'' movies, made Jobs rich -- and possibly saved his career -- precisely because he left its artists alone in its crucial early years. But, the author writes, when he let his perfectionist aesthetic run unchecked at Next, the computer company he founded after leaving Apple, he failed monumentally, building a powerful $6,500 machine that many admired but few bought. A sleek, black cube, it was ''elegant, yes, but . . . intimidating, even forbidding.''
That is, it was Steve Jobs rendered in silicon. Deutschman's Jobs is an irresistibly charming man who can turn on a dime to cruelty, a man practically alien in his ignorance of civil niceties. Unfortunately, for all of Deutschman's well-chosen anecdotes, we never get a sense of how Jobs came to be this way. We read that he was adopted but learn little of his childhood; we see much of his behavior but only glimpses of his feelings.
This may not be the author's fault; if the ''intensely private'' Jobs has ever opened up to anyone, he or she hasn't talked to Deutschman. In fact, he practically recommends supplemental reading: the novel ''A Regular Guy,'' by Mona Simpson (Jobs's biological sister, whom he discovered as an adult), a thinly veiled biography that captures ''the emotional and psychological truths about Steve.'' Deutschman, with all his research, finally seems to throw up his hands, drawing uninspired conclusions like ''he is a man of great contrasts and contradictions.''
But he also avoids the pat ending, so common in comeback stories, in which the subject must be shown to have changed. Deutschman does credit Jobs with going through a humble phase after Next's failure, but by the end of ''Second Coming,'' ensconced as Apple's savior and a Hollywood player, he is again humiliating underlings and, yes, parking in the handicapped spaces.
Apple Computer fans have another dose of reality in store. Last week, the company's stock was massacred after it warned that earnings for the quarter just ended would be far below expectations. Next week, US bookshops will receive a new unauthorised biography of Steve Jobs, Apple's cofounder and chief executive.
The timing could hardly be worse. The Second Coming of Steve Jobs by Alan Deutschman was written when Mr. Jobs was being extolled for returning Apple to profitable growth. Today, such praise is rapidly diminishing as doubts set in about his ability to pull Apple out of another tailspin.
Yet Mr. Deutschman is no cheerleader for Apple - or for Mr. Jobs. His detailed research and fluid style reveal the contradictions of a temperamental, manipulative, arrogant character who can also charm his way through business deals, inspire employees and capture the world's attention with products and Marketing strategies that leapfrog competitors. Against the backdrop of Apple's latest problems, this account of Mr. Jobs' comeback is all the more fascinating because the end of the story has yet to unfold.
If history is any teacher, Mr. Jobs will blame others for Apple's predicament. For all of the excitement surrounding the colourfully cased "iMac", it now appears that Macintosh diehards account for the bulk of the company's sales.
In another blow, Apple's long-held advantage in the US education market seems to have been eroded. Then the new, more expensive, Apple "cube" strangely reminiscent of Mr. Jobs' failed Next Computer cube computer - is selling slowly. Is there a limit to the amount of money that Mac users are willing to bet on the future of Apple software?
Apple's influence in Silicon Valley is often overstated, but its legacy is widely felt. It is hard not to draw parallels, for example, between Marc Andreessen, the cofounder of Netscape, and a younger Mr. Jobs. Both wanted to prove their early successes were not flukes.
Industrial designers are the new elite at Apple. Much like the software development team that worked on the original Mac, they have Mr. Jobs' personal attention. Such flattery has attracted some of the "best and brightest". But sooner or later - and probably sooner - Mr. Jobs could turn from "good Steve", as Mr. Deutschman would describe him, to the "bad Steve", full of recriminations.
Steve Jobs is one of the most well-known names in the computer industry. He is also well-known for his mercurial nature.
"Good Steve," author Alan Deutschman writes, has the "desire to advance the state of the art in technology, can act with humility" and supports the "creative achievements of others," while "Bad Steve" is a "control freak and an egomaniac" and "a fearsome tyrant."
In an unauthorized biography of Mr. Jobs, Mr. Deutschman presents a fascinating portrait of the Apple Computer founder. He drills far beneath the surface to reveal a charismatic, sometimes eccentric man who has wielded great power, yet can be petty and abusive. Technology takes a back seat in this book; Mr. Deutschman has written an expose of sorts, one that strips the veneer away from Mr. Jobs' carefully cultivated media image, revealing the plain, unvarnished Steve Jobs. The author interviewed nearly 100 of Mr. Jobs' friends, family members, associates and rivals to create a memorable book that fairly sizzles. Mr. Deutschman writes that he "wanted to get at what made [Mr. Jobs] exceptional as well as what made him real."
The biography focuses on Mr. Jobs' career from 1985 to his stunning comeback in the late 1990s. Especially telling are the blow-by-blow accounts of his dealings with those who worked for him and their efforts to please him. One Apple employee described it as "like climbing a glacier everyday just to take out the trash."
Readers gets a vivid glimpse of behind-the-scenes maneuvering as companies jockey for money and prestige. Mr. Deutschman details the in-your-face interaction between Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg and Mr. Jobs. The Apple baron eventually secured a three-picture contract, saving Pixar and sending the company soaring to mega-success with Toy Story, A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2.
A mesmerizing, outstanding read, this book crackles with energy. Some of the passages will make your mouth drop open.
A revealing, balanced portrait of Apple Computer CEO and founder Steve Jobs, this fast-paced business biography is based on interviews with nearly 100 of his associates and friends. One glaring absence, however, is Jobs himself, who apparently declined to be interviewed by Deutschman, a Vanity Fair contributing editor and staff writer at GQ.
Still, Deutschman provides a juicy, privileged look inside the Apple core. He reports that Jobs' recent resuscitation of Apple, to which the visionary entrepreneur returned in 1996 after being ousted by John Sculley a decade earlier, was accomplished through a "reign of terror" that shook up thousands of complacent employees. Like other commentators, Deutschman portrays Jobs as both engaging and troubling, a natural charmer who is also an abusive, egomaniacal boss fond of meting out public humiliations.
But Deutschman goes further, replacing the image of the pop-culture icon with a complex, contradictory figure -- an insecure elitist who yearns for the patronage of the masses, a narcissistic vegetarian billionaire who thrives on scarcity and adversity.
Among the book's revelations are details of Jobs' bulimia-like eating disorders in the 1970s; his reconnection in the '80s with his long-lost biological sister Mona Simpson (Jobs was given up for adoption at birth); and his explosive negotiations with Disney honchos Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who produced the hits A Bug's Life and Toy Story with Pixar, Jobs's animation film studio. Though this gossipy bio has a slick magazine feel, Deutschman gets closer to Jobs's inner self than any previous attempt.
Call it "All About Steve."
"The Second Coming of Steve Jobs," a behind-the-scenes account of the supreme showman's resurrection from high-tech oblivion to cover-story glory, is likely to raise hackles -- not to mention blood pressure -- in the corridors of Apple Computer and Pixar animation Studios. It already is creating a buzz in Silicon Valley circles, prompting industry insiders to speculate on the sources for its inside material.
The 301-page-turner by Vanity Fair contributing editor Alan Deutschman details Jobs' volcanic personality and his mercurial stewardship as CEO of Apple, Pixar and next from 1985-2000. It portrays a sophisticated elitist who yearns for the patronage of the masses, who one business acquaintance compares to the mystifying tycoon in Citizen Kane ("I hope there's a sled called "Rosebud," says the anonymous executive). Among the book's tantalizing tidbits:
Former Apple colleague Mike Murray feared that Jobs would kill himself. Within a few months, however, Jobs overcame his mid-life crisis at age 30. "No one was aware how close Steve was to the edge," Deutschman, Fortune's Silicon Valley correspondent, said in a phone interview.
While Jobs behaves as the strict parent at Apple, banning dogs, enforcing no-smoking rules and pushing healthy cuisine at the company's Cupertino, Calif. campus, his efforts to influence the creative process at Pixar are viewed as unwarranted and disruptive. "Every Friday, Steve would assemble the entire Pixar staff trying to assert his leadership," Deutschman writes. "But the hearts and minds of the Pixarians belonged to (director) John Lasseter." Indeed, the power struggle between Jobs and Lasseter, Pixar's Oscar-winning "golden goose," is a central theme in the book.
Unaware of the box-office potential of Toy Story, Jobs attempted to unload Pixar to Microsoft, Hallmark and others while the animated movie was in production. Then, realizing it was a hit, he took the company off the block and thrust himself to the forefront of Pixar for publicity.
During grueling negotiations with Walt Disney Co., Jobs deftly coaxed a 50-50 partnership, proving his mettle as a budding movie mogul and fueling his aspirations to become a latter-day Walt Disney.
Jobs' unflinching vision, larger-than-life charisma and domineering drive paid big dividends at Apple and Pixar but came at a price for employees. "People became entranced by Steve's approval and acceptance; then, when he abruptly withheld it, they would struggle mightily to regain it, for only a fleeting time," writes Deutschman, who quotes a Next executive as calling the experience "seduce and abandon."
The book also unearths details on the 45-year-old Jobs' adoptive family, his biological parents (his father was a college professor and his mother a speech therapist on Wisconsin) and his star-crossed personal life.
For the fiercely private Jobs, who reportedly told colleagues the book was a "hatchet job" before it was written and turned down numerous interview requests, the revelations provide rare insight and could puncture a carefully cultivated public image. "He succeeded in becoming the Jackie Kennedy Onassis of business and technology -- a figure who was ubiquitous as a symbol of his times but little known as a human being," Deutschman writes.
Get a spoon. Your deep dish summer treat -- the book galley that Silicon Valley will spend the summer reading -- has arrived.
"The Second Coming of Steve Jobs," which takes over where Mona Simpson's "A Regular Guy" left off, will appear just after Labor Day (2000).
Vanity Fair editor Alan Deutschman's work -- a look at Jobs' Life and times since he left Apple in 1985 and returned in triumph in 1997 -- does a pretty good job of nailing down the details that Simpson included in her 1996 novel.
The temper tantrums, the funny diets, the aesthetic obsessions -- even Jobs' sister, Simpson, and her book -- are all in Deutschman's bio, which names names, places and describes events fictionalized for the novel.
An excerpt of the biography will appear in the October 2000 Vanity Fair.
Judging by ordinary criteria for assessing human behavior, one might be tempted to classify computer industry wunderkind Steve Jobs as a wacko. But multimillionaires and billionaires like Jobs, no matter how wacky they appear to ordinary mortals, are usually described instead as eccentric.
Jobs' eccentricity shines through with searchlight luminosity in Alan Deutschman's remarkable warts-and-all portrait "The Second Coming of Steve Jobs." The Vanity Fair contributing editor and former Fortune magazine correspondent has succeeded in penning a highly readable, multidimensional representation of a complex individual. The biography seems both authoritative and fair. Deutschman makes it clear that there is a "good Steve" and a "bad Steve." But that is not necessarily bad because Jobs' alternating personas, Deutschman writes, often enhance his ability to lead and motivate subordinates.
Despite revealing the warts, Deutschman's unauthorized portrait of Jobs is flattering overall. Of course, Jobs throughout his professional life has tried to control and manipulate his public image. Deutschman, therefore, may never be invited to a vegetarian dinner at Jobs' mansion. If Jobs, as Deutschman asserts, distanced himself from his sister, novelist Mona Simpson, after she wrote a novel in which the principal character was a thinly veiled and highly recognizable Jobs, it is unlikely that Jobs would think kindly of a biographer who revealed more about him than he wants the world to know. "Mona revealed that the book had ended her close relationship with Steve," Deutschman writes. "He still called her occasionally because he hadn't much family and he thought it was important to keep up a connection. But he felt he had been betrayed."
Second Coming commences at the nadir of Jobs' plunge from the summit of business success and public acclaim toward relative poverty and obscurity. He was by no means broke, but being down to one's last $10 million in the realm of the new high-rolling computer and e- commerce rich is to be relatively poor. In the early 1990s, the 30-ish Jobs appeared to be a flash-in-the- pan who had flamed out. He had squandered most of the $100 million fortune he left Apple computer with in 1985 in his attempt to build a new computer company, NEXT, that would eclipse Apple. Many of the brilliant people he had recruited to NEXT were leaving for positions with other companies, and Jobs was left to go down with the ship.
From that jumping-off point, Deutschman recapitulates the showdown that led to Jobs losing a power struggle with John Scully at Apple and being ousted from the company with which his name had become almost synonymous, a company that had its very origins in the garage at Jobs' parents home. The biographer then takes the reader back briefly through Jobs' adolescence, his young manhood as a hippie, his brief attendance at Reed College, his love affairs and the breakthrough with Apple that led to his becoming a Silicon Valley icon and something of a sex symbol.
Then (Deutschman) details the failure of NEXT, Jobs' visionary conception of a computer for college students that proved to be too expensive and too complicated for the market for which it was targeted. It is in this section that Deutschman focuses most on the alternation of the good and dark sides of Jobs, as he struggles to make the impractical work. During the NEXT ordeal, Jobs was also pouring money down a pit called Pixar, a company experimenting with computerized animation that he had purchased from George Lucas. Although Pixar, often referred to as just a hobby, was draining industrial-strength money from his dwindling fortune, Jobs never paid much attention to it. And that turned out to be a blessing for him. In the absence of strict oversight, two geniuses obsessed with the possibilities of computerized animation, Alvay Ray Smith and Ed Catmull, spearheaded experimentation that led to the technology used to produce the movie Toy Story in collaboration with Disney. That movie provided the catalyst for Jobs' comeback to greater glory and affluence.
Seeing a parade and deciding to jump in front of it, Jobs tried to exert more managerial control over Pixar, but the company was set up to function artistically without him. His questioning and tirades were tolerated politely, but Toy Story and its successful sequels essentially evolved with little input from the primary stockholder and nominal head of the company. Nevertheless, Jobs made some crucial decisions that would pay off big time for Pixar and himself. Against everyone's advice, he took Pixar public in 1995, and the public offering was so well received that Jobs became an instant billionaire and several of Pixar's officers became multimillionaires. Since he had so little influence at Pixar, Jobs welcomed the call from Apple to come back and help rescue it from its precipitous slide toward nonprofitability. In his capacity as a consultant at Apple, Jobs persuaded Chief Executive Gil Amelio to buy NEXT for $430 million. And in less than a year, he had pushed Amelio out and regained control of his old company.
Jobs' second coming to Apple was the commencing of a new success story for his old company. Although Second Coming focuses on the life of one extraordinary, visionary and quirky person, it also offers valuable insights into the culture of the computer industry, the kinds of beyond-the-envelope thinkers who are involved in it and how they are changing the way the world works.
Deutschman's allusion is clear enough. But Jobs, despite legions of faithful followers, is more like a cat with nine lives than a messiah. He ignominiously departed Apple, the company he helped found, in 1985. True, he left with $100 million, but he lost much of that in his ill-fated effort to start a new computer company called Next. Then he started Pixar, the animation company that created Toy Story. Although that company is successful and Jobs is still an owner, he lost a power struggle for control over the creative process at the studio.
Then Jobs made a triumphant return to Apple, reviving the moribund company. Jobs brought the Internet to Apple users, introduced the jazzy iMac computer, and oversaw Apple's clever "Think Different" ad campaign. What we know about Jobs is what we know about his companies, and there have been a barrelful of books about Apple. To a large degree, Jobs' companies are his life, and we have seen him be a perfectionist; he's also charismatic, obsessive, tyrannical, and wary of the press.
So, when a writer claims to be looking for "the man behind the icon," what we often get are gossipy details about the subject's private life--especially if that writer is a contributor to Vanity Fair and GQ, which Deutschman is. With notes from more than 100 interviews, Deutschman does not stint on those details, and readers will line up to read them.
The Second Coming of Steve Jobs by Alan Deutschman takes on the mythical icon that is Jobs and makes him more mythical - but more a Dantean figure than one of pure tragedy, a figure shaded by the intersection of high-minded business acumen and childlike self-doubt. No easy task. But Deutschman's up to it, carefully sketching a portrait of a paradoxical man.
The book covers the past 15 years, from Jobs' founding of Next through his return to the helm of Apple. Here's a guy who friends thought would commit suicide in 1985. When he flew high, he love to rub shoulders with Mick Jagger and Yoko Ono but hated it when people recognized him. In a convenient three-act structure -- Next, Pixar, Apple -- his well-known public story is interlaced with tales of his indecision, his haggling with house contractors, his desire for perfection flattened by his lazy autodidactism. As a profile of one of the first Silicon Valley rock stars, Second Coming isn't a business book, nor is it a tell-all. It reads like a novel and has the scope of Ben-Hur. And it's the strangest of high-tech industry books - it's good.
Who says there are no second acts in American lives -- take a bite out of Alan Deutschman's The Second Coming of Steve Jobs (Broadway), a deliciously rotten-to-the-core exposé of the prodigal son whose return to Apple after a decade heralded a bumper crop of cash.
(Alan Deutschman is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and recently wrote The eEstablishment.)
GREAT READ. One of the keenest observers of the business and culture of Silicon Valley sets his sights on one of the most remarkable stories in the recent history of Silicon Valley.
The Story of Steve Jobs is a complex one, with dramatic reversals of fortune and rebounds from apparent defeat to the height of success. Deutschman, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and Fortune magazine's Silicon Valley correspondent for seven years, has interviewed nearly 100 people, including Jobs' close friends, colleagues and rivals.
The work focuses on Jobs' life and career, from his 1985 exile from Apple Computers (the company he CO-founded), through his return to the struggling company 12 years later as acting CEO, to his recent appointment as Apple's chief executive. During his second tenure at Apple, the company experienced a dramatic turnaround, with high profits and the tripling of stock prices. Along the way, Jobs achieved success with his animation studio, Pixar, culminating in the 1995 release of Toy Story. Jobs' personal life and relationships with family and friends are also related. This fascinating study of Jobs and of the inner workings of Pixar and Apple Computers is an important addition to both public and academic libraries.
Deutschman, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine and longtime Silicon Valley correspondent, interviewed nearly 100 colleagues and friends to draw this portrait of a bewilderingly complex and notoriously private man -- albeit one whose talents, personality traits, and idiosyncrasies have long been on public display. "He succeeded in becoming the Jackie Kennedy Onassis of business and technology," Deutschman writes, "a figure who was ubiquitous as a symbol of his times but little known as a human being." To change that, he looks into Jobs's ill-fated first post-Apple endeavor at the Next computer company, his return to undeniable respectability with Pixar and the two Toy Story movies, and finally, his ultimate absolution with a very successful reclamation of the Apple crown. It's a revealing account of a singular individual during a remarkable time.
The media spotlight now turns away from Bill Gates and onto Steve Jobs -- the complex, brilliant entrepreneur of new technology. In Second Coming of Steve Jobs (Broadway Books, $26.00), business journalist Alan Deutschman offers a delicious, detailed account of a visionary whose obsessive drive has made him the stuff of Silicon Valley legend. Deutschman charts the course of Jobs' two turns at the plate with Apple Computer (first as Cofounder, later as savior) and now at Pixar, the animation studio behind the two TOY STORY movies. Jobs has done it all, and Deutschman has covered it all -- both of them with style.
High-tech companies are rapidly constructing a future in which many of the old boundaries of privacy and identity will be dissolved, in which long-standing cultural, national and political barriers no longer apply.
Such intimate data as health records, political convictions and sexual proclivities will be digitized and stored in the ether. There will be no place to hide. And we're supposed to like it. "You have zero privacy anyway," Sun Microsystems chief executive Scott McNealy recently said, claiming this battle has already been lost. "Get over it."
Of course, when it comes to their own privacy, high-tech executives start singing a different tune. As Alan Deutschman's biography of Steve Jobs was going to press last month, it was widely reported that the Apple Computer cofounder had called the top executive at the book's publisher. What precisely Jobs wanted has not been revealed, but it's safe to conclude he wasn't offering to host the publication party.
The Second Coming of Steve Jobs shows a man whose personal magnetism can be so compelling that the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field, a zone where even the strong-minded are helpless to resist, was invented to explain it. It also describes a man who is remarkably unpleasant to work for, even by the loose standards of the tech world. When one longtime executive tells Jobs she's quitting, her voice mail and e-mail stop working before she gets back to her desk. When another quits on a Sunday night, the computer card that he uses to get into the office has been deactivated by Monday morning.
Jobs tells a consultant that his work "was the worst thing I have seen in my life. We don't need your services. It's nothing personal." He parks his Mercedes in handicapped parking spaces, plays cruel practical jokes, fires impulsively, terrorizes unnecessarily and, on the rare occasion when he does interviews, likes to berate the journalists for being stupid. This leads to the book's funniest line, from a Wired writer whose interview was sabotaged by a merciless Jobs: "Imagine what he'd be like if he hadn't studied Zen."
The book, the first by longtime Silicon Valley journalist Alan Deutschman, is a strange sort of biography. The narrative skips completely over the storied launching of Apple Computer, when Jobs teamed up with a brilliant pal, Steve Wozniak, in 1976, quickly building the world's first easy-to-use home computer and, even more remarkably, the world's first cool company.
Instead, the book essentially begins in 1985, when Jobs was unceremoniously tossed overboard by the Apple board. He was rich, he was famous, his position in history was secure, and he was only 30. "Born at the midpoint of the postwar baby boom, Steve Jobs was one of the most enduring symbols of his generation, reflecting all of its virtues and failings and self-delusions," Deutschman writes. "He was the figure who turned business leaders into rock stars, objects of public fascination. And like so many actual rock stars, he could have quit, or faded, after a brief, spectacular career."
Instead, Jobs bullied, charmed and maneuvered his way back to the top, first through his ownership of Pixar, the computer animation outfit that had a spectacular debut with "Toy Story," and then by returning at the end of 1996 to run Apple, whose problems had intensified in his absence.
In less than two years, Jobs rescued the place from impending bankruptcy, introduced the very popular iMac line and even made Apple somewhat cool again. Either of these achievements would have been enough to restore Jobs's luster. But his greatest accomplishment during this period came as he was rejoining Apple, when he convinced the computer company's management to spend $430 million to acquire Next.
Jobs had started Next as his comeback vehicle but it was in even worse shape than Apple, which is saying a lot. The Apple board didn't notice; the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field can truly work wonders. The story of Next is at the heart of Deutschman's book. Jobs obsessively fine-tuned this personal computer, hiring the best technical and marketing wizards for a superior product that no one ever wanted because it was too expensiveperhaps $10,000 with the appropriate extras, against the $1,500 that a basic PC cost. The Next factory could make 10,000 computers a month, but there was never a market for more than 400. At best, it was a computer a decade ahead of its time.
Even for those who can't tell an iMac from a Compaq, Deutschman's book is compulsively readable. That label is often applied to trash novels but almost never to business biographies, which tend to be either hagiographic (if done with the subject's cooperation) or undernourished (if done without). The Second Coming reads like a superior Vanity Fair story. (The magazine, as it happens, was supposed to run a long excerpt until it was mysteriously killed at the last minutean act that doubtless had nothing to do with the fact that Apple advertises heavily in glossy magazines such as Vanity Fair.)
Deutschman seems to have gotten the right people to talk and had them do so on the record, although credibility in these matters is always helped by source notes and a bibliography, neither of which are found in The Second Coming. Despite what Jobs no doubt thinks, the book seems basically fair, presenting the computer magnate as a three-dimensional figure. He reads his employees' e-mail, but is moved to tears when he sees a new Apple ad. He had faith in the geniuses at Pixar, through long years of drought when any other tycoon would have pulled the plug. Then, when the company went public, he profited to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while many of the loyal employees got essentially nothing.
"He was a man too busy to flush toilets," as the first line of his half-sister Mona Simpson's roman a» clef has it, but also lives comparatively modestly for a Silicon Valley mogul. His favorite dish is raw carrots with no dressing, leading Rupert Murdoch, never previously considered a wit, to crack that "having dinner at Steve Jobs's house is fine as long as you leave early enough so there are still restaurants open."
Where The Second Coming stumbles is not on narrative, but on context. If Steve Jobs is the key tycoon in the most important American industry, what does his behavior say about what is permissible in this culture? Deutschman makes a stab or two at this question, offering witnesses who theorize that Jobs wouldn't have gotten anything done if Bad Steve hadn't been joined to Good Steve. "If you're going to change the world, you don't do it through conventional means," one of his admirers says, meaning that Apple would now be dead without Jobs and his abrasive ways.
But another longtime colleague counters: "How much of [a jerk] do you have to be to be highly successful?" And there the topic is more or less dropped. What the biography makes clear is how elusive success in technology really is. The mistakes Jobs made at Apple the first time almost sank the company. And if he had made more of an effort to market Next's superior software, instead of concentrating on its overpriced computers, it could have been a powerhouse.
Good products aren't enough to succeed. Even a reign of terror isn't enough. The zeitgeist has to be ready for you, which means you have to have enough stamina to wait for it to come around. Give Steve Jobs credit for this, at least.
The Second Coming delivers its sometimes sobering lessons of New Economy entrepreneurship in a brisk narrative.
"How much of an a-- do you have to be to be highly successful?'' This question is posed by a college roommate and former buddy of Steve Jobs' in the closing pages of Alan Deutschman's new biography of the Apple cofounder and chief executive officer. The answer, at least in Jobs' case, appears to be "pretty much," if we're to judge by "The Second Coming of Steve Jobs." Previous accounts have established that the man can be self-centered, manipulative and abusive -- at times downright vicious -- even to close friends and longtime associates. The scores of anecdotes collected by Deutschman, Fortune's Silicon Valley correspondent for seven years and now a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, make a convincing case that Jobs hasn't changed much in this respect. Even though the former wunderkind is now a family man of 45, and both the businesses he runs -- Pixar, the animation studio responsible for "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life," as well as Apple -- have in recent years enjoyed unprecedented success, what Deutschman calls "the Bad Steve" is apparently still alive and well. Of course, much of Deutschman's evidence appears to come from secondhand sources, and his informants no doubt had their own axes to grind. There's no guarantee of the accuracy of their accounts or of the author's presentation; it's worth noting that some of the people he portrays say he got parts of their stories flat-out wrong. Jobs refused to be interviewed for the book. He did find time to call the chief executive of Random House, the publisher's corporate parent, to complain about what he called a "hatchet job."
Deutschman illuminates the attributes that have made Jobs not only a success but also an influential innovator in two major industries. The book documents Jobs' tenacity, his persuasiveness, his passion for excellence and his finely tuned marketing sense. With good reason, Deutschman calls him "the best showman in American business" -- and notes that he works long and hard, even "maniacally," to achieve the ostensibly spontaneous ease and polish that make his presentations so compelling. The author also highlights Jobs' unabashed concern for aesthetics -- an attribute that few of his fellow high-tech honchos seem to share, even though the popularity of Apple's iMac and other recent products offers strong evidence that customers respond to good design. Here as elsewhere, though, Deutschman is more than a little backhanded in his praise. In a flashback to the late 1970s, for example, he devotes several pages to testimony from Jobs' then-decorator that his client was uncertain and insecure in his aesthetic judgments -- as if others in their early 20s don't experience similar doubts. Deutschman doesn't show much empathy for what it must have been like for Jobs to go from a working-class upbringing to multimillionaire and national celebrity in just three or four years. "The Second Coming" focuses on the period between 1985, when Jobs was ousted from Apple by then-CEO John Sculley, and the end of 1998, after the release of the iMac and of "A Bug's Life," Pixar's second runaway hit. That span encompasses the rise and fall of Next, Job's second computer company, and the ascent of Pixar, which Jobs picked up at a bargain price from George Lucas when the "Star Wars" creator needed cash for a divorce settlement. The Pixar saga is especially fascinating -- partly because it hasn't been told as often as the Apple/Next story, but also because the animators regularly stood up to their boss in ways his computer employees, by all accounts, hardly ever tried to. The Pixar crew managed, for example, to beat back Jobs' periodic efforts to take over some of the powers of their real leader, John Lasseter. "The Second Coming" also includes fascinating details about Jobs' dealings with Disney -- from an early round of talks, when then-Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg allegedly thundered, "I own animation, and nobody's going to get it," to post-"Toy Story" renegotiations where Jobs, to the astonishment of Hollywood insiders, persuaded Disney chief Michael Eisner to offer Pixar a 50/50 revenue split and equal billing on future films.
However, Deutschman's discussion of Apple's revival since Jobs' return in 1997 is disappointing. His relatively brief treatment of this period (less than 50 pages) doesn't even mention such critical issues as Jobs' decision to eliminate Mac clones. Deutschman also has an annoying habit of telling his best anecdotes twice. And his text is marred by a number of factual errors -- most of them minor, but enough of them to raise doubts about Deutschman's accuracy in dealing with matters that aren't easy for readers to check. He's off by two months, for example, in dating the launch of the iMac, and by two years with respect to Intel's introduction of its Pentium processor. "The Second Coming," though, wasn't intended to be an academic or even a popular business history. It is, as Deutschman puts it, about "Steve Jobs the person." Given the raw material, it's not an uplifting story, but anyone interested in the culture of Silicon Valley should find it well worth a read.
At 30, Steve Jobs, founder and visionary of Apple Computer, was stripped of power in the company but was still worth $100 million--a virtually unemployed high-tech millionaire before it was fashionable.
Embittered and determined to prove that his success was no fluke, Jobs sold his stock and struck out on his own to found Next, the computer company he hoped would eclipse Apple and become a testament to his true genius. "The Second Coming of Steve Jobs" recounts the tale of his exile from Apple, the failure of Next, his unexpected success with animation company Pixar and ultimate return to the company he founded. The book focuses more on Jobs himself than the businesses he created.
Through interviews with Jobs' friends and former co-workers (in some cases the same people), Vanity Fair reporter Alan Deutschman recounts anecdotes of "Good Steve," the charming, motivating speaker who manipulated his own "reality distortion field," and "Bad Steve," the stubborn, abrasive egomaniac who fired employees on a whim and insulted business partners regularly.
Remarkably, the same character flaws that made him change his mind erratically and demand perfection on the smallest details also led to his greatest successes, including the movie "Toy Story" and the iMac computer. Not surprising for an unauthorized biography, Deutschman seems to place more emphasis on the negative tales of Jobs than is probably warranted. But it still makes for a fascinating fast read that gives substantial insight into the enigmatic personality that spawned a revolution in personal computing.
For years, when Steve Jobs looked in the mirror and asked who was the fairest of them all, fawning media and Apple constituencies answered, "You are, Steve."
There were the magazine covers, the TV specials, the Macworld triumphs. A master showman whose charisma radiates brightest onstage, Jobs leveraged the "insanely great" mystique of Apple and the Macintosh to cult status in computing circles. As long as feature articles and product rollouts were as close as most people got to Jobs, the mystique prevailed. Now a new book, "The Second Coming of Steve Jobs" by veteran journalist Alan Deustchman (Broadway, $26), portrays a figure better known to those who came into contact with the actual individual himself, and casts doubt on whether Jobs is really the leader to carry Apple's fortunes forward.
"Second Coming" is a devastating portrait of a childish, vindictive and greedy pariah who believes the world is composed almost entirely of bozos. Running a shop built on paranoia and insecurity, Jobs would "flip the bozo switch" on just about everyone he encountered.
Apple employees, industry associates and even friends were subjected to the Jobs treatment, to the point where his circle was winnowed to include virtually none of the brilliant and loyal trailblazers who really built Apple into an international power.
Jobs did not cooperate with the book, and Deutschman relies on secondhand stories and anecdotes. But the portrait that emerges is so consistently dire that "Second Coming" bridges the usual gap between talking out of school and serious biography.
Toying with facts Most telling were incidents involving Pixar, the "Toy Story" company whose success brought Jobs back from the doghouse of Next, his star-crossed computer workstation. Jobs, whose 30 million shares brought him billionaire status when Pixar went public, refused to spread the wealth around. "The rest of Pixar's 140 staffers would get ... very little," Deutschman noted.
Another time Jobs and Larry Ellison, Oracle's notorious founder, teamed to mislead a Silicon Valley consultant and Mac fanatic into thinking he was being named CEO of Apple. The incident, exposed at the time by Bay Area news media, confirmed again how far Jobs would go to flip the bozo bit. Jobs actually moved to suppress the book itself. An excerpt in Vanity Fair was killed after Jobs complained (and, if past pattern held, threatened to withdraw Apple advertising). And the book's release was postponed when the cover had to be redone because of a rights squabble over the original image - a move Deutschman suspects was the result of Jobs' meddling.
Although any attempt at censorship is reprehensible, there was one encouraging side to Jobs' actions. It showed that he read at least part of the book, providing hope that he sees what longtime friends and associates are saying about him.
No comment from Jobs Deprived of Jobs' side of the story, Deutschman nonetheless manages to explain the apparent contradictions behind Jobs' public magnetism and private arrogance. The man has a Rasputin-like magic irresistible even to those aware of its lurking venom. It explains why, year after year, respected journalists and industry cohorts let the "Good Steve" mythology prevail, even when they knew the darker truth.
Coming on the heels of a disastrous quarter for Apple, which saw its stock drop by 60 percent, Deutschman's portrayal may pose more fundamental doubts about Jobs' continued ability to guide his company.
Three points stand out. First, Jobs has an inability to follow the counsel of others, even when they are obviously more capable and informed. Second, he blames others for his own mistakes.
Finally, Deutschman shows how Jobs seems bent on rectifying his Apple and Next failures by proving he was right the first time. Thus, he released the G4 "Cube" - a smaller and more stylish version of the disastrous Next cube - while pricing it too high and omitting too many compatibility features.
Failed cubes and Apple's renewed woes raise the question of whether Jobs, looking in the mirror these days, can ever unflip the one bozo switch he should have focused on a long time ago.
The first thing you should know about Alan Deutschman's delicious new Steve Jobs biography, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs," is that it is not a "hatchet job." The phrase is relevant because Jobs himself has apparently been repeating it up and down Silicon Valley for almost a year now -- achieving the no-doubt unintended effect of raising the book's prepublication buzz to a near-deafening din. But "The Second Coming of Steve Jobs" is hardly some cut-and-pasted piece of character assassination -- it's more of a psychological profile with a fruit-flavored iMac punchline.
Starting where most other Jobs biographies leave off -- at the moment of his ouster from Apple Computer by John Sculley -- Deutschman tracks Jobs' career through the dismal failure of Next Computer and documents his triumphant return to the limelight via his successes with Pixar and Apple.
Deutschman, a contributing editor for Vanity Fair (and frequent contributor to Salon), has been reporting on Silicon Valley for almost a decade. Wielding a Rolodex that reads like a who's who of the computer industry, Deutschman collected an impressive number of colorful anecdotes and tidbits ranging from Jobs' profligate spending at Next to his revolving group of girlfriends to his monomaniacal obsession with the veggie lifestyle. The book is a pleasure to read; but not surprisingly, Jobs wishes you wouldn't.
Over coffee, Deutschman revealed the story behind the book, including the mysterious chain of events that derailed both the book's original cover and an excerpt scheduled to run in Vanity Fair. Coincidence ... or Jobs' meddling hand?
Silicon Valley Saga, a Review of The Second Coming of Steve Jobs Most CEO's don't banish smoking and institute vegetarian-only cuisine on their corporate campuses. Nor do they fire and rehire the same people while making a habit of terrorizing their employees. Also, they usually don't tend to spend millions of dollars and countless hours designing the perfect office and factory instead of creating a marketable, successful product.
Even if they were to pull off such behavior, as Steve Jobs did in his various professional endeavors from 1985 to 2000, would they still be worshipped and canonized as he has been? Few else could fall from grace so publicly and have the wherewithal to return so triumphantly. His homecoming to Apple Computers, the company he founded, after his humiliating ousting in 1985 heralded one of the most astonishing business turnarounds in corporate history. Bringing Apple's stock price, sales figures, and market share to all-time highs in a PC-dominated world stunned the industry and reestablished Jobs's place in the corporate pantheon. It's one of many experiences that have made Jobs such a fascinating subject of the many works that have focused on him.
His legendary charisma, exceptional genius, and the cult-like following he inspires make for an extraordinary character, but not one without considerable flaws, all of which are explored from an insiders' perspective in Alan Deutschman's intriguing book The Second Coming of Steve Jobs. There's little doubt that Jobs is a visionary and revolutionary, but the substance of The Second Coming of Steve Jobs reduces Jobs to human scale by recounting his often irrational and repugnant behavior through more than 100 interviews with Jobs's friends, employees, and professional contacts. The Second Coming of Steve Jobs feels like a 304-page magazine profile, a style fitting of the author, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair magazine and a former Silicon Valley correspondent for Fortune.
The content of the book is two-thirds gossip and dish and one-third chronology and analysis. The result is an entertaining page-turner that reads like an episode of VH1's Behind the Music, complete with the classic rise, fall, and rise again plotline, obscene displays (and the misspending) of wealth, betrayal, and appearances by other notable players, like Bill Gates of Microsoft, Jim Clark of Netscape, Larry Ellison of Oracle, and Michael Eisner of Disney. Steve Jobs's successes are far less interesting to read about than his failures, the most outstanding of which is NeXT, his mid-'80s post-Apple computer company.
Jobs started NeXT in an attempt to outdo and exact revenge upon Apple, but ended up alienating his core team of professional confidantes, burning through money at a phenomenal rate and ultimately seeing his company liquidated garage-sale style. After reading about the way in which Jobs ran the company, it's actually little surprise that it was such a stunning failure. According to the book, Jobs spent more time obsessing about finding the perfect furniture for his office, building the most aesthetically pleasing hardware, and spewing vitriol against Apple than focusing on how to develop a killer computer. He fleeced enormous sums from investors, only to empty his coffers on the company's logo and factory and end up in the red. NeXT barely shipped computers and never met its sales projections. He ignored advice about reconsidering his strategy and rejected buyout offers. Toss in the climate of fear that he created within the company, and it's a perfect recipe for disaster. But Jobs refused to deal with any of that.
Deutschman paints a portrait of a man so obsessed with the concept of perfection and so embittered by the injustices he felt he suffered, that he'd become blind to reality. This is best evidenced by his egomaniacal dealings with the creative founders of Pixar, the computer animation company behind the movie Toy Story. Jobs tried to impose his way onto the familial corporate culture of Pixar, insisting that his money gave him the right to run the company in his image. But eventually, a broken Jobs realized that the company's virtues lay in the creative spirits of its founders and artists and lost his battle for control. Instead, he waged war against Disney and won unprecedented lucrative contracts from them, took Pixar public, and reclaimed the wealth he lost with NeXT.
The Pixar episodes are among the most interesting material in The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, providing revealing perspective on a lesser-discussed aspect of Jobs's professional history. They also reveal an incarnation of Jobs that encapsulates his best and worst qualities as a businessman, negotiator, and visionary. As reviewed in the chapter of the book called "Being Steve," Jobs is a walking contradiction, an insecure, capricious, childlike man whose fierce tenacity engenders his legendary resilience. Although he's a great man who often feels that the rules don't apply to him, he's also suffered greatly, which together make him someone who will no doubt continue to captivate media and literary attention for years to come.