This is a long biography about an incredible person. The book is surprisingly personal and has tons of little stories that show Jobs’ true personality.
The reality distortion field. Steve Jobs was famous for his reality distortion field: the ability to convince himself and others of pretty much anything through a mix of intense passion and hyperbole. The term was coined by Bud Tribble, an early member of Apple’s design team, who had daily experience working with Jobs at Apple and NeXT. Jobs’s would speak charismatically about achieving incredibly lofty goals and slowly bend employees to his way of thinking through somewhat manipulative means. He would frequently dismiss ideas as “complete shit” only to come back a few weeks later claiming to have come up with the idea. As Andy Hertzfeld (an original member of the Apple development team) put it: “I thought Bud was surely exaggerating, until I observed Steve in action over the next few weeks. The reality distortion field was a confounding melange of a charismatic rhetorical style, an indomitable will, and an eagerness to bend any fact to fit the purpose at hand. If one line of argument failed to persuade, he would deftly switch to another.” While this approach led to several incredible engineering feats, it also created a difficult environment for Apple employees. Jobs would frequently claim ideas as his own and give little credit to the engineers that actually created something. This extended to his personal life as well, where he wouldn’t shower because he claimed his diet of largely fruits and vegetables did not produce any smell (he was very wrong). Unfortunately this also extended to his cancer diagnosis, which he was convinced he could beat with a new diet despite several prominent doctor warnings to the contrary.
Owning the user experience. Steve was obsessed about user experience. At a time when the world was dominated by hard to use, clunky computers, Jobs helped Apple be the first to focus solely on how the user interacted with the computer. After his infamous visit to Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox PARC), in which he saw early designs for an easy to use mouse, Jobs adopted the technology for an upcoming Apple release. Apple and Jobs introduced several important design innovations including: windows for each operating program, drop-down menus, desktop metaphor (files and the trash can), drag and drop manipulation, and direct editing of a document. Jobs also wanted to maintain a tight connection between the hardware and software of all Apple devices. If Apple could abstract away all the back-end complexities and present an incredibly easy to use interface, its devices could be widely adopted by all consumers. This ran in the face of the general computing industry, which allowed significant user configurability.
Design simplicity. Steve Jobs was relentlessly passionate about the design of Apple products. As an extension of the user experience, Jobs wanted products that looked simple and felt magical: "To design something really well, you have to get it.” Jobs worked incredibly closely with Johnny Ive, Jobs’s “spiritual partner at Apple,” on the beautiful simplicity of every Apple product. One example of Jobs’s incredible focus on design is the iPhone. Not only does Jobs appear on the patent for the iPhone’s box, Ive and Jobs obsessed over each part of the phone, focusing on the ten commandments of design espoused by influential artist Dieter Rams. Jobs was so focused on sleek design, that even the internal, unseen logic boards of the Apple II needed to be redesigned because they weren’t straight enough. He also was thoughtful about building design at Pixar, building an open atrium that fostered random interaction as people traveled through it every day.
Vertical integration. It was Tim Cook who pulled Steve Jobs to dinner one night in Japan that led to the mass proliferaiton of Apple devices across the world. Cook had recognized that chipmakers were capable of making the device that Jobs had obsessed over for years, the iPod. Apple is a rare example of a Company that has focused on complete vertical integration. Apple wants to make both the hardware and the software behind its devices. Apple is now so large that it essentially controls all of its suppliers. Most companies leverage third party hardware (Dell, Toshiba, Motorola, Samsung, etc), put someone else’s software on it (Windows and Android), add third party services (Google, carrier services, etc.) and then sell it through someone else’s store (carrier retail stores, Best Buy, etc.) - Apple does it all.
Strategic investors. Many people do not know this, but Microsoft and Xerox were both strategic investors in Apple. Xerox’s investment led to that infamous visit to Xerox PARC, that led to inclusion of several proprietary technologies in Apple devices. When Jobs returned to Apple after the NeXT acquisition, he realized Apple’s dire cash circumstances. Jobs decided to call his sometimes enemy, sometimes friend, Bill Gates. Apple was in the process of suing Microsoft for copying its operating system, but Jobs desperately needed the cash. He negotiated a deal whereby Microsoft would invest $150M in Apple and Apple would drop its lawsuit against the Microsoft. “Bill, thank you. The world’s a better place.” The deal was announced at MacWorld Boston in 1997, where Gates appeared on a massive screen, hovering over Jobs in what would become an iconic scene.
Competing teams. Jobs would frequently set two different teams at Apple against each other in a fierce competition to produce a device or feature. The most famous example of this civil war experimentation was the design of the iPhone. According to Tony Fadell, Jobs had four different groups all working on an Apple phone: the large iPod for Video team (touchscreen), the iPod Phone team (spinning wheel), the touchscreen Macbook Pro, and the Motorola Rokr (the first phone integrated with iTunes). The whole development process was top secret within the Company, and dubbed: Project Purple. The Macbook Pro touchscreen would eventually become the iPad, and the large iPod for Video became the iPhone. These competing teams led to incredible developmental feats albeit at the sacrifice of shared knowledge within Apple.