Jobs, of course, was a rock star to many rock stars (Bono among them), not to mention tech geeks, business leaders, politicians (Bill Clinton was a friend), movie stars (Tom Hanks), and millions of consumers he never met but nonetheless seduced. During his relentless career, Jobs transformed a slew of industries, starting with personal computers (the original Macintosh) and later morphing into movie animation (Pixar), music (the iPod), shopping (the stylish Apple stores that changed the way tech products are sold), smartphones and, most recently, tablet computers (the iPad).
Jobs handpicked Isaacson as his biographer after a recurrence of cancer. It was, like so many of his moves, brilliant. Isaacson first declined Jobs’ request, but later relented. The author of best-selling biographies of Ben Franklin and Albert Einstein, Isaacson received extensive access to Jobs, conducting 40 interviews with him during the past two years and also gaining access to friends, family, current and former business partners, and rivals such as Microsoft founder and fellow billionaire Bill Gates. Most important, Isaacson retained complete editorial control.
Despite that, his introduction to the book could leave prospective readers with the wrong impression. Isaacson acknowledges being charmed by Jobs, possible foreshadowing for a fawning portrait. Instead, the book is anything but hagiography, to the benefit of all involved. As Jobs tells Isaacson in their final interview, conducted earlier this year as the Apple chairman lay dying, “I know there will be a lot in your book I won’t like.”
That there is, mostly in the form of rudeness, verbal cruelty, and neglect. As the mother of his first child says, “He was an enlightened being who was cruel. That’s a strange combination.”