Gruber: Walter Isaacson blew it with biography of Steve Jobs

Apple CEO Steve Jobs “understood technology but was not an engineer,” John Gruber writes for Daring Fireball, discussing “Walter Isaacson’s flawed Jobs biography.”

Jobs “had profoundly exquisite taste but was not a designer,” Gruber writes. “What it was that Jobs actually did is much of the mystery of his life and his work, and Isaacson, frustratingly, had seemingly little interest in that, or any recognition that there even was any sort of mystery as to just what Jobs’s gifts really were.”

Much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Malcolm Gladwell gets Steve Jobs wrong – November 14, 2011
Open thread: What did you think of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography? – November 10, 2011

45 Comments

    1. So says x … remind me x, how many people tune into your blog or podcast to hear your astute and erudite thoughts?

      x as used to indicate a mistake or incorrect answer ✔

    2. This seems to hit the nail on the head. I too greatly admire Steve Jobs and have supported Apple with loyalty since 1985 and own 3050 shares BUT I never saw Steve Jobs as an engineer or designer. I believe his gifts were the ability to sell people on an idea, to ask for and get the best from employees, to continually strive for excellence and to link the technical world with the artistic, visual, aesthetic and virtuous worlds. The biography missed that entirely in my opinion.

      1. I don’t know…the biography makes those points repeatedly. He even makes a point to say that after each description of Jobs’ tantrums; that he saw potential in certain aspects of tech (think PARC meeting) and made others believe it could and SHOULD be done.

    3. Spare us your facile knee jerk stupidity. Gruber’s criticisms are entirely valid, and he uses the fact that Gladwell comes to erroneous conclusion about Jobs as a direct result of Issacson’s flawed bio as clear evidence the Jobs bio is not a complete work.

    4. Hey guys! I have a wacky, crazy idea! Instead of basing our criticisms on the short summary here, why click though and actually read the f***ing article?! So we’ll have some idea of what the f*** we’re talking about when we criticize! Is that doable, or is it too “out there” for today’s busy internet consumer?

      FFS, the Gruber article isn’t a put down of Jobs at all, not in the slightest. Gruber opinion is that Issacson, and the book review he’s quoting, are not making an attempt to understand Jobs.

      This knee-jerk bile-spitting at anyone perceived to have leveled the slightest criticism of Apple or Jobs just reinforces the “Apple fanboy” stereotype we all hate so much.

      ——RM

      1. Very good idea!
        A lot of people misunderstood the way Jobs was. They even talk about RDF and other things to explain to themselves the things Jobs imagine and deliver. But I think that is because they didn’t see the whole picture Jobs had. iPod was just a piece of a profound objective: to change the music industry as a whole not just the way we listen to music (that is the objective of the iPod, at least in part). But all we can see, we see from our small slot of existence.

        Shit happens®
        …more than I like it to happen.

  1. Gruber made a great point in his podcast: if Steve Jobs got a technical person to do the bok, they’d ask lots of technical questions, and might publish some company secrets, which would hurt Apple in the market. Moreover, the book was mainly writter for Steve’s close family, hence, a book about Steve the man, not Steve the CEO. The last thing his kids want to read is a book about his boardroom dealings etc.

  2. Lots of people “invent things”.

    Steve jobs had an uncanny ability to see where the typical person would want to be in electronic device capability and usability 10, 20 and 30 years down. Many have done this too.

    Then Steve did what is different. Steve started down the 3 decade track by start to fill up the train’s boxcars with the core items needed to make the multi-decade vision happen…

    Mice, Easy User Interface, Typography
    High speed data ports & networking.
    Modular software system for programming on UNIX.

    Steve Jobs executed.

  3. For fans of Steve Jobs, the book really provided very little insight into the man. For those that have seen PiratesOSV and read the un-official biographies, there was really nothing new.

    But, maybe that’s OK. I read the book over a couple of weeks on my iPad and felt it was my last opportunity to greave over the loss of the Thomas Edison of my generation. The last few pages of the book when Steve resigned and was dealing with his illness where difficult to read and choked me up a bit.

  4. Walter wrote an opinionated book which reflects his viewpoint but consistently reflected a negative view of Jobs. I think it was slanted by the interviews of any ex employee would obviously be negative. read with a grain of truth but realize Jobs was much more than walter’s limited perception.

  5. “Steve Jobs really did re-imagine the world. The thing is, he actually made it happen, too.”

    Limited minds will forever be attempting to shove Steve Jobs into a box. Not gonna happen. He was a genius who put his hands into everything that caught his interest, then he IMPROVED IT. No one else in our era has done that so thoroughly or successfully.

    And kids, like it or not, improvement is the bread and butter of ‘invention’. The past and present are the foundation of the future. You can’t escape perspective.

  6. Don’t forget, the book was a tome for Jobs children more than anything. A very private and eccentric man let someone into his life to share his life with his children.

  7. Gruber has many good point about this – as does John Siracusa. Jobs picked the wrong guy to write the book – But he wanted the guy who wrote the biography of Einstein – so that’s what he got.

  8. Thomas Edison had many “inventors” working for him for many years doing much of the actual work. One in particular was Tesla one the greatest inventors in history. Does that mean Edison was not an inventor, engineer or visionary? Of course not.

    Jobs was in today’s times no different than Edison or Ford was in their era. Ask yourself this, how much coding has Bill Gates done in the past 30 years? Answer not a whole lot since the earliest days of Microsoft around the same time The Steves were building circuit boards in a garage!

    There is NO DOUBT that Jobs changed the world in many ways and was one of the greatest innovators of our lifetimes. Even if you never bought an Apple product you benefited from his genius.

    1. “Even if you never bought an Apple product you benefited from his genius.”

      An excellent comment Stephen. Steve Jobs changed and improved the world. Unlike Edison, he wasn’t driven to take all the credit and money. He was a collaborative leader, the best kind IMHO.

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