Apple CEO Cook blasts Isaacson’s ‘Steve Jobs’ bio as a ‘just a rehash; a tremendous disservice’

The following excerpts are via Fast Company and adapted from Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart Into a Revolutionary Leader by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli.

MacDailyNews Take: Unlike Isaacson’s piss poor effort — it’s a travesty that Jobs’ “official” biography ended up being such an insipid lump — Becoming Steve Jobs is the Steve Jobs biography you’ll actually want to read.

From Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart Into a Revolutionary Leader:
“This picture of him isn’t understood,” says Cook. “I thought the [Walter] Isaacson book did him a tremendous disservice. It was just a rehash of a bunch of stuff that had already been written, and focused on small parts of his personality. You get the feeling that [Steve’s] a greedy, selfish egomaniac. It didn’t capture the person. The person I read about there is somebody I would never have wanted to work with over all this time. Life is too short.

“Steve cared,” Cook continues. “He cared deeply about things. Yes, he was very passionate about things, and he wanted things to be perfect. And that was what was great about him. A lot of people mistook that passion for arrogance. He wasn’t a saint. I’m not saying that. None of us are. But it’s emphatically untrue that he wasn’t a great human being, and that is totally not understood.

“The Steve that I met in early ’98 was brash and confident and passionate and all of those things. But there was a soft side of him as well, and that soft side became a larger portion of him over the next 13 years. You’d see that show up in different ways. There were different employees and spouses here that had health issues, and he would go out of his way to turn heaven and earth to make sure they had proper medical attention. He did that in a major way, not in a minor, ‘Call me and get back to me if you need my help’ kind of way.

Much more in the full adaptation – very highly recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: Here’s a bit of what we’ve had to say about Isaacson’s POS over the years:

Isaacson’s book has an unparalleled ability to omit the interesting.MacDailyNews, May 20, 2014

Anyone who can take a raging ball of fire like Steve Jobs and reduce his life to a bland cardboard cutout harbors some, er… special skills. As with passionate, interesting writing, judging companies’ levels of innovation isn’t one of Isaacson’s talents, either.

Go back to your day job, Walter. You know, churning out mind-numbing, by-the-numbers pablum that nobody* can finish without massive amounts of willpower and Red Bull.

Stop posing on TV as an Apple expert, or any sort of tech business expert, because totally blowing it by squatting out an interminable doorstop after being handed the biography subject of the century only makes you an expert in one thing: Failure.

After 630-pages that we never thought would end, we know you love facts, so here are a couple: You’re as much of an Apple/technology expert as any random fscktard off the street, you insipid milker, and your book was only a bestseller because it had Steve Jobs’ name and face on the cover, not because of you, Mr. Soporific.

*Having a bit more than a passing interest in Steve Jobs, even we could barely make it though Walter’s God-awful “Steve Jobs” textbook! No wonder Sorkin promptly threw it in the trash and started over from scratch.MacDailyNews, January 15, 2014

We wonder if, had he known what we know now, Steve Jobs would have chosen this self-appointed medium — a self-styled expert of all things Steve Jobs just because he penned an interminable doorstop of dreck that sapped every bit of soul out of its subject, leaving nothing but an empty cardboard cutout behind — as the person to whom to entrust his official biography.

Go back to your day job of boring the last molecule of shit out of people via your scribblings, Walter, you supercilious, know-nothing twit.

Before he trots himself out on TV yet again to proclaim the results of his latest seance with Steve Jobs, Laurene should give this tedious, overstepping blockhead a phone call and tell him the time of day.MacDailyNews, May 30, 2014

Related articles:
Isaacson: Steve Jobs would have done Beats deal – May 30, 2014
As MacDailyNews already posited, Walter Isaacson thinks maybe Jimmy Iovine will run Apple’s content business – May 20, 2014
Scribe of flavorless Steve Jobs biography thinks Google is ‘more innovative’ than Apple because Google bought a thermostat company – January 15, 2014
‘Steve Jobs’ biographer Isaacson backpedals on ‘Google more innovative’ comment, says ‘Apple is the best at execution’ – January 31, 2014
Gruber: Walter Isaacson blew it with biography of Steve Jobs – November 18, 2011


    1. I was incredibly disappointed by the Isaacson book. With all the access that Isaacson had to Steve Jobs, he missed the most important chance to explain clearly to the reader what made Jobs an icon. It did not matter one iota that Jobs misbehaved earlier in his life or had eccentricities, something that most of us have in our own way.

      Isaacson missed the chance to tell us what made Jobs a genius, and how the unique kernel of his vision changed the world. Instead, Isaacson discounted Jobs as a genius, and focused on his affairs, which in the larger scheme of things is a minor but perhaps sordid matter. That Isaacson focused on salacious details rather than what really mattered is the principal failing of his book.

      I am hoping that Schlender and Tetzeli will see past all the trash and clearly reveal what made Steve Jobs see before anyone else, as well as his ability to edit – to see where others fell short, and distill a promising product or technology to its essentials, and make it so compelling that people did not merely become customers, but passionate fans infected by Jobs’ vision and passion.

      I believe that Steve Jobs was the greatest surfer in history. By that I mean that he was not a waterman in the literal sense, but someone who could sense a major trend (a giant wave) when it was a ripple on the horizon, and ride the giant wave like no one else. If you’ve ever watched a group of surfers in a line-up waiting for a wave, most don’t see the real one coming, and if they do, they catch it too early or too late. Steve Jobs could see the waves coming and make and epic ride in the green room.

      THAT is what Isaacson totally whiffed on, and why his book was a failure. I finished his book sorely disappointed. My fingers are crossed that the coming biography will catch the wave.

  1. Every person on the earth is multi-faceted. It’s impossible for any writer to capture every facet of a personality in a 300 page book. People show a different side of themselves to everyone they meet. Business relationships will be much different than personal, parent or spouse relationships. There just is no possible way to write a truly accurate biography.

    1. However, number of pages was definitely not a reason why biography by Isaacson turned out bad. It was author’s intentional manipulations and omissions that made the book to be cardboard “evil genius” caricature portrayal of Jobs.

      Humane qualities of Jobs were as big as anything else, it is not a “wrinkle” to the story that Isaacson just-so-happened forgot to put in the biography, or he wanted but there was not enough of pages.

      And, in some of the most controversial stories Isaacson did not just “forgot” to ask for Jobs’ input on it. And for the others Isaacson did not just by coincidence always treated the way that Jobs had reasons to misrepresent things, and others disgruntled former friends and colleagues are all of sudden tell truth.

    2. You’re missing the point. Every biography paints a picture of its subject. Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs bio leaves the reader with an incredibly shallow, one-sided picture of the man. A biography doesn’t have to be exhaustive to accurately convey the essence of its subject. Walter Isaacson should go back to selling shoes.

        1. Steve trusted him and the dude stabbed him in the back. Jobs had made it clear he wouldn’t vet or even read the book. Isaccson wanted sensationalism and trash digging to sell more books (he was creating an imagined ‘character’ that he thought could sell , emphasizing the bad points and editing out the good. It’s like some ‘actor’ ‘bios’ that focus mostly on the bad parts of an actors life and little on their filmography ) .

          Unfortunately Jobs has a naive side to him that wants to trust people (see another side that is not recorded much) for example Bill Gates (msft engineers had free access to Apple in the old days: result Windows) and Eric (the mole ) Schmidt and the Google boys whom he mentored — they all happily stabbed him in the back. Besides Jobs was very ill at the time and might not have focused that much on his biography when there was so much to do and he probably thought that Isaccson would be as professional as Jobs himself.

            1. what we do know that numerous people who knew Jobs like Ive, Cook have said that it doesn’t accurately portray Jobs.
              (seriously as Cook as said do you think people like him , Ive etc — i.e talented people who could make millions working anywhere — would work for years for that person portrayed?”

              “no one knows the conversations they had other than Steve and Walt.” if you WANT to believe that Jobs went to Isaacson and said “just write the bad parts, don’t write the good and give very little detail to the actual process of how I created stuff” and Cook etc. (the guy who wanted to give Jobs a part of his Liver) are mistaken about Jobs, then it is up to you. (over and over again techy people who knew Jobs said that book is a tragedy as it gives very little insight to Jobs the Creator, it’s a slanted look focusing mostly on his human foibles without balancing out with positives ).

            2. My point is that perhaps that is all he (Walt) was given from the stories Steve told. No one has heard the recordings of their conversations. Maybe, just maybe, Steve wanted to come off as “hard.”

              No one really knows.

            3. you’re beating a dead theme, like I said if you seriously want to believe the illogic that Jobs wanted to be remembered more for his foibles than as a creator and have his humane side excised (like Cook is complaining) then go ahead.

  2. my 2 cents:

    1) these people writing nonsense ripping into Steve Jobs just want the sensationalism to generate sales and money. They have done some research so they know they are portraying a distortion yet they keep doing it.

    This is so different from what Steve Jobs envision an enterprise was, his first concern was the quality of the product. “We focus on the product and the bottom line (money) will take of itself”.

    Yet this ‘biographers’ studying Jobs (so should know better!) do the complete opposite, they want to generate money first and don’t care about the quality of the product (the accuracy)!

    Dudes, you write about Steve Jobs and you have learnt nothing!

    2) The terrible thing is that not only does it malign Jobs legacy it teaches the wrong thing about success and management. Managers are acting like crazed assholes all over saying they “want to be great like Steve Jobs” not knowing that as Ive, Cook, Schiller, Cue have said Jobs although intense was really not like that.

    3) Weird that Ballmer that has been recorded as throwing chairs (written court declaration by Mark Lucosvsky) and screaming doesn’t get the same treatment.

    1. There were chairs-throwing CEOs like Ballmer, xenophobes/homophobes like former Mozilla CEO, many crook CEOs of all kinds, but yes, if you believe media Jobs was the worst of all despite never doing anything like those others did.

        1. that cheating friend I believe was Woz.
          that incident happened when they were very young, almost kids and involved a few thousand dollars.
          Ballmer was CEO of the biggest USA corp at that time.

  3. I remember when reading the Isaacson book, he described iPhoto as an alternative to Photoshop. I was thinking at the time: no it isn’t! Both do stuff with photos, but the similarities end there; they are actually very different programs, serving different audiences, with different purposes. Later Isaacson got another technology fact completely wrong (forget exactly what it was now, think it had to do with Mac OS X.)

    Then it hit me: if Isaacson gets facts wrong in areas I’m knowledgeable about, there’s no good reason to believe he’s getting facts right in areas I’m not knowledgeable about, like Steve Job’s personal life. When it comes to facts that I could verify, he lazily or obliviously got things wrong – so why would I trust someone like that to get facts right about anything?

    Wish I had known ahead of time that book was garbage so I could have saved my time.

  4. Got Isaacson’s book, and for some reason, never got around to wanting to even open the cover. Wonder why… Might as well remember Steve through my own second hand impressions of him over the many year since the introduction of the Mac.

    1. “for some reason, never got around to wanting to even open the cover”
      And don’t ever be tempted to. I kept trying and trying – and eventually gave up. It really is a bunch of empty pablum. ZERO insight into what made Steve who he was.

    2. It’s very good, actually. Jobs’ behaviour is quite funny.
      Remember that this is the book that the saviour himself commissioned and approved of the final draft. I really
      don’t understand what you guys have against it, even
      more remarkable that you have something against it
      when you haven’t even read it yet.
      Remember – Steve approved of it, warts and all.
      Isn’t it his perspective that you would be most interested in?

      1. Jobs didn’t approve the final draft. He made no conditions on the writing of the book. he thought the author would be fair but the guy decided to go for the money: the more sensational the distortions the more books he’ll sell to haters.

  5. Love that MDN take.

    Question is what took Tim so long? Couldn’t he have said this right at the start?

    The really sad thing is it made a lot of money for that twit Walter. I kick myself for ever buying that trash. To top it all off I was given a hardback version of the book on my birthday. I gritted my teeth and said, “Thank you, what a great present”.

    1. Well for one thing, Tim Cook would have been accused of sour grapes which would have added to the negative stuff in the bio. Best to keep quiet and only pipe up when there is a better alternative…like now.

      1. A truly great leader confronts this level of insignificant issue quickly and directly. There is absolutely no benefit to Apple or to Cook to wait on offering his insights to the public.

        I get the impression that Cook doesn’t read many books, and he only just now got around to reading this huge selling book which has poorly cast Apple and one of its chief founders in a rather unflattering and completely superficial light. And that’s Cook’s style — never squashing bad information quick enough.

  6. I’ve always known the real SJ was nothing like he has been portrayed. You just can’t, as a leader, motivate people to do the great things Apple has done, and to make the great sacrifices those people have made to achieve those successes, unless those folks have truly loved their leader. You can’t be a great leader on the level of SJ unless you deeply care about those folks.

  7. I was very disappointed in it . . . It almost seemed to strive to criticize him while sprinting through piles of other information that I already knew. There was nothing groundbreaking, and the essence of who the man was and what drove him at personal level was completely absent. I find it hard to believe that Jobs would have given him so little to work with.

  8. A great read, thanks MDN, and thank you Tim Cook. Very touching and real. Nice to see some true light shinning on the topic.

    He did have a stage presence.

  9. I read the book and at first I thought it was good. Of course I did not know much about Steve Jobs at the time.

    After further reading about the man and thinking about the men I’ve known in life who are similar to Jobs in that they have been visionaries in various industries I feel the book really missed the passion and drive that Steve had.

    The easy road is to simply write guys like Steve off as egomaniacs or assholes. It’s the easy way out and it misses the essence of of what makes people like him truly great.

    Some of the biggest “assholes” in my life have pushed me to be greater than I could have imagined and you have to recognize that their prickly personalities are driven by a deep desire to change things and make the world better for all.

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