While it was far from perfect, one of my favorite books of the past few years is Walter Isaacson's biography Steve Jobs, which was written in the Apple co-founder's last days and released shortly after his death in 2011. Isaacson's book is fantastically researched and paints moving scenes of Jobs shedding things from his life to focus on building Apple into a serious company—it'll motivate you to go out and make something of yourself faster than getting a kick to the ass. But, Jobs is a huge asshole in the book. He leaves his pregnant girlfriend, doesn't claim his daughter as his own, and screws over countless employees—and that's not even the whole highlight reel.
A new book, Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution Of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary World, written by Brent Schlender and Fast Company executive editor Rick Tetzeli, is said to turn that around by showing Jobs in a different light, diving into the work he did (especially his years at NeXT, which didn't get a lot of time in Isaacson's book), and why he did it—instead of reinforcing the stereotypes of the Apple co-founder. Excerpts from the book—which drops March 24—have made their way online, and they reveal several events that show how far Jobs' stubbornness went, the first products by Jony Ive he killed off, and a company he surprisingly thought about buying.
Tim Cook offered to donate his liver to Jobs, and he refused.
In the beginning of 2009, Jobs' appearance had drastically changed from just a few years earlier. Most noticeably, he was frail, and his famous blue jeans and black turtleneck began to look oversized. He was right in the middle of battling cancer, and was in a lot of pain. Swelling in his belly from the cancer kept him from getting out of bed some mornings. A liver transplant would have saved him some agony.
Tim Cook, who was then COO of Apple, wanted to help Jobs so much that he went to get his blood tested. He found out that he shared the same rare blood type as Jobs, and that he could be a liver donor to him (livers regenerate, so Cook could keep a piece, Jobs would get the other piece, and both would grow back to a normal size). When Cook went by Jobs' house to tell him the news, he didn't get the reaction he expected. "He cut me off at the legs, almost before the words were out of my mouth," said Cook. "'No,' he said. 'I'll never let you do that. I'll never do that.'"
"Somebody that’s selfish," Cook continues, "doesn’t reply like that. I mean, here’s a guy, he’s dying, he’s very close to death because of his liver issue, and here’s someone healthy offering a way out. I said, ‘Steve, I’m perfectly healthy, I’ve been checked out. Here’s the medical report. I can do this and I’m not putting myself at risk, I’ll be fine.’ And he doesn’t think about it. It was not, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ It was not, ‘I’ll think about it.’ It was not, ‘Oh, the condition I’m in . . .’ It was, ‘No, I’m not doing that!’ He kind of popped up in bed and said that. And this was during a time when things were just terrible. Steve only yelled at me four or five times during the 13 years I knew him, and this was one of them."
Jobs once considered going toe-to-toe with Google by buying one of its biggest rivals.
Apple recognized that the search engine Google was becoming a major player in Silicon Valley, and Jobs wanted in on search, too. During this time Jobs and Disney CEO Bob Iger were just becoming good friends. Such good friends, in fact, that Jobs wanted Iger on Apple's board, though Iger couldn't make that happen for business reasons (Jobs asked Iger not to accept an invitation to join Google's board because he would get jealous). Jobs and Iger hung out in Jony Ive's design lab on the Apple campus, and talked about things they could do as a team—and they thought about buying Google's biggest rival, together. "We would stand at a whiteboard brainstorming," Iger says in an interview for the book. "We talked about buying companies. We talked about buying Yahoo together."
Two of Jony Ive's first pet projects were killed by Jobs.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, Jony Ive was hard at work on two projects, the eMate, a follow up to the Newton Message Pad (Apple's first experiment into tablet computing), and the 20th Anniversary Macintosh. The Macintosh project was described as Ive's "pride and joy" at the time, and was jam-packed with luxury features, which included cable and FM tuners that could turn the computer into a TV or radio. Then things went south, according to the biography:
The eMate disappeared along with all other traces of the Newton (save a few key patents), and the 20th Anniversary bit the dust after selling just 12,000 units. The products didn’t fit into his quadrants. Besides, he told me one day, "I just don’t like television. Apple will never make a TV again." This was Jony’s introduction to Steve’s coldhearted decision-making.
Tim Cook and Jony Ive aren't fans of Isaacson's biography.
While Jony Ive once said in an interview that his "regard couldn't be any lower" for Isaacson's Steve Jobs, Tim Cook hadn't spoken much of an opinion on it until now—and he's not very fond of how Jobs was portrayed. “I thought the Isaacson book did [Jobs] a tremendous disservice,” he says in Tetzeli and Schlender's book. “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 [Jobs was] 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’s too short.”
Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution Of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary World is available March 24.