iCon: the second coming of Steve Jobs

January 04, 2007

Just finished reading “iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business”.

This was my second “Apple book”, with Jim Carlton’s being the first, and so I also have some comparison fodder.

There are three main differences between Carlton’s and this book.

The first, of course, being that Carlton’s was written a while ago when Apple was in a pretty fucked state in mid90-s, before iMacs, iPods or any of the much more recent stuff. It thus had a very abrupt ending. iCon can also look at the more recent and successful things.

The second, as a result of the first, is that Carlton’s book is much more about “doom and gloom”, as in mid-90s Apple was genuinely in danger and seemed to have been in a constant downward spiral in many years and nobody knew where it would end. iCon is much much more upbeat, chronicleing the ups and downs in a more balanced manner.

The third one is that iCon is much less a book about Apple and much more about Steve Jobs himself. It looks only marginally at people like Jean-Louis Gassée, Gil Amelio, Michael Spindler or indeed John Sculley himself, who are explored in much much more detail in Apple. In iCon, Apple is just one of Steve Jobs’ many ventures.

I learned a lot about Jobs in this book, both about the early days and the more recent stuff. I didn’t really know much about his work in NeXT or Pixar, I of course knew that he had “done” these but not how or what exactly. This book details it, only missing the most recent stuff (since it was published before them) like the Disney-Pixar buyout of 2006.

I didn’t really know about Jobs’ early history and the whole adoption thing. Or that he was so cracked up that he went to India to seek the truth. Or that he had three kids (or now it’s four). Or his cancer and how he had a rare fortunate form of it that gave him a much longer expectancy than usually happens. I didn’t realize before that iPod was announced only weeks after Sept 11. This book has accounts of all of this, and more.

The part I liked most was about this whole Pixar-Disney thing – how it came about and how they had first cooperation and then clashes with Disney and Eisner. One of Jobs’ most brilliant accomplishments is marrying his computer products with entertainment and you could say Pixar was an early expression of that.