Steve Jobs: The Biography


Fanboys, be still your beating hearts; word on the street is that El Jobso himself is (finally!) working on his own completely genuine and official biography.

Writing in The New York Times today, Brad Stone reports that the book we’ve all been yearning to get our hands on is in the early planning stages;

…Apple’s chief executive is set to collaborate on an authorized biography, to be written by Walter Isaacson, the former managing editor of Time magazine, according to two people briefed on the project.

Walter Isaacson is no slouch when it comes to writing biographies of important people. Previous works include Einstein: His Life and Universe and Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. A title he published last year, American Sketches: Great Leaders, Creative Thinkers, and Heroes of a Hurricane was a series of essays written on the subject of great leadership.

So, hardly surprising then that he’s the scribe charged with documenting the life of Stephen P. Jobs, Genius Entrepreneur and Super Ego. It’s quite something to be able to say you share your biographer with both a Founding Father and the man who unlocked the secrets of the Universe.

The book, which is in the early planning stages, would cover the entire life of Mr. Jobs, from his youth in the area now known as Silicon Valley. [Jobs has] …invited Mr. Isaacson to tour his childhood home, one person with knowledge of the discussion said.

Naturally, both Isaacson and Apple declined to comment.

What To Expect

I wonder, can we expect a really honest account of The Steve’s life? If you’ve ever watched Pirates of Silicon Valley (widely considered an accurate portrayal of young Jobs and Gates) you’ll know very well what a, shall we say, “rambunctious chap” Steve could be as he steered Apple to its first dizzying heights of success. (I’m being polite; perhaps a better phrase is “insanely megalomaniacally hostile, selfish and unkind” — yeah, that might be more accurate.)

You see, while Steve Jobs is a genius (there’s no doubt about that) he has earned something of a reputation for being an impatient, quick-to-anger man. Again, I’m choosing polite words.

Will he, for example, admit to moments of sheer good-fortune that have subsequently been incorrectly attributed to some special “vision” on his part? (I’m sure there are a few such examples.) Will he address the mistakes and failures that we assume were pretty significant moments of disappointment in his career? (The Cube, anyone?)
And what about all those drugs in the 70’s? Will he talk about that openly, honestly, frankly?

If he doesn’t, if this book contains none of that gritty, hard-edged truth, it’ll be panned by every critic on the planet. It’ll be like Michael Jackson’s 1988 biography Moonwalk – 283 pages of fluff that added little of value to the man’s legacy. And, while I certainly admire and respect Steve Jobs’ achievements in the industry (not to mention his skills as a public speaker) I’m not such a blind fanboy I fail to see that he is, essentially, a salesman. A very good salesman, to be sure, but I don’t want to read a 300+ page book celebrating what a wonderful salesman Steve Jobs is.

I think we can safely say what won’t be in it; love affairs and reluctant parenthood are just the sort of “private matters” Jobs is unlikely to want in his biography. (They’re just too gritty.)

Don’t forget, Steve Jobs is the master of Stubbornly Refusing to Accept or Admit When Things Are Not Perfect. That celebrated Reality Distortion Field usually placates the unwashed masses during keynote speeches, but likely won’t be conveyed at full-power through the pages of a book.


I can’t help thinking, what does it mean, writing his biography now? The instant easy answer is that it might not mean anything at all …or nothing more than the fact that a publisher (in this case, probably Simon & Schuster, who have published all Isaaconson’s books to date) has offered Jobs the right incentive. I don’t mean to suggest Steve Jobs is short of cash, but rather, his biography (a surefire best-seller and cash cow for any publisher) might be part of an iPad-related digital publishing negotiation. (I don’t know that, nor do I want to start any silly conspiracy theories. Like I said, the timing might not mean anything at all.)

But I’ll leave you with one last thought – what if this book proves to be the final word from Apple’s current CEO? What if this biography is the parting one more thing from Steve Jobs as he prepares for retirement? It was rumored earlier this year that Jobs considered the iPad the most important thing he’d ever done; if that’s true, he probably feels like it’s almost the right time to step down – while he’s still at the very top of his game.

What do you think we can we expect from the official biography? Does it mark the end of an era? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Comments have been disabled for this post