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On Jobs

Nov 27, 2011 | 3 minutes read

Tags: blog

Having finally finished the Steve Jobs autobiography, I figured I’d share some snippets & thoughts. The book was a great insight into the origins of modern computing, and the silicon valley culture that I’m such a fan of. It was also an insight into Jobs’ life, and gives a much greater picture of who he was: A great visionary, with boundless and admirable enthusiasm, but also not a very nice human being. A thoroughly recommended read!
Most of this material is pretty spoiler-proof, it’s all been reported on by now, so if you haven’t read the book, read on.

*1) The Reality Distortion Field is a valuable thing
*I found this one of the most likable traits of Jobs – this acute, blind, burning confidence that the seemingly unachievable was possible. I hate to hear an engineering task isn’t possible – it often infuriates me. I’d much rather hear “Sure, we can do that – here’s what it’ll take”. The measure of a really great engineer is one who doesn’t balk at the first sight of a challenge.

2) The Reality Distortion Field Eventually Killed Jobs
This incredible phenomenon for which Steve was famed for eventually became his fatal downfall. When diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he initially refused treatment. Instead, Jobs convinced himself, despite the advise of professionals, that he could cure the disease through a natural cleansing diet. When he finally accepted treatment, the cancer had spread. I think it’s fair to conclude if Jobs had immediately accepted treatment, he may have lasted longer than 56.

3) Microsoft will never ‘get it’.
Throughout the book, there’s a recurring theme of how Microsoft never quite ‘got it’. We see a never-ending pattern of Microsoft playing catchup. They didn’t get the GUI (windows 1.0), they didn’t get the media player (zune) and they didn’t get the smartphone (WP7). Their new tablets look pretty promising, but they’re two years too late – a recurring pattern. Now, they’re trying social[1] – 4 years behind.
Watch this space? Hah.

*4) Ives & Bono Shared a Pint
*..or two.  The book reveals that when talks were stalling between U2 and Apple on an upcoming U2 branded iPod / advertisement deal, Ives was flown to Dublin to show Bono what they had in mind. Bono promised to collect Ives in his Maserati, and get him pissed. They did. Awesome.

5) An awful Motorola phone spurred Apple to produce the iPhone
Turns out Motorola had been given the rights to release the first phone that would connect to itunes, the ROKR. This seemed like a pretty unusual and foolish choice for Apple, and the device was a flop, but it turned Apple onto the notion that they could do better.
They did.

*6) “Don’t be evil” is bullshit. *
Jobs declared as such in his  Town Hall event shortly after the launch of the iPad. I’ve always agreed.
Unlike Jobs, I’m a huge fan of Google. I can’t live without hosted Gmail, or Google Docs – apps like these embody all things cloud. But Google isn’t some open source project, it’s a company that exists to turn a profit. Profiting is intrinsically just a little bit evil. Google does this primarily through advertising, a form of business hardly the epiphany of good in the world.
In fact, as you read this post, Google is searching the inbox of my employer to try and derive suitable targeted adverts to me & my colleagues. I’m perfectly fine with that, as should you be, but it’s still pretty evil, no?

[1]http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/15/microsoft-researchs-socl-social-network-gets-a-little-more-real/