For much of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs it is easy to forget that this is in account of a successful genius rather than a grumpy failure. Difficult, rude, intemperate, unreasonable and often quite bizarre in his behaviour towards those nominally closest to him, Steve Jobs’s personality does not get an easy ride in Isaacson’s highly readable book. All these flaws make the core idea at the heart of Jobs’s success stand out all the more starkly: an obsessive belief in the value and power of simplicity. Simple devices, easy to use and a pleasure to have.
From that obsession with simplicity (whose roots perhaps lie in the architectural style of his home when he was a kid), came the greatness of Steve Jobs. Saving that devices should be easy to use can sound so banal you lose sight of just how rare it is to have someone run a technology company that really believes in it and makes it happen. Just look at the mess of multiple remote controls and complicated instructions that make up most people’s mix of TV and related devices to see how very different a world Steve Jobs has made for computers, music devices and phones by contrast.
For such a controversial figure as Steve Jobs, and one with such a dramatic working life, Walter Isaacson understandably takes many pages to tell the story. However, for all the book’s length, it moves along at a brisk pace, with the detailed research and numerous interviews melded into very clear and readable prose.
It’s an excellent read.