Two thousand years ago, a Greek biographer named Plutarch found himself labouring in a messy workshop filled with forgotten objects, precious relics, testimonies, alibis, and the unverifiable. He was tackling the stories of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. To bring some order to the chaos, Plutarch decided he would leave the exacting details of his heroes' exploits to the historians, and concentrate on what made these men people. After all, he was writing about lives not histories. Plutarch wrote,

A short saying, or a jest, shall distinguish a person's real character more than the greatest sieges or the most important battles. Therefore, as painters in their portraits labour the likeness in the face, and particularly about the eyes, in which the peculiar turn of mind most appears, and run over the rest with a more careless hand; so we must be permitted to strike off the features of the soul, in order to give a real likeness of these great men.[1]

Plutarch skipped over distracting events that ruined neat line of his narrative - just as Steve leaves the plates off his roadster to preserve its elegance. A frail 1880s copy of Plutarch’s Parallel Lives sits on top of an impossibly balanced pile of paperbacks in the corner of my cramped rental. I am wondering if Plutarch was ever sued for libel by Julius Caesar’s estate. Author Leander Kahney said he took out a million dollar defamation insurance policy just in case Steve didn't like his biography, Inside Steve’s Brain (2010). Considering Steve’s reputation, you can understand why Leander covered his a..s.  All books published by John Wiley & Sons were pulled from the shelves of Apple stores one month before their unauthorised biography, iCon was released.  John Wiley probably had two reactions: Big friggin' deal - no one goes to an Apple store to buy a book anyway; and thanks for the free publicity, Steve. The book’s co-author, Jeffery Young was less than casual about Steve's tantrum. ''This guy is out of control. I'm just a little guy. I'm just one of many guys Steve has destroyed over the years."[2]

Classy author, Walter Isaacson, is putting the finishing flourish on Steve’s first authorised biography. The former managing editor of Time Magazine has already written biographies about Kissinger, Ben Franklin, and Steve's hero, Einstein. His latest subject will have a lot to say about how his story is spun.  Walter’s book is destined to be more hagiography than biography. Omitted from the author’s bio on the book’s jacket is the fact that both Wally and Steve’s wife sit on the Teach For America board of directors.[3]  New York Times says, "Cooperation with Mr. Isaacson could be a sign that Mr. Jobs has emerged from his recent health battles with more of an interest in shaping his legacy."[4] The opening lines of Walter’s bestselling biography of Ben Franklin 
demonstrates that Steve’s story is something he has visited before:

His arrival in Philadelphia is one of the most famous scenes in autobiographical literature: the bedraggled 17-year-old runaway, cheeky, yet with a pretence of humility straggling off the boat and buying three puffy rolls as he wanders up Market Street.[5]

Within ten days of New York Times rumour, The Huffington Post ran a competition inviting entrants to design the cover. One reader suggested that the biography’s title be iSaySo.[6]

Steve has previously demonstrated, not only his desire to rewrite his own history, but also rewrite the history The United States of America so that it can dovetail nicely with his own view of himself. One of the coolest myths about Steve is the idea that he was a child of the sixties zeitgeist. Unfortunately for him, he actually grew up in the tacky seventies - a fact that can't be refuted no matter how many Bob Dylan albums he owns. Nonetheless, in an interview in the documentary, Triumph of The Nerds, Steve never lets an irksome fact get in the way of a good story:

Remember that the Sixties happened in the early Seventies, right, so you have to remember that and that's sort of when I came of age. So I saw a lot of this and to me the spark of that was that there was something beyond sort of what you see every day. It's the same thing that causes people to want to be poets instead of bankers. And I think that's a wonderful thing. And I think that that same spirit can be put into products, and those products can be manufactured and given to people and they can sense that spirit.[7]

The “sixties happened in the early seventies”? Really, Steve?

My girlfriend walks around the house talking on her iPhone. The image used to be farcical in the eighties when only Wall Street brokers were rich enough to own a cell phone. These days even the guy who lives in his car has a Nokia. 

My phone rings.  I let it bleat for beat or two more than usual, then I pick up. It’s my son. 

“I know you’ll hate this, but I just bought a MacBook Pro.” I laugh. I’ve been keeping him up to date with my progress on this book since I started three years ago. A little defensively, I say, “I don’t hate Apple. I think they make lovely products for people who have too much money and the luxury to throw it away on something that will be obsolete in six months.” He laughs at the predictable cynicism that is my signature. My son is also aware that I have a jokingly slapped an apple sticker on my ugly and treacherous (but dirt cheap) Lenovo laptop. I follow up with a compliment, “I’m just glad you turned out successful enough to be able to afford the best things, mate.” Six years ago, my son bought me an iRiver, rather than a more expensive iPod. It still works unlike my girlfriend’s QE2 version iPod – the battery died last year. 

Both Steve and my son share the selfsame opportunistic and entrepreneurial spirit. Both spent their childhoods rifling through garage sales searching not for toys, but goods they could fiercely bargain for, and resell for exorbitant sums of pocket money. I remember his excitement when he discovered a deluge of Apple computers out the back of his school. It was only when he tried to use them, did he discover why they were giving them away. He also began to understand why all Australian schools had switched to Windows. He recently made a killing reselling iPhones on eBay. He used the profits to pay cash for a new car. Not bad for an eighteen-year-old. He tells me that he’s trying to print out flyers for his latest business enterprise, but he can’t figure out how to use Apple’s printing software. We have all been long time Windows users. He gave up on the Mac and decided to do his printing at the local copy centre. We both laugh. I love that he so industrious, but he works on too many things at once. Lacking my own personal point of reference, I quote from his kindred spirit, “Steve says ‘It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don't get on the wrong track or try to do too much.’ He said that to Business Week in 2004". My son’s response, “Firstly, what the hell is Business Week, and how do you remember all this exact stuff? You always say his first name like you know him or something.” I laugh again, “Yeah, I know, I know.” I remember something The Bible said about “Out of the mouth of babes”.
My girl finishes her call about the same time as my son and I. “Hey, show me that iPhone a second, Hon?” I ask.  She hands it over. I place it next to my Android-loaded Xperia X10. “Mine’s bigger,” I smile. Completely aware I am playing a juvenile game. Her retort, “Yeah, but mine is cooler”.

I channel Bill with a faux smug answer, “That doesn’t matter.”

I never met my real dad, so I occasionally think about the unfinished business of Steve and his Bio-Dad, John.  These two stubborn bastards never spoke to each other until Steve’s cancer was all over the news. John sheepishly posted the occasional email to his son such as "Happy Birthday" or "I hope your health is improving." One day John found a reply in his inbox six weeks before Steve passed - “Thank you”…. And that’s all he wrote.[8]

[1] Plutarch (2001) Parallel Lives. (J. Dryden, Trans). In A.H. Clough’s (Ed.), Plutarch's Lives Volume 1.  New York: Modern Library.

[2] Hafner, K. (2005, April 30) Steve Jobs's Review of His Biography: Ban It. New York Times.

[3] Elmer-DeWitt, P. (2011, August 16) A Peek at Steve Jobs Book jacket - Front, Back, and Spine [blog]. Apple 2.0. Retrived from: http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2011/08/16/a-peek-at-steve-jobs-book-jacket-front-and-back/

[4] Stone, B. (2010, February 15) Jobs Is Said to Assist With Book on His Life. New York Times.

[5] Isaacson, W. (2004) Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York: Simon & Schuster.


[6] Bosker, B. (2010, February 25) Steve Jobs’ Biography: Design the Cover of Steve Jobs’ Book [Blog]. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/25/steve-jobs-biography-desi_n_473864.html

[7] Oregon Public Broadcasting. (Producer). (1996). Triumph of The Nerds: The Rise of The Accidental Empires [DVD].

[8] Berzon, A (2011, October 11) For Jobs's Biological Father, the Reunion Never Came. Wall Street Journal


From a passer-by in Steve’s neighbourhood, March 2010:

…and there he was in his kitchen window, black turtleneck and all, washing dishes. He just looked up at us, maybe 15 feet away. Nothing in between us but a window, no tall fence (a short, decorative, waist-high one). And we just walked on and proceeded to admire the apple orchard he has in his front yard, and even walked up his driveway a little to see his tulip garden.  [1]

Steve is sitting in his favourite rocking chair in his kitchen. A half-finished bowl of granola doused in apple juice left on the bench. Everything in his home is snow-blind white except for a small Indian drum that Steve picked up a long, long time ago. It rests beside the Apple Time Capsule.
Steve opens an advance copy of Tron Legacy that Disney sent him on his iPad. This is one of the perks of owning the biggest share of Walt’s company. He keeps playing back one particular scene. He streams it across space to the Apple TV unit. The gadget blinks once and sends the video to his seventy-inch Sony Bravia LCD. Steve reminds himself that all of these flat screen TVs in American homes are looking like that flat screens that broadcasted Big Brother in George Orwell’s novel.
He watches the film’s hero, Flynn. He wants to change the world, but he needs help. He creates a copy of himself called Clu. Flynn thinks because he made Clu that he can control him. The copy betrays him and banishes Flynn from the electronic Eden. Steve wonders how long it’s been since he last spoke to John Sculley. He ends play with a single gesture across the iPad’s surface.
He begins browsing through informationweek.com. His finger glides down the article. The headline reads, “Apple iPhone Use Shrinks, Android Grows" (Gonsalves, 2010).  The iPad navigates swiftly from one window to the other. He then touches a New York Times app and reads about his new nemesis, Android Andy:
It’s a numbers game. When you have multiple O.E.M.’s building multiple products in multiple product categories, it’s just a matter of time” before sales of Android phones exceed the sales of proprietary systems like Apple’s ... As to when that would happen, Mister Rubin said, “I don’t know when it might be, but I’m confident it will happen ....

... Open usually wins.[2]
Steve touches his YouTube app. He plays a clip from an L.A nightclub where blind-from-birth performer, Stevie Wonder, takes a break from his set to thank Steve for his iOS:

His company took the challenge in making his technology accessible to everyone. In the spirit of caring and moving the world forward, Steve Jobs… there's nothing on the iPhone or iPad that you can do that I can't do.[3]

Whereas, Android Andy had dropped the ball on accessibility.

Steve clicks on a four-year-old clip of himself at Macworld showing off his iPhone for the first time. The definition is sharper than any other iPad, or Apple product for that matter. The unit Steve is cradling a prototype iPad with “retina display”. The tech rumour mills argue over whether it’s possible or not - but there it is, in his hands.  He’ll hold back on the release of this technology for as long as is prudent. Apple has always been able, but not willing, to give their customers more bang for their buck; but, , of course it’s more profitable to sandbag the market.

The audio is loud and crystal-clear: “We have designed something beautiful for your hand”, the little Steve says. He sees an LED back-lit image of himself opening a pristine menu on the phone. He watches the Steve-image select and open a song...

“I walk a lonely road.
The only road that I have ever known.”

He gazes at himself painted in sixteen million electric colours. He watches himself become less of a man and more of a myth. Well, isn’t a myth simply a mirror? Steve has become a reflection of American hopes and delusions.

He opens his phonebook on his iPhone 4, rapidly finds a number not many people have, and dials it.

"Hey, four-eyes," Steve says to Bill.
"You can't call me that anymore. You have glasses too now", Bill laughs.
Steve looks down at his spectacles on the coffee table. They were designed to mimic his idol John Lennon.
"Yeah, but mine are cooler"
"You are fond of saying that".
Steve starts singing:
"I began to lose control,
I didn’t mean to hurt you,
I’m just a jealous guy,
I’m just a jealous guy."
"Oh jeez, Steve stop it. That’s terrible!" They both laugh.
Steve's iPhone 4 starts losing reception. Bill says,
"You're holding it wrong”
“Shut up, shut up, smartass,” Steve swaps his grip on the phone and then his tone changes from mirth to gravitas.
"Bill, I just wanted to tell you I appreciated what you said at the D5 conference a few years back."
"What’s that?"
"You know how you said about me, 'People come and go in this industry. It’s nice when somebody sticks around'".

Of course, Steve doesn't know where Bill is standing at the moment. Bill looks around at the Nigerian hospital ward. He sees a little girl receiving a polio vaccine paid for by Bill's foundation. He retired from the industry some time ago. Bill is not really 'around' anymore. However, he hasn't the heart to spoil Steve's epiphany.

"Hey, that's cool, Steve". Steve's smile is a little sad around the edges.
"Gotta favour to ask you. I’ll talk to you ‘bout it next week.”
"Okay. Bit busy right now; but look forward talkin’ again."
“Gotta go four-eyes. Got an empire to maintain.”
“Ha ha …”
Steve touches ‘end call’.

Lisa as she walks into the room wearing a smile with just a touch of curiosity. Lisa Brennan-Jobs is now a thirty-two year-old journalist. Her occasional observations can be found in Vogue
and The Oprah Magazine, among others. Lisa asks,

“Talking with your friend, Dad?”
Steve looks up at his daughter.
“Yeah, honey... my friend”. 

The following week, Facebook Mark arrives at Steve’s home to talk about social media. However, Mark realizes Steve may have had an ulterior motive when the surprise guest is Bill. Steve points out that both Bill and Mark are Harvard dropouts. “Although, Bill spent most of the time there playing poker with his buddies Allen and Ballmer. Do all you Harvard losers like poker too? How ‘bout a few rounds of Texas Hold’em?”

Bill produces a No.92 Club Special deck of cards. The red and white deck was a gift from The Dunes in Vegas before it was demolished and replaced with The Bellagio in the 1990s. He shuffles the cards as easily and naturally as a Zen monk breathes.

Mark plays with a youngster’s aggression and arrogance. There is much good-natured humour about the age of his hosts. Bill and Steve are a handful of months apart.
Over-playing your hand is one lesson that an avid poker player like Bill could teach Mark. It is the biggest mistake that most new players make. Bill explains:

“Playing a hand of this nature is like dancing in a mine field. It’s strong in a snapshot moment but not tough enough to cop the pressure from multiple drawing hands. This is why most experts tell you to fold a hand like six-seven pre-flop. When you do improve, it complicates things.  It could cost you so many more bets that it’s not worth speculating from the beginning.”

Mark’s glazed look causes a grin to play at the corner of Steve’s mouth. Bill was having fun confounding the lad.

“The cornerstone of poker is caution. There are lots of gamblers out there who love poker but hate the math. They will chase with eight-nine when the board comes A-6-7 and they won't let go. Like a pit-bull that’s got something by the jugular. They are holding out for that miracle five card so they can make so much cash this one time that it makes up for all the times they were chasing their tail. When you are in front, your mission is to take money from them, but not at the expense of your entire night.”

Bill looks over at Steve and winks conspiratorially. He takes a sip of water to hide a playful grin.
“When you are in front with one or two cards to come you gotta feel the texture of the board. Is it favourable? Is there a drawing-hand out there that was helped by the last card? What could your opponent have been plotting in order to hang on in the face of your pressure? If that third suited card drops you need to know for damn sure that your hand is still the best. If you have overplayed your hand from the get-go it will be too late,” said the world’s richest man.

Mark nods like a kid who is too afraid to tell coach that he doesn’t understand the play.

Steve adds helpfully, “You
spend so much time thinking of the ways you can win that you forget all the ways you can lose. My friend here, Bill… he always won – poker, business, whatever.”

“Sure, sure”, Marks keeps nodding because he doesn’t know what else to do. Steve almost feels sorry for him.

“Are you getting it? Are you getting it, Mark? You can screw people for only so long before it catches up to you and bites you in the ass. Only took eighteen months for the entire industry to switch from cheering you, to hating you”. He looks at Steve startled like he was just caught halfway through a lie.
Now he gets it.

[1] Gawker.com (2010, March 31) A Treasure Trove of Steve Jobs Stories [blog]. Nerdspotting.  Retrieved from: http://gawker.com/5506526/a-treasure-trove-of-steve-jobs-stories
[2] Stone, B. (2010, April 27) Google’s Andy Rubin On Everything Android. From Bits [blog]. New York Times. Retrieved from http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/googles-andy-rubin-on-everything-android/

[3] Brian, M. (2011, September 15 ) Stevie Wonder sings Steve Jobs’ praises for iOS accessibility. Retrieved from: http://thenextweb.com/apple/2011/09/15/stevie-wonder-sings-steve-jobs-praises-for-ios-accessibility/

What happens to The Fab Four without Steve Jobs?

A few months after Steve died, Wall Street Journal and Fortune writer Brent Schlender was cleaning out the all the crap from his storage shed. As is typical of such an exercise, Brent found some lost treasure that had suddenly gained some currency of late: hours and hours of unedited tapes from his interviews with Steve. During some of these tapes, one can hear Steve's kids running around the kitchen as the two men talked. Occasionally Steve would hit the pause button before saying something that may come back and bite him on the ass. Most of the content of the "Lost Steve Jobs Tapes" was re-worded stuff he has previously told others, or it was sound but boring business advice that left me a little sleepy. However, there was one juicy morsel that I enjoyed most of all. It was the uncut version of Steve’s model for good management inspired by the Beatles

My model of management is the Beatles. The reason I say that is because each of the key people In the Beatles kept the others from going off in the directions of their bad tendencies. They sort of kept each other in check. And then when they split up, they never did anything as good. It was the chemistry of a small group of people, and that chemistry was greater than the sum of the parts. And so John kept Paul from being a teenybopper and Paul kept John from drifting out into the cosmos, and it was magic. And George, in the end, I think provided a tremendous amount of soul to the group. I don't know what Ringo did. [1]

Within five months of Steve’s death, the "Paul McCartney" of Apple, Tim Cook, trotted on stage and looked as if he may intro the new 4G iPad. Everyone drew a breath knowing that poor Tim ain't gonna woo the crowd the way that Steve did. Luckily, Tim copped out and handballed the task like a hot potato to his marketing dude, Phil Schiller - Apple's "Ringo Starr". Phil’s excited nerd-ologue worked better than Valium to put this author to sleep. So I may have missed the part where he admits that the fancy high-speed 4G functionality only works with Northern American 4G networks. Aussie customers were offered a well-deserved refund after finding out that the major selling-point is a major let-down. Imagine how they felt after days of lining up for this pricey gadget - the second time within a year - only to discover that it’s only marginally better than the last gadget? Perhaps I give too much credit to fanboys to think objectively when they are too busy Thinking Differently. 

Apple seems to be chugging along well in the competent hands of Tim - its best bean-counter; but what of Apple's creative soul? What about Apple's "George Harrison"? Jonathan Ive’s name is still on Apple’s site, so he doesn’t seem to be jumping ship. Jony spoke about working with Steve at his funeral. He smiled as he said that during brainstorming sessions Steve would often come up with a lot of “dopey ideas,” along with good ones too.[2]

When John Lennon died, Yoko went into publicity overdrive. However, Mrs Laurene Jobs has much more class than the pseudo-artist. Laurene has retreated even further from the public spotlight since she lost her husband. She appeared in the news media only once at Obama's State of the Union address. Laurene sat with Warren Buffett's secretary, Debbie Bosanekas. The President pointed out that Debbie pays a higher income tax percentage than her obscenely wealthy boss. He then boldly asked that the rich pay more tax. [3]

Laurene is now the 100th richest person in the world with a net worth of $9 billion. She beat her late husband, Steve, who was only (only?) ranked 110 at 8.3 Billion. [4]

After Steve spent his career building a rep as a miserly Scrooge, it warms the heart to know that his fortune is now solely in the hands of probably the world’s most quietly hard-working philanthropist.

[1] Schlender, B. (2012, April 17) The Lost Steve Jobs Tapes. From From FastCompany.com. Retrieved from: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/165/steve-jobs-legacy-tapes
[2] Wingfield, N. (2011,October 17) Emotion, Music and Humor at Steve Jobs Memorial. New York Times.

[3] Earle, G. & Shields, G. (2012, January 25) O uses Buffett’s Gal Friday as a speech prop. The New York Post.

[4] Mac, R. (2012, March 7) Meet Silicon Valley's Richest Woman: Laurene Powell Jobs. Forbes Magazine