Granting freedom and being a control freek
Discussing Jobs' decision to grant Isaacson complete freedom to write the biography, unchecked, despite being such a “control freak” (as Isaacson put it), Isaacson explained: “He said: 'Nobody in history will care about this book if it looks like I commissioned it, read it and approved it. When people say I was a jerk or whatever, we'll it'll just say I was brutally honest. I want you to write a book that's honest. And I tried to.”
However, there was one area where Jobs did exert control – the cover. “He said to me, 'nobody is going to read your damn book, but they're all going to look at it!'” It was regarding the cover that Jobs attacked Isaacson on one occasion. Jobs had got hold of an early proof of a potential cover and he didn't like it so he called Isaacson and yelled at him down the phone, accusing Isaacson of having “no taste”. This is where Jobs insisted on having input on the cover. “So he designed what looks like an Apple product”.
“But he did not want to control the book. He said he didn't even want to read it. The very last time I was with Steve, I was sitting on the side of his bed, he was very ill, and he looked up at me and said: 'There'll be things in this book that I don't like.' And I said: 'Yeah! There will be' And he said: 'Fine, don't worry, I'm not going to read it.' And then he said: 'I won't read it for another six months, or a year.' Now with the Reality Distortion Field, my first reaction is: great, he's going to be alive in a year. He's not going to die. He'll be alive when this book comes out. It took me another hour to realise he won't be alive.”
Personality traits and defects
Isaacson used a story about Benjamin Franklin to describe one of Jobs' personality traits, or rather lack of. Benjamin Franklin had 12 great virtues he wanted to have as a great man, and one day someone said he was missing a virtue: humanity, and Franklin said 'I was never very good at the virtue of humility, but I can fake it very well'. “Steve did not even try to fake it!” Isaacson joked.
Regarding whether Jobs had a personality defect Isaacson refused to comment, saying that he is no psychiatrist, but he did suggest that Jobs certainly did not have Aspergers syndrome, as some have suggested, claiming: 'he could not emotionally relate'. “Steve was not only not that way, he was at the other extreme. He could know instantly every emotional feeling you had. Every vulnerability you had. He would cry, he would feel things. So he was intensely emotional. And I think that every time he does a product, he's pouring the emotion into it. Even when he is doing the box for the iPad, he is saying, it's emotional, it should be emotional when you open the box.”
“When he died and there was that outpouring of emotion I think it's because he was able to emotionally connect with people.”
As for the management team at Apple, Highfield asks if Isaacson they will be relieved now that Jobs is gone. Isaacson points out that everyone on the original Macintosh team said they wouldn't have given up the chance to be with him. “And as he said to me: 'If I were really an arse hole, people wouldn't have stayed around. 14 years I've been back at Apple and it's been an incredibly loyal team of the very best, like Jony Ive, Tim Cook, Phil Schiller, Scott Forstall, Eddy Cue. These people could all have got other jobs running companies. But nobody left.'”
“Was he great to every single person he worked with, no he was not the sweetest boss, but he had the most loyal team that wouldn't have left him for the world. All these sweet bosses you hear about, like Hewlett Packard, people are fleeing like crazy when they get a job! But with Steve they stuck with him.”
Discussing the admiration Tim Cook has received since taking over as CEO (apparently he has a 97 per cent approval rating from Apple's workforce, according to a survey conducted by job search site Glassdoor.com), Isaacson joked that Steve Jobs would never win a popularity competition.
“There is no one person who can replicate Steve Jobs, but there is a great team that he left behind. There is Jony Ive who is the great designer and visionary artist, Tim Cook is great. I think it's a team that will serve Apple well.”
Highfield goes on to criticise some elements of Apple and Jobs, the lack of philanthropy, concerns about working conditions in China, the green issues. In response Isaacson suggests we should give Tim Cook credit: “Steve never went to China, he wouldn't focus on the working conditions at Foxconn, he focused on what he wanted to do. Tim Cook goes there, talks to them, says change your ways. So the good thing about Tim Cook is he doesn't wake up every morning and say: 'What would Steve have done'.”
Regarding Google, and going thermoneuclear
To explain the significance of the current dispute with Google, Isaacson told the story of how Microsoft stole Apple's graphical user interface back in the 1980s. Apple believed in the closed system, where you control the hardware to go with the software. Bill Gates takes the graphical user interface and that infuriates Steve. But what really infuriates him is he then licenses it out promiscuously, to Dell and Compac, and IBM, and all these other companies. Microsoft ended up being dominant.”
“Jobs does the integrated system again, iPod, iPad, and it works, but what happens? Google rips it off. It's almost copied verbatim by Android. And then they licence it around promiscuously. And then Android starts surpassing Apple in market share, and this totally infuriated him. As he said, it wasn't a matter of money. He said: 'You can't pay me off, I'm here to destroy you'.
“Tim Cook will settle that lawsuit”, Isaacson added.
Decisions about Cancer
Why did Jobs put off the cancer treatment was the final question of Highfield. In response Isaacson suggested: “There was always, throughout his life, two sides to Steve's personality. Jobs the misfit, counterculture rebel, romantic, hippy, vegan, I'm going to go to India and find my spiritual past. And the geeky scientific, techy, hard nosed business side. He decides he can treat it with spiritual healing and then goes on diets and everything else, but he also has his own genetic code sequenced fully, and has the DNA of the cancer sequenced. He has molecular targeted therapy done. The problem was it took a few months when it should have taken a few days for him to achieve the synthesis that the scientific approach should be the more dominant approach.