A new book about Steve Jobs hit store shelves Tuesday amid rave reviews — from Apple executives.
Apple execs not only praised the book, but also took the unusual step of providing interviews for it.
The unauthorized biography — Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader, by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli — promises to reveal a more personal side of Apple’s cofounder.
It’s a characterization company execs seem to prefer to the one painted by Walter Isaacson, who penned the only authorized biography, Steve Jobs. It has sold 3 million copies since it was published in October 2011, after Jobs died from pancreatic cancer.
“I thought the [Walter] Isaacson book did him a tremendous disservice,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in an interview for the new Jobs book.
“It was just a rehash of a bunch of stuff that had already been written, and focused on small parts of his personality,” he continued.
“You get the feeling that [Steve’s] a greedy, selfish egomaniac,” Cook said. “It didn’t capture the person. The person I read about there is somebody I would never have wanted to work with over all this time. Life is too short.”
‘First to Get It Right’
Apple design chief Jony Ive also publicly skewered Isaacson’s book in a New Yorker profile that appeared in February.
“My regard couldn’t be any lower,” he said.
Meanwhile, Eddie Cue, Apple’s chief of software and Internet services, praised the new Jobs book on Twitter: “Best portrayal is about to be released — Becoming Steve Jobs (book). Well done and first to get it right.”
Apple’s iBook Twitter account also lauded the tome.
“Becoming Steve Jobs is the only book about Steve recommended by the people who knew him best,” it tweeted.
Authors Schlender and Tetzeli had been working on Becoming Steve Jobs for 18 months before Apple, known for its tight-lipped ways with the media, finally agreed to allow some of its execs to talk to them.
Apple made that decision because its leaders felt responsible to say more about the man they knew, Apple spokesperson Steve Dowling told The New York Times.
The fact that one of the authors, Brent Schlender, had enjoyed a long relationship with Jobs also figured in their decision to participate, Dowling said.
Upholding Corporate Values
Trust played a big role in Apple’s decision to give Schlender and Tetzeli access to Apple brass, noted Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.
“Apple wanted to work with someone they trusted to get it right and this is why they opened up the doors to interviews,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “I see Apple executive reaction as elation that someone ‘got it right’ in their view.”
Nevertheless, some Apple watchers believe “getting it right” wasn’t the company’s only reason for participating in Becoming Steve Jobs.
“This had to be a calculated business decision on their part,” said John Carroll, a mass communications professor at Boston University.
Starting with Isaacson’s book, the media has focused on the darker side of Jobs, he explained.
“These negative portrayals of Jobs show how he violated Apple’s corporate values,” Carroll told the E-Commerce Times.
“Apple’s devotees are very much engaged with those values,” he continued. “To have a widespread sense that Steve Jobs didn’t live up to those values is a significant piece of baggage for them to carry around.”
Steve’s Softer Side
If Apple wanted to show Jobs’ softer side, coauthor Schlender was the right guy to do it, noted Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.
“Brent Schendler had a very different relationship with Steve Jobs than Isaacson did,” he told the E-Commerce Times.
“I didn’t feel Isaacson told the true story of Steve, the person. Brent knew Steve for over 25 years, and he was the only reporter that Steve seemed to like,” he said.
“Normally, Steve was very nonresponsive to the press,” Bajarin continued, “but he really liked Brent — and as a result, he got a lot of up-close-and-personal time with Steve.”
Because of that, he said, Schendler’s book “is the most accurate portrayal of Jobs I’ve seen.”