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February 16, 2010

Report: Steve Jobs to cooperate on biography

Posted: 12:19 PM ET

Reclusive Apple CEO Steve Jobs will lend his approval, and cooperation, to a book about his life, according to a report in The New York Times.

The authorized biography will be written by Walter Isaacson, former managing editor of Time magazine, says the Times, referencing two unnamed people briefed on the project. "The book, which is in the early planning stages, would cover the entire life of Mr. Jobs, from his youth in the area now known as Silicon Valley through his years at Apple, these people said."

Isaacson is the author of bestselling biographies of Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin. Neither he nor Apple (big surprise) would comment to the Times about the rumors.

"The news will come as no surprise to anyone who has worked with Isaacson," writes Fortune's Philip Elmer DeWitt, who spotted Isaacson in the audience at last month's iPad launch event in San Francisco.

"If there is one thread that runs through his [Isaacson's] long career in journalism and public service, it's his talent for spotting the most influential people in any room and finding a way to get close to them," wrote DeWitt in a post today on Fortune's site.

There's no doubt that Jobs' life story would make a compelling read. From his role in helping to pioneer the personal computer in the late 1970s to his contentious departure from Apple and triumphant 1997 return to his more recent appearances as iconic pitchman for such revolutionary products as the iPod and iPhone, Jobs has had a remarkable career.

Throw in last year's health scare - Jobs had a liver transplant after losing an alarming amount of weight - and his reputation as a brilliant but secretive tech visionary, and you have a larger-than-life character with enough drama for several books.

The question is whether Jobs will allow Isaacson to write candidly about Jobs' demanding managment style and king-sized ego. According to the Times, Jobs has reacted angrily to some of the unauthorized biographies of him that have appeared in recent years and has even directed Apple stores to temporarily stop selling other books from the same publishers.

"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," the Times wrote.

What do you think? Will an authorized biography of Steve Jobs shed meaningful new light on a fascinating figure, or will it be a self-serving homage to someone who doesn't need more hype?

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Filed under: Apple • books

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Jay   February 16th, 2010 12:56 pm ET

Bravo. It's about time! I would read it ASAP. Steve Jobs is the greatest entrepreneur of the last 50 years.

vicky Bevis   February 16th, 2010 12:56 pm ET

Wonder if they will mention that he is adopted? Wonder if he found his birthparents?

JJ   February 16th, 2010 12:59 pm ET

Steve Jobs is an advertising genius....nothing more

Doug Hall   February 16th, 2010 1:15 pm ET

A candid biography, with co-operation of such a remarkable human being would be a must read for anyone interested in leading a better life and leaving a personal legacy. I had the opportunity to spent time with Mr. Jobs and Mr. Wozniak back in the early days (late 70's – early 80's) and I wish I had had the foresight to recognize their unique talents and wisdom.

jon   February 16th, 2010 1:29 pm ET

what gives someone the right to write a book on someone without there approval? People cant cash in on there own talents so they have to cash in on others...

Guest   February 16th, 2010 1:30 pm ET

The fact that he's been dubbed the "Edison" of our times merits some kind of recognition.

Howard   February 16th, 2010 1:31 pm ET

Regardless of what one might think of Steve Jobs (and I'm no fan of Apple), he and Steve Wozniak can rightly lay claim to the same role in the history of personal computers that Henry Ford had in the development of the automobile. None of them can claim to have invented it, but all were primarily responsible for igniting their respective industries. Jobs story will be a compelling read, and even more so if he is willing to let a little of the dirty laundry get aired as well. Even that won't diminish his deserved reputation.

wt   February 16th, 2010 1:38 pm ET

I do not think that Mr Isaacson will follow through on anything that does not maintain integrity and high journalistic standards. I for one will be interested in this book and believe it will shed light on a very iconic and important cultural person. Jobs may not have invented the computer, or the digital music player, but he has certainly had a leading hand in making these things revolutionary to the way we live today.

itd   February 16th, 2010 1:52 pm ET

.....and I have the perfect title:

EGO: See How Great I Am – the steve jobs story

Jean-Michel Decombe   February 16th, 2010 1:57 pm ET

This biography will sell like hot cakes, especially now that Steve Jobs' fame is truly global (notably thanks to iPod and iPhone). I am looking forward to reading it, hoping that Steve Jobs will resist his natural urge to sanitize the story by omission, realizing that the imperfections in his life will be what makes him most endearing in the eyes of the reader (but does he care?).

Oh please   February 16th, 2010 2:16 pm ET

If Steve Jobs is cooperating, this will simply be an extremely long puff-piece to further inflate his oversized ego. The book will be completely sanitized, will paint everyone else as evil incarnate, and will gloss over the fact that Steve Jobs is a self-aggrandizing, selfish, megalomaniac who hasn't lifted a finger to do anything for anyone else – but he did manipulate the system to make sure that he got to the top of the donor list when he needed a transplant. Bravo ... burn in hell.

Jerry   February 16th, 2010 2:46 pm ET

You got it right – it it WILL be a self serving homage to a guy who has no problem creating his own hype. Why does a guy his age feel compelled to support his biography? Because of his ego of course and can we really trust them to give us ALL the details and truth?

Fan in China   February 16th, 2010 2:48 pm ET

Walter Isaacson is an outstanding biographer. I read his biographies of Einstein and Benjamin Franklin and they were absolutely fascinating reads. He does a prodigious amount of research and writes extremely well.

Jobs has been a hero to me since I bought my first Apple II+ back in 1981. He's a brilliant marketer and tech visionary. I look forward to reading his story, especially as it is rendered by Isaacson.

JLS   February 16th, 2010 3:02 pm ET

Please, enough of Steve Jobs!

I do not think he is anything special enough to write about. Maybe he should think about helping others with his fortune as Gates does instead of trying to control the use of his mediocre products that are waaaay overpriced. Maybe then he would be worthy of several trees or bandwidth over the net. As it stands, he's a meglomaniac unworthy of the attention. He doesnt even want his employees to have credit for work they do so they are not hired away. What a jerk!

JohnB   February 16th, 2010 3:11 pm ET

I've read Isaacson's books on Franklin and Einstein. Jobs is very fortunate to have someone with Isaacson's abilities writing his biography (if that's the case).

Paul   February 16th, 2010 3:12 pm ET

It'll be interesting to see what approach this book takes. If it's just an "only the good" puff-piece and PR project, I won't have much interest.

But I hope it's told in a fair and even manner, and that maybe some of the urban myths and oft-repeated tales of Jobs' mercurial, whip-cracking approach can be either debunked or given a bit more context.

And if that results in the man truly being painted as a world-class iP***k, who among us really cares? If being the way he is has resulted in the iMac(s) I use, the OS it runs and my beloved iPhone, he's got my permission to carry on, as is.

I don't work there, what do I care?


The fact is, the world is a better, smarter and more connected place due to 4-5 things he has directly had a hand in. That's gotta make for some good, interesting reading!

Joe12Pack   February 16th, 2010 3:14 pm ET

The real best seller would be the edits that Jobs takes out

whybs on twitter   February 16th, 2010 3:16 pm ET

Yes, Steve has an enlarged ego but it's pale comparing to Ellison's or Zuckerberg's! And give credit to a guy who turned a dying company around and who, at one point, ran two companies – Apple & Pixar!

ANRecs   February 16th, 2010 3:20 pm ET

I can't wait to download the E-Book from Bit Torrent!

Vicki Williams   February 16th, 2010 3:24 pm ET

I would buy a book about Jobs in a heart beat. I have always been fascinated with his genius. I agree with the post that says he is a brilliant marketer and tech visionary. BOTH of those two qualities are the reason Apple is where it is today. Many people have one side of that – but lack the other. I hope Jobs will be open and candid for the book. I don't believe Isaacson would do it otherwise.

Kevin Eshbach   February 16th, 2010 3:33 pm ET

I hope Mr. Isaacson interviews Al Alcorn (creator of Pong) about his experiences with Steve Jobs during his stint at Atari. Nothing is more priceless than hearing Al re-tell the story of how Steve was thrown out of Joe Keenan's office for picking his toes when he tried to propose the personal computer.

Snoogins   February 16th, 2010 3:37 pm ET

vicky Bevis- Steve knows Joanne Carole Schieble and Abdulfattah Jandali—a graduate student from Syria who became a political science professor— they later married and gave birth to Job's sister, the novelist Mona Simpson. Steve is close to his biological sister but has not met and has no relationship with her parents (his biological parents).

David   February 16th, 2010 3:38 pm ET

I read one of those earlier bios of Jobs, and it did NOT paint a pretty picture of the guy. I came away from it having very little respect for him. The truth hurts, and egomaniacal CEOs don't like it when writers include all their warts, terrible behavior, lies, deception, stupid failures and endless self-promotion. C'mon, Jobs thought the LISA was going to be a hit. I've never had a Mac, iPod or iPhone, and never will!

Guest   February 16th, 2010 3:40 pm ET

I wonder if anything will be mentioned about how he dodged a bullet by not joining forces with Healthsouth / Richard Scrushey? Oracle was to be a key player in the digital hospital.

Rupert   February 16th, 2010 3:44 pm ET

iTell: The Amazing Story Behing Why You Will Buy Any Piece of Plastic and Computer Board I Put Together

Terry - Indiana   February 16th, 2010 3:53 pm ET

Great! Look forward to reading the book!

john   February 16th, 2010 3:54 pm ET

It is not luck or marketing that Steve Jobs has been associated with more than one remarkable first, any of which by itself would garner attention. There is the Apple II line, then the Macintosh, then Pixar which produced all those remarkable films, then the Ipod, and now the iTouch and perhaps the iPad. After the Apple II I thought he was finished as he was stuck in with NeXT, but he came out with Pixar and with an operating system that was used to update Macintosh to a modern OS. If he hadn't gone back to Apple, i.e., if that door had been closed to him, he might be president of Disney now.
In addition to all that he does have great marketing presentation skills. There is no top CEO that presents new technology like Steve Jobs does. But you can't be successful in marketing if you don't also have the goods to back it up.
He does have weaknesses. Not allowing other hardware for their OSes has both helped and hurt Apple. It helped to keep the standard high, but it hurt in market penetration and allowed Microsoft to get a foothold and then large market share.

Paul   February 16th, 2010 3:58 pm ET

Quite a few people who have met Jobs including me think he is an A##

Bill   February 16th, 2010 4:17 pm ET

I am a fan of Apple and have been for more than 20 years and I can tell you that while Steve Wozniak is my favorite Apple person it is Steve Jobs who has turned Apple into the force it is today.

It's more than marketing too. Bill Gates was a great marketer too but what gets you to "legendary" is vision and considering what Jobs has done not just innovating computer technologies but inventing all new products (Apple store, iTunes, iPod, iPhone and now iPad) that dwarf the sales of Macs.

Yes, an authorized biography of one of the most reclusive and powerful men of his generation would be most illuminating. I have read all the other "unauthorized" Jobs books ("iCon" and "The Second Coming of Steve Jobs" ) as well as all the other Apple books that touch on Jobs life like "iWoz", "Apple confidential", Infinite Way" and "Insanely Great" . All of them were great reads that revealed a lot about the enigmatic Jobs. I learned several things about him. He's a genius. I could never work for him. ; )

I look forward to this new book.

Posted from my brand new (3 days old) 27" iMac which indeed is Insanely Great. ; )

Skalla   February 16th, 2010 4:29 pm ET

I hope they add the part where he hooks a square wave generator to his temples and cranks it up to see lights. (Mr McCollum's Electronics class, Homestead high school)

Btw, he was a royal arse then, and through the years of watching his exploits (and Apple VP wars) i have yet to change my mind.

Islander   February 16th, 2010 4:29 pm ET

He may be Steve Jobs........ but he's no Bill Gates.

iComedy Guy   February 16th, 2010 4:32 pm ET

No doubt the bio will be called 'The story of iApple'.

Hey wait a minute, there's no 'i' in Apple but evidently nobody told Mr Jobs that!

iComedy Guy   February 16th, 2010 4:33 pm ET

And will probably only be available for the iPad

Jah Mahn   February 16th, 2010 4:44 pm ET

No one needs to talk about Steve's ego until they have conquered their own. Nuf said.

Steve who?   February 16th, 2010 4:54 pm ET

I don't understand when people say Steve has an oversized ego. It doesn't show off of him. He's just a hard worker and rightly proud of his creations and success. But a smug egoist? Never seen him that way. He hasn't given any reason to. He does not speak about himself, we all know that. So how does he have an oversized ego then? Is it just that *you think* he has to have a big ego because he has been so succesful? Come on, Steve is nothing compared to Billie Boy. It's not that Steve made an idol of himself. People choose their idols. They want to believe in superhumans. So they pick Steve, a media frenzy follows and the next day some other guy. Relax, folks. Steve is a tired grandpa now. Let him rest. He's done more than his part. So long Steve and Apple. Thanks for all the fancy toys. Not that I ever had one.

mrego   February 16th, 2010 5:09 pm ET

He agreed to help so he can insist that the opening sentence will be, "He (and his one outfit wardrobe) is the greatest person in the world."

Matt   February 16th, 2010 5:11 pm ET

LOL, of COURSE he wants to control his biography, just like Apple now wants absolute control over everything attached to its products (app store). Marketing genius? Perhaps, but his ego and control issues are the real story here and with him standing over the writer's shoulder it is unlikely there will be anything hard hitting here.

To the person or persons implying that it's "wrong" to make money off of writing about someone elses life...are you kidding?!? If every historical figure edited their own life story the truth behind some of the biggest events in history would never be known.

The cancer that is going to eat Apple alive is the same sort of egocentric controling nature that Apple fans used to accuse Microsoft and other competitors of.

Mark McKee   February 16th, 2010 5:12 pm ET

I think comparisons to P.T. Barnum would be far more appropriate than comparisons to Ford or Edison. There's a Mac user born every minute!

Wesley Diphoko   February 16th, 2010 6:37 pm ET

I think Steve Jobs is the case study on Tech entrepreneurship, his biography will have to be prescribed for all tech students.

Ravel Anderson from Brazil   February 16th, 2010 8:04 pm ET

Can't wait for this biography come to Brazil, will be among the first to buy!!!!!

Austin   February 17th, 2010 3:16 am ET

I can not wait to learn more about such a genius! He took Apple from almost nothing and made it the iPad, ear bud loving die hard fans we are today. He did it all through design. What a amazing concept. Changing peoples lives through designing products. Powerful stuff. Check out this new social community that designs products and pays you to participate in the process by giving royalties on the products you help design just by voting and rating the ideas of other memebers.

PJ   February 17th, 2010 10:29 am ET

Spare me. Who cares? The self-serving biographies of people like Jobs are rarely illuminating, staggeringly boring, and irrelevant to everyone except the subject. Just stand in front of a mirror, Steve-O, for the balance of your days on Earth and preen before your biggest fan. Spare us your "wit and wisdom"...

Mark   August 28th, 2011 2:38 am ET

The part you left out was the fact that Jobs delayed the roll-out of the Macintosh by two years while he made his hardware and software engineers jump through flaming hoops to shrink the size of it so that it would fit in the foot print of a telephone book. Meanwhile, PC's claimed the market share by using towers that sat off the side of the desk. He cost Apple twenty percent of the market with that idiocy.
Even with his numerous product failures he has been far more market genius than fool as evidenced by the remarkable success of the company.

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