Andy Hertzfeld on ‘Becoming Steve Jobs’

Also at Medium’s Backchannel, Andy Hertzfeld has an interesting take on Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli’s Becoming Steve Jobs:

There have been dozens of books already written about Steve Jobs, including Walter Isaacson’s best-selling, magisterial biography, which is based on over 40 exclusive interviews with the man himself. Becoming Steve Jobs distinguishes itself by emphasizing a narrative of growth and change, depicting “the evolution of a reckless upstart into a visionary leader.” Unfortunately, the authors attempt to bolster their case by exaggerating flaws and missteps in the first half of Steve’s career while diminishing them after his return to Apple in 1997.

I was surprised and chagrined by the negative tone pervading the description of Steve’s first tenure at Apple, which is somehow both a “management mess” and the fastest growing company ever. Mike Markkula is an early mentor “for better or worse.” When Steve, inspired by his visit to Xerox PARC, decides to attempt to bring the graphical user interface to the masses, he has to “deliver on this promise within the gnawing confines of Apple.”

I didn’t take Schlender and Tetzeli’s take on early Apple as overly negative. To my reading, their take on early Apple described what is patently obvious in hindsight: a company with remarkable, genius product teams, but an executive leadership team that did not and perhaps could not create a sustainable culture. Early Apple was a company with sporadic hits interspersed with years-long dry patches. The first good CEO Apple ever had was Steve Jobs 2.0 in 1997.

Hertzfeld’s Revolution in the Valley — available free of charge on the web, but well-worth buying in print — is my favorite book on Apple ever written, by the way.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015