Monday, July 08, 2013

Steve Jobs

I've never been a big fan of apple. I was more a Commodore 64 or an Android guy. Apple seemed to be all about style and marketing rather than technology. After reading Steve Wozniak's autobiography, I had a little more respect for him on the technology side. However, reading Jobs' books drills in the fact that he is a jerk. Without Apple, he would probably be some unknown artist or maybe even a homeless guy wandering around. However, without Jobs, Apple would have probably never been the big behemoth it is today, and Wozniak would probably still be working at HP as a highly respected, distinguished engineer. They happened to have the right skills to complement each other and came together at the right time. This gave Jobs the position of influence and allowed him to use his ruthlessness to launch the pirate raid on the computer industry.

Steve Jobs was born to graduate students in Wisconsin who put him up for adoption in California. If he had grown up as Steve Jindali with an intellectual family in Wisconsin, he may be an obscure poet or intellectual today. Being adopted by a working class family in California put him in a position to be surrounded by an innovative industry as well as the drive to do something with his life.

In reading this, part of me says "this guy is a doofus." But, the other part says, why didn't I do this? Why didn't I take the big gambles at a younger age. Use the youth to flop more. If you fail, oh well. If not, you may have a giant company.

His parents did take a "reasonable gamble" in moving to south Los Altos so he could go to school there. If they didn't, well, he may not have made the connections that would have helped him found Apple. At that time, the area was expensive, but still in the realm of middle class. Today, there is nothing for less than a million dollars. (Though you can catch the old residents by the low assessed value (max of 2% increase since the 70s for unsold houses leaves a lot of assessments around $100,000).

Jobs may have lead to his own death by refusing cancer surgery early, and letting his cancer spread. He had motivation to try many weird diets. The strength and accomplishment of doing it led to his motivation for accomplishing many things, yet it may not have helped his health.

He left Apple, founded NeXT, did a lot of cool things there, but didn't really sell much. Yet, he was able to sell the company back to Apple for a few billion and end up taking over the company he helped found.

At the time, he also bought Pixar. There John Lasseter worked as an animator after getting canned by his dream job at Disney animation. Pixar eventually went from making computers to making movies. It got bought by Disney for a few million, and now Lasseter gets to be an animation boss there.

Jobs' wife gets to stay at home with the children, garden and do charity work. The joy of having money and being able to do meaningful work, rather than working for the "man". (Similarly, Jobs Apple money let him do all sorts of other stuff.)

In his end-note, Jobs said his goal was to create great products. Money helped enable, but was not the ultimate goal. Without money, he would not have been able to do squat. However, when the company focussed to much on money, the product faltered and money started to fall. He also couldn't name another "fully integrated" hardware/software company like apple that did cool stuff. What will happen to Apple now? It is a behemoth. Can it be creative as a large company and without the leadership? We are also in an era where operating system doesn't matter as much as it did. What new features are in the newest IOS? Does anybody really care? The power and performance of electronics are exceeding our ability to do stuff with it. Most innovation now is in new form factors (Google Glass, tablets, watches, etc.) Content is now more cloud based. We could be nearing the end of the "integrated" era, and moving into something new. What will happen to Steve's company?

The book ends with Jobs on his deathbead in Palo Alto. Yet, we don't get a final obituary. (I guess it finished a bit too soon...)

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