I get it, you’re thinking “WTF are you talking about?! Apple revolutionized the entire computer industry in a way that integrated fashion, design, and pop culture with technology in a way nobody imagined was possible! You’re stupid! And crazy!” Well, maybe if you’re under 20 you might feel that way, but back in 1997 when this book was published, Apple had both feet in the grave and was passed over as a potential takeover target by the likes of Sun and Oracle. Oracle thought Apple was such an un-fixable mess that they decided the Network Computer was a better idea, and man that was a terrible idea! Sun actually entered talks with them briefly and then pulled out after they couldn’t get a good enough deal on the purchase–good thing too because they never would have brought back Jobs.
This book explains the epic bungling of one of America’s greatest technology companies in such fantastic detail and with such well-researched reporting that it’s an absolute pleasure to read, even as you’re cringing in horror at all the ridiculousness and hubris being perpetrated by all involved. The book was written on the very cusp of the 2nd coming of Steve Jobs, and it was not at all clear that Apple would do anything but file for bankruptcy and slide into the footnotes of computer history as an also-ran. Steve negotiated a cash infusion from Microsoft, set a firm path forward for their desktop operating system, and eventually led the company to not just a complete turnaround, but absolute market domination in the key consumer areas of portable music and mobile computing–areas other companies had pioneered but failed to innovate meaningfully enough to create the kind of consumer stampede that was needed for a new computing revolution.
If you want to know the inside story how Steve got pushed out the first time and how the people who pushed him out nearly prevented the iPod, iPad, App Stores, and kick ass mobile computing, this is definitely worth a read. So much potential wasted by such crazy idiots!! A lot of people have speculated that Steve needed to wander in the desert outside of Apple for a while before he could come back and do the kinds of things he did–the he wouldn’t have been as innovative in the 2000s if he’d stayed through the 1990s because he was on such an ego-maniacal, self-destructive path when they fired him, but we definitely know what Apple is and does without Steve Jobs. Is this book a blueprint for the next 10 years of Apple in the post-Jobs era? Sadly, I think so. In other words, check this out if you want to know what sort of company Apple is capable of being without Jobs. It’s effing scary.
I read this the year it was published and was so fascinated and loved the writing so much I bought copies for friends and encouraged them to read it. I can’t believe Apple really did some of this stuff–it’s just so crazy it’s hard to believe, but they nearly destroyed themselves and made it look like that was absolutely their intent the entire time. I doubt the current post-Jobs era will be quite as bad, but the Apple Maps debacle and some of their other recent missteps show that it’s certainly possible to head back in that direction when they forget how to innovate.