I just spent the last hour or so reading the 1996 profile, which Isaacson published when Gates was at the height of his power. Isaacson managed to get full access by persuading Gates it was a shot at winning Time’s Person of the Year. Gates didn’t win, but the profile is a great piece of work. It’s full of personal anecdotes and is psychologically penetrating. Isaacson talked to Gates’ friends, family and colleagues, and paints a rich, detailed portrait. It’s highly readable but also critical of Gates. We can only hope Isaacson does the same thing for Jobs, who has famously resisted biographers so far. As previously reported, Jobs has granted Isaacson full access for iSteve: The Book of Jobs, which is to be published early next year. (I don’t think it’s fair, but columnist Michael Wolff says Isaacson is a social-climbing sycophant).
Here’s a taste of the Gates piece:
When Gates decided to propose to Melinda in 1993, he secretly diverted the chartered plane they were taking home from Palm Springs one Sunday night to land in Omaha. There Buffett met them, arranged to open a jewelry store that he owned and helped them pick a ring. That year Gates made a movie for Buffett’s birthday. It featured Gates pretending to wander the country in search of tales about Buffett and calling Melinda with them from pay phones. After each call, Gates is shown checking the coin slot for loose change. When she mentions that Buffett is only the country’s second richest man, he informs her that on the new Forbes list Buffett had (at least that one year) regained the top spot. The phone suddenly goes dead. “Melinda, Melinda,” Gates sputters, “you still there? Hello?”