Apple officially loves new Steve Jobs bio, hated old one

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Becoming Steve Jobs? More like Forgetting Walter Isaacson. Photo: Penguin Random House

You may have suspected that the new biography Becoming Steve Jobs had Apple’s official endorsement the moment it was revealed that Jony Ive, Tim Cook, Eddy Cue, Pixar’s John Lasseter and Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, offered their participation.

However, with just one day to go until the book’s release, the word is now officially out: This is Apple’s sanctioned version of the Steve Jobs story.

“After a long period of reflection following Steve’s death, we felt a sense of responsibility to say more about the Steve we knew,” Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said. “We decided to participate in [the] book because of [author Brent Schlender’s] long relationship with Steve, which gave him a unique perspective on Steve’s life. The book captures Steve better than anything else we’ve seen, and we are happy we decided to participate.”

The existence of an Apple-approved version of Jobs’ life is certainly an interesting proposition, which says a number of different things.

Firstly, it is an example of Apple seeking to control the narrative, or at least set it straight, in an overt way rather than the untraceable, semi-off-the-record leaks the company participated in while Jobs was still alive. Steve Jobs was a master of getting the press to do what he wanted, but during his second stint at Apple he never put the company’s official seal of approval on a book as has happened here.

Secondly, Apple’s endorsement says what a vocal minority of the tech press have long believed: Walter Isaacson was the wrong choice for Jobs biographer. This is now more than a privately held opinion on the part of a few executives — it’s the official Apple stance on the matter.

Since it’s an officially sanctioned retelling of Jobs’ life, Becoming Steve Jobs faces its own challengers.

While the book, co-written by Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, is currently storming the Amazon book charts, it’s going to be fascinating to see whether it can actually reshape people’s opinion of Jobs as a more benevolent figure than the impression given after reading Isaacson’s biography. Having Apple’s approval is one thing, but being accused of Cupertino-endorsed spin-doctoring is quite another.

A lot of people worried that was what the Isaacson book, called simply Steve Jobs, was going to be, which might explain why the author went in the other direction. He highlighted Jobs’ flaws to a degree some have taken issue with, while failing to give him credit for some of his greatest achievements.

From what I’ve read of Becoming Steve Jobs, the book takes a far more fair and balanced view of Apple’s late CEO. It neither vilifies him nor shies away from the more unsavory aspects of Jobs’ life. As the authors note, Jobs “could be a jerk, but never an asshole.”

We’ll have to wait until the book’s release tomorrow to know for sure, but in the meantime you can download a sample chapter from iBooks right now.

Look out for Cult of Mac’s review later this week.

Source: The New York Times