The problem with Becoming Steve Jobs? Too much Steve Jobs

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The world needs more insight into how Apple works, but you won't find that in Becoming Steve Jobs. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
The world needs fresh insight into how Apple works, but you won't find much of that in Becoming Steve Jobs. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
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One of Steve Jobs’ favorite recordings was The Beatles working on version after version of “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

The new Jobs biography, Becoming Steve Jobs, is like that recording: It serves up fresh takes on oft-told stories from Apple’s history, this time with more sugarcoating.

Becoming Steve Jobs searches for answers in Jobs’ wilderness years

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Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Becoming Steve Jobs explores Steve Jobs' exile from Apple. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
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New biography Becoming Steve Jobs attempts to answer an important question: What happened to Steve Jobs during his wilderness years outside Apple that turned him from a gifted-but-impossible-to-work-with youngster into the seasoned digital emperor he would be following his return to the company he founded?

It’s a question that’s crucial to understanding Apple’s rise back to prominence from the late 1990s onward — but one that was ignored by previous Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson, whose 2011 book Steve Jobs sold a gajillion copies, but is now (perhaps unfairly) being recast as an unqualified failure.

In Isaacson’s book, these crucial years away from Apple take up just five chapters out of 42 — and that section also includes Jobs’ marriage to Laurene Powell and the birth of his children. In Becoming Steve Jobs, the lessons from that era permeate almost every page.

Steve Jobs had to be convinced that multi-touch was the future

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How much is your smartphone spying on you? Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Where would the iPhone and iPad be without multi-touch? Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Steve Jobs may have had an astonishing ability to predict where tech was going next, but he very nearly missed out on the iPhone and iPad altogether.

That’s because — according to a quote from Jony Ive in today’s freshly-released biography, Becoming Steve Jobs — Apple’s late CEO didn’t see “any value to the idea” of multi-touch: the breakthrough touchscreen technology which makes iOS regulars like “pinch-to-zoom” possible.

And it was left up to Ive and a few other core Apple employees to save it.

Tim Cook still hasn’t deleted Steve Jobs from his contacts

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Photo: Apple.
Photo: Apple.

It’s been over three years since Steve Jobs died, however the hole he left at Apple and those closest to him still hasn’t been filled. Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli’s upcoming book Becoming Steve Jobs is full of anecdotes and events that showcase just how much Steve meant to his friends.

One such event happened in 2013, during Laurene Powell Jobs’ fiftieth birthday. Pixar CEO John Lasseter recounts in the book that he got there early and started talking to Tim Cook.

“Do you miss him? I really miss Steve,” Lasseter said, and then pulled out iPhone to show Tim that Jobs phone number and photo were still on the list.

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.”

8 things we learned from Tim Cook’s interview with Fast Company

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As if Tim Cook doesn't already have enough on his plate!
No one is more of a believer in Apple culture than Tim Cook. Photo: Apple
Photo: Apple

Tim Cook tells how Apple avoids Microsoft-style screw-ups, how many Apple Watches the company plans to sell, and why he keeps Steve Jobs’ office exactly as he left it in a new interview filled with fascinating tidbits.

The interview in Fast Company comes in the run-up to the March 24 launch of Becoming Steve Jobs, a biography by veteran journalists Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. The book is viewed by some Apple execs as a corrective following Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs bio, and this is Cook’s well-timed salvo in the campaign to set the record straight.

Here are the parts we found most interesting.

Steve Jobs was already preparing Apple for his departure in 2004

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iPhone could have looked a lot different had Steve Jobs had his way.
Long before Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, he was already planning his successor.
Photo: Apple

Although he ultimately ran the show at Apple until the middle of 2011, Steve Jobs began thinking about succession plans as early as 2004, when he was just 49 years old, according to a Becoming Steve Jobs.

2004 was one year after Jobs had a medical scan which revealed he had a tumor in his pancreas. While it was later revealed to be a rare type of pancreatic tumor which grows slower than usual, at the time Jobs was told that he should expect to live no longer than three to six months. 2004 was, of course, years before Apple unveiled the iPhone and iPad: two of the devices for which Jobs is best remembered.

The book excerpt also reveals that, right up until the very end, Tim Cook was convinced that Steve Jobs had a longer role to play at Apple as chairman.

Tim Cook offered Steve Jobs his liver, and other revelations from new biography

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New biography Becoming Steve Jobs gets to the heart of Apple's mercurial co-founder. Photo: Ben Stanfield/Flickr CC

I can’t wait to read Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader. The upcoming biography, by veteran reporters Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, promises to be the definitive telling of Steve Jobs’ life.

The writers scored interviews with major players including Tim Cook, Jony Ive, Eddy Cue, Pixar’s John Lasseter, Disney CEO Bob Iger and Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs. The result is a book loaded with interesting anecdotes and insights about the former Apple CEO.

I haven’t yet read the whole thing (it comes out March 24), but while pre-ordering my copy on Amazon, I could initially access a significant portion of the biography through the site’s “Look Inside the Book” feature. (Amazon later blocked out far more of the book’s contents.)

From what I’ve seen, some of the stories are pretty sensational — providing new details into the close relationship between Jobs and Cook, revealing Jobs’ secret plan to buy Yahoo!, and much more.

Want a few of the highlights? Check them out below.

Becoming Steve Jobs bio promises to set the record straight with Apple’s blessing

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A new book about Steve Jobs is coming later this month, and it’s the first look at the late Apple co-founder that the company has aided in making since Walter Isaacson’s biography.

Becoming Steve Jobs is written by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, two veteran journalists who scored interviews with people like Tim Cook, Jony Ive, Eddy Cue, Pixar’s John Lasseter, Disney CEO Bob Iger, and Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs.