Based on more than 40 interviews with Jobs conducted over two years--as well as interviews with more than 100 family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues--Isaacson has written a story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing.
Isaacson gives the Steve Jobs fairy tale a swift, full, and less than utterly flattering airing in a book that Jobs authorized himself and from whose stark white and black Apple-like cover he stares like a Zen digital master ... The list of acknowledged sources is a who’s who of shakers and movers, and Isaacson weaves these voices together to guide and flesh out a narrative whose lineaments are already feeling like part of our cultural DNA ... It’s great stuff, and the communicated thrill of work and invention brings Steve Jobs to life. Sometimes, as when Bono twitters on about the birth of the snazzy black U2 iPod, pages descend into drooling celeb-chat. Generally, though, Isaacson sidesteps that sinkhole, and if what the reader gets feels like oral history as much as considered biographical judgment, that’s actually all to the good. The books asking whether Jobs was really a Da Vinci, or an Einstein, or a Howard Hughes or Citizen Kane are doubtless already trundling down the pipe, but this one will always feel necessary. Its very unmediated quality turns it almost into original source.
His story calls for a book that is clear, elegant and concise enough to qualify as an iBio. Mr. Isaacson’s Steve Jobs does its solid best to hit that target ... Mr. Isaacson treats Steve Jobs as the biography of record, which means that it is a strange book to read so soon after its subject’s death. Some of it is an essential Silicon Valley chronicle, compiling stories well known to tech aficionados but interesting to a broad audience. Some of it is already quaint ... So Steve Jobs, an account of its subject’s 56 years, must reach across time in more ways than one. And it does, in a well-ordered, if not streamlined, fashion ... Its most adulatory passages are not about people. Offering a combination of tech criticism and promotional hype, Mr. Isaacson describes the arrival of each new product right down to Mr. Jobs’s theatrical introductions and the advertising campaigns. But if the individual bits of hoopla seem excessive, their cumulative effect is staggering.
As Isaacson makes clear, Jobs wasn't a visionary or even a particularly talented electronic engineer. But he was a businessman of astonishing flair and focus, a marketing genius, and – when he was getting it right, which wasn't always – had an intuitive sense of what the customer would want before the customer had any idea ... But its sheer bulk bespeaks a sort of reverence, and it's clear from the way it's put together that there's not much Jobs did that Isaacson doesn't regard as vital to the historical record ... Isaacson writes dutiful, lumbering American news-mag journalese and suffers – as did Jobs himself – from a lack of sense of proportion ... Jobs's personal life is sketchily covered, but what details there are don't charm.