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on April 29, 2012
This book needs a dose of its own medicine. The previously unpublished stories about Steve Jobs and Apple are real gems. But in much of the rest of the book, the author mostly invokes a silly narrative of battle between Simplicity and Complexity and falls back to insipid conclusions such as "Simplicity attracts" and "Simplicity has universal appeal". Well, of course. We don't need the author to persuade us of that.

The author compares Apple to companies like Dell and Intel, which have confusing product portfolios and marketing messages. But why do they? The author credits Steve's direct involvement in the creative process and lack of patience for big meetings and formal presentations. He explains that in a good working relationship, both sides are upfront and don't withhold problems from each other, and this creates the best results. Beyond that, there's not much more insight or deep ruminations about the nature of simplicity, which I would have appreciated. I know from experience [I worked at Apple during the second Steve era] that simplicity is rarely just a matter of wielding the Simple Stick, as the author seems to suggest. (Even when it is, it sure helps to be the CEO.)

I can imagine this book started out as a personal collection of Steve stories--for which I would have gladly given 5 stars. At some point, some publisher or marketing person probably decided that this book wouldn't appeal to the masses unless it were written as a management book, so as it stands, this book also tries to dispense business advice. A Steve quote (ironically, included in this book) comes to mind: "Get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff."
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As Hannibal Lector explains to Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, the Roman emperor and philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, endorsed the idea of focusing on the essence of a subject. The French later formulated the concept of the précis. Still later, Oliver Wendell Holmes observed, "I would not give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity but I would give my life for simplicity on the other side of complexity." All this serves to create a context, a frame of reference, for Ken Segall's brilliant analysis of what drove Steve Jobs to create an insanely great company that continues to produce insanely great products.

As Segall explains, "Simplicity doesn't spring to life with the right combination of molecules, water, and sunlight. It needs a champion - someone who's willing to stand up for its principles and strong enough to resist the overtures of Simplicity's evil twin, Complexity. It needs someone who's willing to guide a process with both head and heart." These are among the passages, themes, and concepts that caught my eye throughout Segall's lively and eloquent narrative:

o Standards Aren't for Bending (Pages 15-16)
o Small Groups = Better [Collaborative] Relationships (35- 38)
o The Perils of Proliferation (52-54)
o Thinking Different vs. Thinking Crazy (74-77)
o Simplicity's Unfair Advantage (93-95)
o Never Underestimate the Power of a Word (123-125)
o Death by Formality (132-135)
o Technology with Feeling (138-140)
o Ignoring the Naysayers: Inventing the Apple Store (180-184)

I have read all of the books written about Steve Jobs and Apple and reviewed most of them. In my opinion, with the exception of Walter Isaacson's definitive biography, none provides a more thorough explanation of Jobs's values, standards, and motivations than does this one. As Segall suggests, Jobs's greatest achievement is that he "built a monument to Simplicity."

As Jobs invariably had the last word at the conclusion of conversations and meetings, it seems appropriate that he also have the last word now:

"Simplicity can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end, because once you get there, you can move mountains."
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on November 4, 2013
I picked up this book with high expectations, but once I read half-way through, I was impatiently waiting for the end, and was relieved when I finished it.

Much of the book is unthinking adulation of Steve. I like and respect Steve as much as anyone, but I don't want read 200 pages of what comes off as a somewhat unthinking worship of the man. There's little new here for someone who has followed Steve's life, or read his stories, or read Walter Isaacson's book (which I recommend over this one any day). Speaking of which, there's none of the criticism of Steve that "Jobs" had, without which this book ends up sounding like one-sided fan worship, and not insightful at that, either.

The book has a little too much of "us vs them" undertones for my taste, as if it's from an Apple fanboy blog like Daring Fireball or Marco. By all means, point out where other companies fail, but don't be so disdainful of other companies.

Most of the chapters contain little substance and could just as well be expressed in a single page. The conclusion, where the author summarizes each chapter in half a page, is perhaps the most interesting part of the book. But even that was too long, to be honest.

The other flaw with this book (and I read this criticism elsewhere) is that it chooses one theme -- simplicity -- and attributes all of Steve and Apple's successes to it, in the typical MBA style. This is a stretch. One could just as well credit any of the other gifts Steve had for this -- one could image books titled High Standards, Taste, An Eye For Detail, How to Inspire People, etc.

Some of the author's conclusions are also open to debate with the passage of time and change of market conditions. For example, the author says that the iPhone and iPad are so successful in the market because of simplicity. But remember that the book was released a couple of years back. Now, I have to disclose that I work for Google, but since Android outsells iOS in both phones and tablets, and Samsung's satisfaction ratings exceeded the iPad's, and Samsung was more profitable than Apple, does it mean that simplicity doesn't work after all? This is the problem with the kind of facile analysis the author does.

Finally, the author is an ad man. So it's not surprising that he doesn't have much insight into the hardware, software or user experience design at Apple, and how they have able to build such great products. If you're looking for that, look elsewhere.

As a final note, the books covers little of what makes Apple (as opposed to Steve) able to do what it did. When it does cover Apple, it paints a picture of a politics-free utopia. Maybe that's true at the CEO level, with whom the author interacted a lot, but given that the company employs thousands of people, that's hardly a complete picture. What's unique about Apple itself -- its processes, values, the way it's managed, etc? The book doesn't say.
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on June 3, 2013
I found the stories to be the best part of this book. There were a few key quotes and principles sprinkled throughout that I ended up highlighting, but the stories are what will stick with me.

The stories were on topic for the most part, but I couldn't help thinking that the book should have concluded a bit sooner.

This book is highly recommended if you are looking for an entertaining book to shed more light on the subject of simplicity and how to achieve it in a business environment.
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on June 17, 2012
This book discusses the basic philosophy of Steve Jobs and his driving the people who work at Apple. It is a personal account by an individual who worked in and with the company for a long time. I found it very interesting. However, the author delivers his basic theme in the first few chapters. It gets rather repetitive, but does give snippets of stories about the management of this fabled company. If you want to hear of these, it's fine. If not, dispose of the final 2/3 of the book.
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on September 6, 2012
The book is interesting for the inside Apple stories that it brings. They are really interesting and valuable. Trying to put them into a few simplicity guidelines is a lousy work. And it is done by the advertisement point of view, therefore it is shallow. To be fair, I knew it from the sample, and decided to buy the book to read the inside stories. If the sample is ok for you, then the book will be too.
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on April 29, 2016
Another "insider" view of Steve Jobs - this time from his pool boy. Ooops, wrong guy. Maybe it was is manicurist. Nope. I got it - one of the lead guys on the advert/marketing company team which worked with Steve over the years. Having said that, this is the most IRONIC book of all time.

Why?

Because Mr. Segall BREAKS EVERY FRICKIN' RULE THAT STEVE JOBS DETESTED - while I agree there are some great "Steve" stories in there, he describes the premise of the book (Simplicity) in the most round about, meandering and complex way imaginable. I guess his publisher said, "Hey Ken - sweet. But can you put 100-150 more pages of filler in there? You know, about Steve blowing his stack, about Steve walking out of meetings, about Steve gunning down good people just because they decided to PRESENT to Steve instead of just having a chit chat? Can you put some crap in there about how Steve turned Apple around? I know, I know - this would be the 34th book to tackle that meme - but people will buy this if you can somehow make Steve more godly."

I didn't know how many ways one could say "arrived for a meeting" until I read this thing.
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on October 17, 2013
I've read many books describing the secret-sauce that makes Apple the creative, innovative and perfection-crazed company that we all know -- but everyone seems to have complex and conflicting theories as to what really makes it tick. Ken Segall eloquently presents a sort of unified theory that explains or rules out all the others. Simplicity and the fight against complexity makes Apple products what they are today: Essential. Thank you Ken!
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on March 20, 2014
I am a junior at the University of Baltimore enrolled in the Entrepreneurship course and this book was recommended to me as an assignment. This book keeps you involved till the very end. It is not just a book about an idea gone successful but a tale full of emotions and drama. The best part of this book is the way it is written by the author. With a bit of wit in his tone he has beautifully described the journey of success in the easiest of ways which can be understood by a layman. As described by the author Jobs not only got what he wanted by establishing his own standards but he invented a model of simplicity inside the organization. He made these simple values the ultimate culture of the organization. Moreover experience of working in Dell and Intel gave the author much more insights of each organization and he was able to narrate his personal stories and experiences by comparing it to Apple. That not only explained the simple standards set by Jobs at the organization but it also enlightened the simplicity of Apple's products. The only thing which I don't like about this book is the amount of filler words the author has used. The word simplicity seemed monotonous and over exaggerated sometimes. He may sound right most of the times relating simplicity to human nature but at the end of the day it is a personal opinion of the author to perceive things in that way. Still it is a good read and I would highly recommend this book to people who are interested in starting their own business as this provides you the basic guidelines required as well as the essence and importance of simplicity in their respective start-ups.
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on March 6, 2016
I currently go to the University of Baltimore and my teacher assigned that we read this book and place a review. The book is primarily about a guy and his interactions with Steve Jobs and how Apple was ran with the idea of Simplicity. In the book it discuss how Apple is different from all the other computer companies out there. The employees of Apple were taught that branding and marketing is the key to a successful business. The entire chapter of the book breaks down why it is important to keep your business simple. One of the many things that I liked about this book is it give an insight of how Steve Jobs ran his company and how to start up a company. Many people fail to realize that starting a business should not be complex but more so simple especially if there is an opportunity for your product in the market. Another thing that I liked about this book it that it shows that you should run your business with great work ethic and branding/marketing is important. One of the things I did not like about this book is it is quite boring at times and very repetitive. It became hard to read all the way through because it dragged on. The book could have been cut down in size and still made the same amount of impact. Overall the book is a good read for someone looking to open a business because it takes away the complexity that people often think come with opening a business and it make it more of a reality.
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