113 of 128 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2008
It's a curious fact that, unlike previous advances in communications technology, the computer revolution has produced only one real celebrity. As movies, radio and TV came along, each spawned dozens of superstars, but with computers, electronics and the Internet, it's only Steve Jobs. Yes, we know who Bill Gates is, but he is regarded only as some fabulously wealthy tycoon -- similar to Warren Buffett or C. Montgomery Burns. But soon, there will be more celebrity profiles written about Steve Jobs than about Elvis or Marilyn Monroe combined.
Unfortunately, such books are seldom literary masterpieces, and "Inside Steve's Brain" by Leander Kahney seems thrown together to make a quick buck. It contains little information that has not seen print many times, and it's certain that Steve Jobs, always wary of the press, provided no more cooperation to Leander Kahney than he would to "Tiger Beat."
Marketed as a sympathetic look at Chairman Steve, the book dishes no dirt. There's no dish at all. Instead, we get yet another history of Apple Computer, a history of Pixar, an interview with Apple's senior vice president for industrial design, Jonathan Ive, the same accounts of the releases of the iPod and the iPhone that you read in the newspaper, and a fulsome testimonial to the Apple Stores. All this may be of interest to someone who is very young or who has just returned from a long journey to a distant galaxy, but the rest of us already know what Jobs said to John Sculley to lure him away from Pepsi Cola. (Hint: something about selling sugar water.)
In the place of any new information, Mr. Kahney relies on traditional techniques used by schoolboys who must submit a book report for a book they didn't quite read -- padding and repetition and padding and also repetition, a remarkable amount of repetition.
For instance, on page 142 we learn that "When Jobs hired Ron Johnson from Target to head up Apple's retail effort, he asked him to use an alias for several months lest anyone get wind that Apple was planning to open retail stores. Johnson was listed on Apple's phone directory under a false name, which he used to check into hotels."
In case the reader has forgotten this information by page 207, we are again told, "At first Johnson couldn't tell anyone he was working for Apple. He used the alias John Bruce . . . and a phony title to stop competitors from getting wind of Apple's retail plans."
Readers who give serious study to this book will certainly wish to use their yellow highlighters on the amazing fact that the Apple Stores are, ". . . not too big and not too small." Those who have been too timid to enter an Apple Store will be glad to learn on page 203 that, "There's no pressure to spend any money, and the staff is happy to answer any question." And those who are unable to form any short-term memories will be delighted to learn on page 204 that, "There is no pressure to spend, and the staff is friendly and helpful." A sentence later it is revealed that, "Apple's stores are no-pressure hangouts where the customers can play with the machines . . ." All of which makes one relieved that Apple has enough sense not to hire such a hack to write the copy for its ads.
If you have been misinformed and assume that people are interested in computers as furniture, Leander Kahney provides a lightning-bolt of a revelation: "Customers rarely buy computers for the hardware alone; they're more interested in the software it can run." This stuff's gold, people, gold! But as for Apple's iLife suite of applications -- iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand-- "They haven't proven to be killer apps."
So if the book is nothing but threadbare history of Apple and a panegyric to the pressure-free marvel of Apple Stores, why is it called "Inside Steve's Brain"? Because the glory contained inside is that Leander Kahney ends each chapter with a list of "Lessons from Steve," and these are surely the most inspiring truisms you've ever read. Perhaps you'll want to copy these onto flash cards and carry them in your hat band:
* Seek out opportunities.
* Don't worry where the ideas come from.
* Don't be afraid of trial and error.
* Embrace the team.
* Don't lose sight of the customer.
* Concentrate on products.
* Seek out the highest quality.
* Don't force it.
* Find an easy way to present new ideas.
Each of these "Lessons from Steve" (none of which were ever spoken by Steve, of course) is so inspiring that any one of them could replace the "Work Smarter, Not Harder" sign in your cubicle. If he is capable of dispensing such scintillating wisdom, surely "Wired" magazine is too lowly a station for a man of Leander Kahney's talents. I believe it's only a matter of time until he moves up to a medium most suited to his gift with words: say, the covers of matchbooks, washing instruction tags on garments, the safety warnings which begin the owner's manuals of cheap appliances.
55 of 61 people found the following review helpful
Note: The review that follows is of the Expanded Edition.
In my review of an earlier edition, I observed that, paradoxically, Steve Jobs continues to be one of the best known and yet least understood CEOs in recent business history. It is probably true that most of those who once worked or who now work at Apple Computer will learn more about Jobs as they read Leander Kahney's book and the subsequent Expanded Edition than they knew previously. For years, they and others shared the opinions expressed in this brief excerpt from the Introduction:
"Jobs is a control extraordinaire. He's also a perfectionist, an elitist, and a taskmaster to employees. By most accounts, Jobs is a borderline loony. He is portrayed as a basket case who fires people in elevators, manipulates partners, and takes credit for others' achievements. [Alan Deutschman, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, Pages 59, 197, 239, 243, 254, 294-95 and Jeffrey S. Young, icon: Steve Jobs, The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business, Pages 212, 213, and 254]. Recent biographies paint an unflattering portrait of a sociopath motivated by the basest desires - to control, to abuse, to dominate. Most books about Jobs are depressing reads. They're dismissive, little more than catalogs of tantrums and abuse. No wonder he's called them `hatchet jobs.' Where's the genius?" All or at least some of this is may be true and yet....
He is a "control freak" and yet "throughout his career, Jobs has struck up a long string of productive partnerships - both personal and corporate. Jobs's success has depended on attracting great people to do great work for him. He's always chosen great collaborators [as well as] "forged (mostly) harmonious relationships with some of the world's top brands - Disney, Pepsi, and the big record labels." Kahney also points out that "through judicious use of both the carrot and the stick, Jobs has managed to retain and motivate lots of top-shelf talent...and then given them the freedom to be creative and shielded them from the growing bureaucracy at Apple." As Jobs sees it, "My job is to create a space for them, to clear out the rest of the organization and keep it at bay."
In this Expanded Edition, Kahney provides a new chapter devoted entirely to issues concerning Jobs's battle with pancreatic cancer. In a rare memo to the entire company, on August 1, 2004, he offered a number if reassurances, notably that the neuroendocrine or islet-cell tumor is curable by surgery if diagnosed in time, that the operation had already occurred, and that there was no need for follow-up radiation or chemotherapy treatments. All seemed to go well for the next two years and then, at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, Jobs appeared frail, indeed "emaciated" despite claims to the contrary by Apple spokespersons that his health was "robust." Only much later did he admit that his health-related issues were much more serious than previously indicated. What Kahney has to say about subsequent developments is best revealed within the narrative, in context, such as the increasingly more important role that Apple's COO, Tim Cook, has in the company, although Jobs continued as CEO.
During his research for the first edition of this book, Kahney was struck by Jobs's apparent preoccupation with death, indicated by how many times he mentioned it as the driving force in his life. In a commencement speech to the graduating class at Stanford in 2005, he observed, "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." This perspective helps to explain why Jobs has always been so impatient, so demanding, and so contemptuous of anything and anyone that is not "insanely great."
Obviously, the Apple culture has been an extension of Jobs's personality and style. To me, his brain resembles a minefield, a lush garden filled with beautiful flowers and plants, a fireworks display, a demolition derby, a six-year old's birthday party, a torture chamber, a vast green meadow, a shooting gallery, and a state fair. When he was in good health and centrally involved, it was never dull. With Jobs, nothing ever is. Although there is other new material in this book, Chapter 9 (what is now the concluding chapter) will probably be of greatest interest to those who ask, "What will happen to Apple after Steve Jobs is no longer involved?" No matter what happens, it does seem certain that an Apple without him will be different and perhaps he would be disappointed if it weren't.
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2008
If you like Apple or Steve Jobs, you should probably read this book. It's got a lot of interesting stories that give you background into some of the most important innovations and inventions of the last 20 years. You learn about the creative, business, product development, and marketing side of Apple that isn't explicitly apparent. You learn about why and how they keep things so secret and you learn about why their team is so good at creating world-changing products.
However, the one negative of the book is the way the author jumps all over the place. Stories sometimes seem to be randomly placed one after another with no logical transition. The author can also get very repetitive, re-introducing certain people such as Jonathan Ives numerous times. It's almost as if he took different magazine articles and put them into his book without removing the introductions. Besides reintroducing people, the author also makes the same points over and over to the point where you feel a sense of deja vu. Finally, I found it awkward when he went on an unprovoked bashing session against HP when discussing why their recent advertising campaign with the hands doing cool things would never measure up to any Apple ad. I thought it was a pretty decent ad.
At first, I felt this was a great book to read. In the beginning, it was very hard to put down. But by the end, I felt a little cheated. Every time a magazine comes out with an article about Apple or Steve Jobs, I jump at the chance to read it. After reading this whole book, I realized that this book is mostly a compilation of all those magazine articles I read. Then again, the author is a magazine editor so what can I expect?
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2009
I'm fascinated with success stories, for some reason Steve Job's heroic journey has captivated me more than most. I mean the man has VISION, so sorely in absentia as regards contemporary leadership, and that might be understating things, lol. Say what you will about Mr. Jobs; THE MAN HAS VISION! and executes on same.
Mr. Kahney simply tells a great story and documents his POV nicely. That's it, this is a great story wonderfully told. I couldn't put it down.
As well, this fun ride isn't a bad business management, leadership tool either; each chapter having interesting summations of Mr. Job's and Apple's methodology as relates to company and product successes, while also detailing why some things did not work.
I highly recommend this book.
31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2008
Unfortunately, this book doesn't come close to delivering on the promise of the title. Kahney extrapolates from a variety of sources but he ultimately offers no special insight into how Steve Jobs thinks. His guesses about Jobs' thought process might be informed and even occasionally insightful but, at the end of the day, they're just guesses.
Rather than a glimpse of what's going on in Steve Jobs' brain, the reader is left with a glimpse of what goes on in the author's brain as he thinks about Steve Jobs. Not worthless by any means (the anecdotes are often entertaining) but definitely not what most readers are looking for.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Steve Jobs is the one man band that revolutionized computers in the 1970s and 80s (with Apple II and Mac), animated movies in the 1990s (with Pixar), and digital music in the 2000s (with the iPod and ITunes). More than 100 million iPods were sold by November 2007, and it's on track for 300 million by the end of 2009. Sony's Walkman, the current biggest hit, sold 350 million in its 15-year reign. Ninety percent of all music players sold are an iPod, and the iTunes online store has sold 3 billion songs. The impact of these innovations is that Apple's market capitalization increased $150 billion since Steve's return, and he has been named "The Best Performing CEO" by Harvard Business Review (Jan-Feb, 2010) and 'CEO of the Decade' by Fortune Magazine (11/05/2009). "Inside Steve's Brain" is part biography and part leadership guide. It picks up with Jobs return to Apple in 1997.
Jobs was forced out of Apple in 1985; he had taken it public in 1980, but it had degenerated into nonstop squabbling - including Jobs vs. his self-selected CEO Scully (formerly at Pepsi). After leaving Apple, Jobs founded NeXT, with the purpose of selling advanced computers to schools and putting Apple out of business; he also bought a struggling computer graphics company from George Lucas, propped it up for a decade with $60 million of his own money, and renamed it 'Pixar.' By 1995 it had brought out the first fully computer-animated movie,'Toy Story,' in 1995 and wowed movie-goers. (Disney bought Pixar from Jobs in 2006 for $7.4 billion, making Jobs its largest stockholder.)
NeXT hardware failed to catch on - sold 50,000 units in 8 years, so Jobs concentrated on software for niche customers like the CIA. This software became the foundation for Mac OS X when he was invited back in 1996 as a consultant when Apple, led by Gil Amelio, bought the company as part of the deal for $427 million. Apple paid largely with stock so that 'Jobs would have skin in the game.' (Apple's market share had slid from 10% to 3%, Jobs wasn't certain it would survive, and quickly sold all but one of the shares.) The old Mac OS had turned into a bloated patchwork, with frequent crashes and lots of lost data. A rewrite name Copland was going nowhere. Jobs simplified the revised OS - eg. reducing the former 8 ways to access folders. The effort took 2.5 years by nearly 1,000 programmers, with Jobs heavily involved all the way - especially with the graphics.
Jobs began with a product review aimed a cutting its confusing number of products with little distinguishing them, replaced most of the board and all but one of top management, resolved a bitter patent lawsuit with Microsoft (dropped patent violation charges vs. Windows in return for Microsoft continuing to develop Office for Mac, investing $150 million in Apple, and Apple making Internet Explorer Apple's default browser), killed production by clone-makers, cut the number of suppliers (IBM + Motorola to just Motorola) while getting better deals, and dramatically cut the number of hardware and software products - focusing on a matrix of portables, desktops vs. consumers, professionals. (The latter also allowed dramatic inventory reductions.) Amelio had cut nearly 300 projects, Jobs took the remaining 50 down to 10 - this included dropping the hand-held Newton and printers. (Jobs had the foresight to skip PDAs, seeing that cell phones would take over that market.)
Nearly half of returned electronic products have been found to perform as intended - the problem was that consumers gave up trying to make them work after about 20 minutes. With Jobs, what was left in both hardware and software was as important as was left out - simplicity was his prime focus throughout.
'Inside Steve's Brain' continues in this vein in much less detail up to the present - overall allowing readers to understand the thinking process of this modern day Michelangelo. It also contains (vs. original) an added chapter on Jobs' illness and thoughts on Apple's future.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2008
Most books about Steve Jobs ask: Genius or jerk? This book is different. Yes, you do get a fast-moving insider account of Jobs's impressive accomplishments, and learn fascinating facts about the development of Apple's signature products, including the ipod. But the focus here is on how Jobs does it. The author not only cracks that code, he translates it into practical tools that will be useful to anyone who manages people. Highly recommended.
21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2009
I recommend this book. It is half bigraphical, half managment and half historical documentary. The star is Steven Jobs...who's behavior is generally reprehensible.....but justfied by the result. The book doesn't judge, it recounts stories of Jobs's interactions upon his return to a broken company. While it is clear from chapter 1 that Jobs is the bad guy in the book, you kind of look for him to save Apple throught his totalitarian ways.
Well written, and never slow moving, the book is well worth the $24 I paid at the airport. My only regret is that I will have to purchase the revised and expanded version of this book as Jobs continues his wildly successful rip and tear through conventional thinking beyond the MP3 players and Cell Phones he did yesterday.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2008
Inside Steve's Brain was a fun and fast read. Author Leander Kahney did a fantastic job summarizing the thought processes Apple CEO Steve Jobs has gone through over the years. Whether it was the start-up period with Woz, when Jobs got tossed out of his own company, his time building NeXT and his subsequent return to Apple, it's all covered here. This is particularly remarkable given the small size of this book (less than 300 pages).
I'm not an Apple fan but this is the second Jobs-related book I've read in the past several months. The other one was Option$, the parody by Fake Steve Jobs. While Option$ was more entertaining, of course, Kahney's book is quite engaging as well. His writing style makes you feel you were right there in the garage, the office or the boardroom setting he's currently describing.
Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:
British comedian Charlie Booker said..."If you truly believe you need to pick a mobile phone that 'says something' about your personality, don't bother. You don't have a personality. A mental illness, maybe -- but not a personality."
Regarding Apple employees...Despite the zeal, employees are distinctly un-cultish. They consciously avoid the cultish types. At a job interview, the worst thing a prospective employee can say is: "I've always wanted to work at Apple," or "I've always been a big fan."
To explain why employees and coworkers put up with him (Jobs), critics invoke the Stockholm Syndrome. His employees are captives who have fallen in love with their captor.
The (Apple) stores are insanely profitable. One Apple store can make as much money as six other stores in the same mall combined -- and can pull in almost the same revenue as a big Best Buy store, but with only 10% of the floor space.
"We said, we want our stores to create an ownership experience for the customer," explained (Apple's Ron) Johnson. The store should be about the lifetime of the product, not the moment of the transaction.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2010
I enjoyed this book immensely. Not since Edwin Land made Polaroid what it was has there been a company so dominated by one individual. This book does an excellent job of showing the extent to which Steve Jobs IS Apple. Well written, an interesting read. Bought and read my copy from Amazon.ca and sent a copy from Amazon.com to my son.