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Steve Jobs & the Next Big Thing Hardcover – November 18, 1993

3.5 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jobs, who with Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computer and made the list of the Forbes 400 richest Americans, emerges as a mesmerizing, irrational, self-deluding and ultimately pathetic person in this portrait by the author of Bulls in the China Shop and Other Sino-American Business Encounters . Having been forced out of Apple in 1985, Jobs sought in vain to recover his "boy wonder" dominance in the ultra-competitive computer world through lavish spending on his new company, setting the tone early by paying a designer $100,000 to devise the name "NeXT." With no market profiles clearly in mind, Jobs unilaterally chose a small, black, cube-shaped "personal mainframe" box, noncompatible and overpriced, to be the firm's sole hardware item with exclusive software applications--a "retrograde" posture, notes Stross. NeXT consistently fell far short of sales and production targets--while rivals Microsoft, Sun Systems and IBM forged ahead with innovations--to which Jobs responded with outrageously fanciful boasting at trade events and in the press. The book serves as an instructive case study of the power and peril of the computer industry. Photos not seen by PW .
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

$24. BUS Steve Jobs, the charismatic cofounder of Apple Computer, is widely viewed as a hero of the computer industry, one of its founding fathers. Stross ( Bulls in the China Shop and Other Sino-Japanese Encounters , LJ 7/91) describes Jobs's attempt to recreate his success at NeXT, the company he founded after being forced out of Apple in 1985. The resulting picture is one of a megalomaniac who has been unable to recreate his original magic. Indeed, Stross questions Jobs's "magic," attributing much of Apple's success to its position in a nascent, booming industry and to the efforts and innovations of others. In his own atempt to produce "the next big thing," Jobs has focused on the impractical and revealed a critical lack of business savvy. This is an engrossing and cautionary tale, with a supporting cast including Bill Gates, Ross Perot, and George Lucas. Recommended for public libraries.
- Robert Kruthoffer, Lane P.L., Hamilton, Ohio
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (November 18, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689121350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689121357
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,373,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 3, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Stross' sources are impeccable, which isn't all that surprising since he's a historian. Despite the fact that he was prevented from interviewing Steve Jobs, and presumably a number of other higher ups in the NeXT management, the book doesn't really suffer from the absence. Stross appears to have gone through each and every document related to NeXT's finances to compile a staggering testament to the various untruths NeXT, as a corporate entity, appears to have told its customers, the media and everybody else willing to listen. At the same time, it's a scathing critique of Steve Job's attitude, he can only be described as an enfant terrible. Stross goes to great lengths to illustrate his judgement of Jobs as a mean-spirited, perhaps "greatly insane", person with numerous anecdotes.
None of this should come as a surprise to anyone who has read about Steve Jobs. We all know he's notorious for pushing people to their limits, the stories of people leaving Jobs' projects in a state of physical and mental fatigue are well known. What comes as a surprise is Jobs' capacity for deceitfullness and disloyalty and his utter disregard for the people working for and with him. Stross marvelously brings out Jobs' ego in all its filthy manifestations. The book is really an intriguing history of Steve Jobs at NeXT, complete with the gory financial details, the stories about mismanagement, Jobs' fetish for perfection in little things he latched on, the hype around NeXT and the failure. Still, the book lacks a sense of the things NeXT let its customer accomplish, from developing the Web (Tim Berners-Lee) and creating Quake, to WebObjects and cryptography (NSA and CIA).
That said, it is probably a good idea to read this book along with, or after reading Steven Levy's Insanely Great.
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Format: Hardcover
For a book that claims to be a history, sort of, this has to be the least accurate and most biased history in, well, history. By the end of practically every page I found some point which was bugging me, from being arguable at best, to downright wrong, to obviously omitting important facts at worst.
For instance, Stross spends an entire chapter devoted to a glowing review of Sun Microsystems. This is arguably in order to have some sort of contrast with NeXT. No small part of the chapter is devoted to a description of the new low-cost SparcStation, which he describes in order to provide a counterexample to Job's overpriced machines. He re-iterates this point on several other occasions thoughout the book.
Missing fact #1: the SparcStation cost MORE than the NeXTcube. This vitally important point is not mentioned even once.
Want another example? He continually talks about how NeXT was non-standard and thus doomed, whereas Sun's standards-based machines were much better off that NeXT, or even other non-standard machines like the Apollo. It's so OBVIOUS that you have to be standards based, it's not even worth talking about! I mean duh, who would question that?!
Missing fact #2: all three were originally based on the same hardware (680x0 CPUs) and similar software (Unix versions). If anything it was Sun that went "non-standard" when they switched their CPU and OS.
The whole book is like this. I don't mean in a small way, I mean it in the largest possible way. I disagreed with almost every point he made, whether it be the "realities" of the computer market as he saw it, or practically any technical detail he attempted to describe. Stross seemed to be incapable of understanding any issue, no matter how large, small, technical or non-technical.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well written. Fascinating because it is so entirely wrong, but on the other hand so plausible.

If you ever want to know how difficult it is to predict the future, read this book. Written at the nadir of Jobs career. 15 years later Apple is one of the largest companies in the world with Jobs as its leader.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Good book, but a little biased, and in retrospect (seeing the successes of Jobs afterwards) not right in its main contention: that after the Mac, Jobs was not able anymore to come up with another successfull product. Jobs did come up with new successes, as we know now.

Still, NeXt was not a success, and Stross's analysis and description of that episode seems right.

Well written.
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Format: Hardcover
It could be that this author, who has written some very readable and penetrating stuff about Microsoft, ran into a problem when writing about Jobs. Jobs comes across as so negative, confused, and just plain destructive that Stross's book leaves a bad taste in your mouth. But this is still a very worthwhile book, and contains some good lessons, which Ross Perot learned were very expensive lessons:
1. Don't invest in someone just because they're cool, or at least cooler than you. Alpha-Nerd Perot sees a TV special on Steve Jobs, and exclaims how Jobs is "Mr. Excitement" or some such superlative. He promptly plunks down huge money to invest in the "Next" computer, which is portrayed as revolutionary hardware. But no one really knows up front what they're investing in. So what, it makes Ross feel like he can transform some of that hard-scrabble, uptight crew-cutness of his into hip, long hair, do-drugs California investing.
2. Watch the press releases. The big bomb that's hidden in a press release discloses that Next has dropped it's hardware business, and will now be developing innovative software. Which bombed. So Ross went in investing in one thing, and came out investing in something else.
3. Cool people scream a lot when things get uncool. The rest of the book is the typical tantrum about Jobs acting hard-to-manage.
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