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

3.6 out of 5 stars 13 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: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,835,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Maury Markowitz on October 29, 2002
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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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: 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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If you love computers and technology, and enjoy biographical information on the people that make them, you should thoroughly enjoy Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing by Randall E Stross. If you're a huge Steve Jobs fan and tear up at the thought of how he died so young, though, you might want to pass.

Steve Jobs and the NeXT Big Thing doesn't sugar coat the life of Steve Jobs as it applies to his failed NeXT experiment. It instead goes out of its way to explore with agonizing detail how he failed, why, and by how much. It lists all of his sins and his amazing ego and how it helped him destroy the company he built.

The book stops about the same time NeXTSTEP for Intel was being completed, so it doesn't talk about how Steve Jobs sold his company to Apple, and how the company took NeXTSTEP and turned it into OS X. If it had, I'm sure it would've reminded us that when that transformation took place and Apple was tasked with making an Apple OS out of NeXTSTEP, Steve Jobs didn't run the show and wasn't allowed to also run Apple into the ground.

I'm not a big Apple fan and have no love for Steve Jobs. My first exposure to Macs was in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and all I knew is they weren't anywhere near as fast as my trusty Amiga 1000. They seemed okay, but real computers have operating systems that multitask, and at the time the Amiga was the king of that particular mountain. Later, other consumer operating systems joined the fray, including OS/2, Windows 95, and Windows NT.

Mac OS, I'm afraid, was not a modern OS by any stretch of the imagination.The computers may have excelled at desktop publishing, but as far as general computing goes, they were too slow, too expensive, and too limited.
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