'The creative, irrational wacko' and the book they tried to ban

A biography of Steve Jobs has got under the computer giant's skin, but, as its co-author tells Jason Nissé, he is a huge admirer of the man who found 'redemption'
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The Independent Online

In Jeffrey Young and William Simon's biography, iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business, they tell the story of how the legendary Apple and Pixar boss blew up at one of Pixar's founders when he had the temerity to write on Jobs's whiteboard. "It was ugly," recalled Alvy Ray Smith, the executive in question, who quit the digital film maker shortly afterwards. "Steve turned on me with everything he had."

In Jeffrey Young and William Simon's biography, iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business, they tell the story of how the legendary Apple and Pixar boss blew up at one of Pixar's founders when he had the temerity to write on Jobs's whiteboard. "It was ugly," recalled Alvy Ray Smith, the executive in question, who quit the digital film maker shortly afterwards. "Steve turned on me with everything he had."

So the authors cannot have been surprised when Jobs tried to stop the publication of their book. They had sent him a proof copy, to check for any inaccuracies, and the reply came from Apple that the only way to fix the book was not to publish it. The computer giant then proceeded to put pressure on the publishers, Wiley, to pulp it, and even went as far as removing all Wiley's books from Apple stores - which was hard luck on the authors of Mac OS X Tiger All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies and The Mac OS X Panther Book.

But Young - one of the founding editors of Macworld, a magazine for Apple customers, and the author of a previous unauthorised biography of Jobs - refuses to blame the Applemeister. He believes it is the fault of over-eager company executives.

"I think it was a knee-jerk reaction," he explains. "Billionaires operate in a different world from you and me. He probably said: 'I don't want to see this book again.' The staff go and interpret this and try to kill it.

"By the time anyone has enough intelligence to stop this, people have made some pretty bonehead choices."

This bonehead choice ranks with Apple suing a blogger who revealed details of future launches, and Jobs jamming mobile phones on the Apple and Pixar campuses.

Apple declined to comment but Wiley said in a statement that it had "followed the highest standard of publishing protocol with the publication of this book, which is a balanced business biography and was sent ahead of time to Apple for review. We stand behind our authors 100 per cent.

"We are concerned about how Apple's action affects our authors and customers and would like to resolve this situation so that we can get back to selling books through Apple's retail stores. We have a long-standing good relationship with Apple that we want to maintain, and our titles sell well through their retail stores."

Still, it can hardly have been bad for publicity and sales. "I don't think I 'd have had 650,000 hits on Google if they hadn't done this," the author smiles.

Young looks an unlikely rebel. A Briton, who has lived in the US since the early 1970s, he is grey haired and genial - more like the owner of an organic food store than an obsessive computer journalist. He is a massive fan of Apple and an admirer of the way Jobs came back from the disappointment of being ousted from the company he founded in the mid-1980s, and from the near failure of his computer venture NeXT, to regain control of Apple and take it to a new level of achievement - while leading Pixar to unheard-of success with digital animation films such as Toy Story and The Incredibles.

"It's such a fabulous story," says Young. "There's the rise to riches, the crash to earth, the years in the wilderness, then the redemption. Now we are waiting for the next act, which is the clash of the titans."

Young believes he is preparing for a classic battle with Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder. Jobs is still smarting at the way, as he sees it, Microsoft pulled the wool over the eyes of John Sculley, his successor at Apple, to secure Apple's operating system design for Microsoft Windows. "Steve has been biding his time," argues Young. "This time it's personal,"

The deal Apple struck a few days ago with Intel - under which the chip maker, which has long been close to Microsoft, will supply Apple machines - is significant. Young believes that soon we will see Apple offering its operating systems on PCs, so giving PC customers a real alternative to Microsoft. He also predicts some sort of link-up with Hewlett-Packard, the world's number two PC maker, which has a deal with Apple for a version of the hugely popular iPod music player and whose marketing head, Allison Johnson, recently moved to Apple.

The battle has already started in the business computing arena, with Apple launching its new Tiger operating system before Microsoft could get its long- awaited Longhorn to market, and now it is spreading into consumer products with Microsoft trying to get back at the iPod. Young thinks that Jobs's next attack will involve television, so capitalising on an area that Microsoft has failed to capture.

"What a set-up: you have the creative, irrational wacko versus the rational billionaire," says Young.

Indeed, Jobs does come over as a "creative, irrational wacko" in Young and Simon's book. They detail his relationship with his adopted parents, the erratic education that saw him drop out of college, his refusal for years to acknowledge the daughter he fathered, the way some of the original team at Apple lost out financially, and so on. The book shows what a great negotiator Jobs is, how his obsessions get the best both out of workers and suppliers, and how he instinctively knows what customers will want. "Steve makes things that Steve would buy," argues Young. "Steve has the ability to see the design component."

With Pixar, Young argues, Jobs was extremely lucky and that he owes much of the company's success to animation genius John Lasseter.

Ultimately, though, he thinks Jobs has the edge on his great rival. "Steve has walked in the wilderness - NeXT failed, Pixar nearly failed ... but for Gates the story has been of continual progress. What is going to happen to Gates when the going get tough?"

If this is the man Jobs wanted to silence, how does he react to his critics?

'iCon Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business', by Jeffrey Young and William Simon, is published by Wiley at £15.99

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