Think different (unless it's about Apple boss Jobs)

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The Independent US

When the computer-maker, Apple, objected to an unauthorised biography of its founder and chief executive, Steve Jobs, it tried first to pressure the publisher to cancel plans to release it.

When the computer-maker, Apple, objected to an unauthorised biography of its founder and chief executive, Steve Jobs, it tried first to pressure the publisher to cancel plans to release it.

The attempt failed and the company has now turned to retaliation: all books by the same imprint are to be withdrawn from Apple shops around the world.

It is a strategy that the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, may not welcome but if the idea was to preserve the image of Mr Jobs, a legend of Silicon Valley, then it might easily backfire. The company risks coming across as a paranoid bully while the burst of media attention will give the book an avalanche of free publicity.

Already Apple, which has been soaring recently on the success of its iPod music player, has a reputation for trying to control what people say about it. In recent months, it has brought a round of lawsuits against individuals and websites accusing them of unfairly disseminating secrets about its upcoming products.

"It reeks of repression," noted Rob Frankel, a brand consultant in California. Hayes Roth of the San Francisco marketing firm Landor Associates agrees Apple's actions are ill-advised. "Almost always, it comes across as mean-spirited, not getting the joke, or petty. You wonder what Apple's public relations adviser is saying about this."

It is not exactly clear what in the book is so upsetting to Apple, although even the title is double-edged. iCon, Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business is expected to be published within the next few weeks and has been written by Jeffrey Young with William Simon. It does include passages about Mr Jobs' struggle and recovery from cancer and his divorce. He is notoriously secretive about his private life.

The trouble started after John Wiley dispatched a proof version of the book to Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California, with the simple request that the company survey it for any factual mistakes. According to Mr Young, the company's response was blunt. We don't like any of it and we demand that you cancel its publication.

But Wiley decided to stand behind the book and its author. It was then that other publications by Wiley began to vanish from the shelves of Apple's 104 retail outlets worldwide.

"Apple said that the only thing to fix this book is not to publish it," said Mr Young, who wrote another biography of Mr Jobs 20 years ago, called The Journey is the Reward, which, he says, was far less complimentary than this one. His portrayal of Mr Jobs in that book, admits Mr Young, was "pretty negative".

Since that time, however, much has happened to Mr Jobs and Apple. In 1985, he was forced to leave the company after falling out with the CEO John Scully. He returned as an informal advisor in 1996 when Apple bought NeXt, a computer company he had founded in the interim. Mr Jobs became chief executive again in 2000 and the company has flourished since, not least with the overwhelming success of the iPod.

Mr Jobs shares the pantheon of America's greatest computer innovators with Bill Gates. His extraordinary success has only been reinforced in recent years with the performance of the animated film studio, Pixar, of which he is also the chief executive officer. The studio, now in the midst of a difficult break-up with its distribution partner, The Walt Disney Company, has made films such as Toy Story and The Incredibles.

"I was pretty stunned," Mr Young said of Apple's decision to retaliate against his publisher. He suggested Mr Jobs may be overreacting. "I have a lot of admiration for the guy. I was simply trying to tell a story of a great, interesting American figure."

Wiley is showing no signs of cracking under the pressure. "It's an unfortunate decision for us. We're hoping they will re-evaluate their position because we have worked very hard to establish a good relationship with Apple," according to Lori Sayde-Mehrtens, a spokeswoman.

"We're empathetic to all our tech authors who will lose out in this but we support our publisher's decision to publish this book."

Apple remains busy with its other actions against those it considers guilty of peddling its secrets on the internet. Last December, it filed a suit against 25 unnamed individuals saying they had leaked confidential information on a number of sites. It has also sued a Harvard student, Nicholas Ciarelli, whose website, ThinkSecret.com, published a story late last year about Apple's plans for a Mac Mini computer.

ANDY IHNATKO

Author of The Mac OS X Panther Book and The GarageBand Book

"I keep coming back to the line from The Godfather: It's not personal. It's just business. Obviously, I'm disappointed Apple's dislike of one book has caused them to ban everything from the same publisher, but I've no reason to feel personally persecuted. There are things in life you have to be very careful about, and one is Steve Jobs and his personal life."

BOB LEVITUS

Author of Dr Mac: The OS X Files and The Mac OS X Tiger for Dummies

"It stinks. I'm sad that Mac users won't find my books at the Apple Store. At the same time, I'm tickled that Wiley did the right thing in spite of the pressure. Many other fine booksellers carry my books and have lower prices. I don't expect to lose many sales (or much sleep) over the whole sordid affair."

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