iCon Steve Jobs The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business
By Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon
308 pages (soft cover)
Virtually every Macintosh or iPod owner knows that Apple’s founder and current CEO is Steve Jobs. He’s got more name recognition than any other high-tech CEO can ever dream of. Jobs is known for his patented “reality distortion field” which allows him to persuade doubters of almost anything he wishes, as long as the listener is in his presence.
Jobs is a volatile personality, know for his strong opinions on high tech design, and attention to even the smallest design details on his products. His quirks and foibles are legendary around Silicon Valley.
Authors Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon have crafted a detailed look at the rise, fall, and rise again of Jobs’ business career. Starting with Jobs’ first entrepreneurial efforts selling telephone “blue boxes” while still in high school, they cover the Jobs’ entire business cycle, concluding with a good look at the relationship between Pixar and the Disney company.
Young and Simon know that Steve’s mercurial personality and hot temper provide plenty of good copy. The best-known Jobs antics are well documented: I continue to be amazed at how people put up with Jobs year after year. But then, that’s just more evidence of how well Jobs can get other to follow his vision.
iCon is a catchy title, playing on the “iXXX” names of so many Apple products. Since it implies Jobs is a con artist (and some may heartily agree) the title is really serving to get you to buy the book, thinking you’ll have a 308-page scandal sheet. However, you don’t get a scandal sheet, you get decent journalism, overall.
iCon is a mostly-balanced presentation, covering Steve’s successes and failures in equal measure. The relationship between Jobs’ personality and his business practices gets fair treatment, with plenty of examples of both his desirable and not-so-desirable traits.
I found iCon’s style to be slightly dry, and in parts unengaging. Perhaps it’s because Jobs has had so much previous media exposure, with some of the best anecdotes already in print for years, that I found much of the material to be less than riveting. Andy Hertzfeld’s Revolution in the Valley tells the best Jobs stories in a more engaging manner, as he was there to experience Steve first-hand.
To set up Jobs second act, which is the whole point of the book, the authors have to discuss the Steve’s rise, fall, and termination from Apple Computer. Nevertheless, the setup is too long, and much of it’s old history. The book would be better served moving into the actual Pixar and Next “Second Act” much sooner, as the history of Next and Pixar is not nearly as well-known as Steve’s Apple Computer history.
iCon’s best section is the detailed description of Steve’s relationship with the Disney Company and its then-CEO Michael Eisner. The book’s last 60+ pages contain new information and analysis covering business right up to the release of the Pixar film The Incredibles that’s not made up of shopworn anecdotes.
If you’re interested in Steve Jobs both as a personality and as a businessman, iCon -Steve Jobs: The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business, is a fairly good read. It’s not the best presentation of colorful Jobsian anecdotes (choose Revolution in the Valley for that) but it has very good coverage of Steve’s recent work at Pixar. The writing style won’t have you turning pages until late into the morning, but it won’t put you to sleep early, either.