From Apple Watch talk to the company’s hunt for a trillion-dollar valuation, high-flying Apple (AAPL) and its CEO Tim Cook may be burning up the limelight but co-founder Steve Jobs continues to cast a long shadow even in death.
Excerpts from a new book on Jobs, which will appear in Fast Company magazine’s March 18 issue, offer insights into Jobs’ iconoclastic thinking in different phases of his life. The book, Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution Of a Reckless Upstart Into a Visionary Leader, out March 24, is written by Brent Schlender and Fast Company executive editor Rick Tetzeli.
Perhaps the most striking anecdote involves the company’s current boss. Cook was so upset at his mentor’s condition – Jobs died in 2011 of pancreatic cancer – that he was thrilled to discover he could help improve his boss’s health by donating a portion of his liver. Cook went by Jobs’ house to tell him the good news, and the authors report the terse response Cook got.
“He cut me off at the legs, almost before the words were out of my mouth,” said Cook. “‘No,’ he said. ‘I’ll never let you do that. I’ll never do that.'”
“Somebody that’s selfish,” Cook continues, “doesn’t reply like that. I mean, here’s a guy, he’s dying, he’s very close to death because of his liver issue, and here’s someone healthy offering a way out. I said, ‘Steve, I’m perfectly healthy, I’ve been checked out. Here’s the medical report. I can do this and I’m not putting myself at risk, I’ll be fine.’ And he doesn’t think about it. It was not, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ It was not, ‘I’ll think about it.’ It was not, ‘Oh, the condition I’m in . . .’ It was, ‘No, I’m not doing that!’ He kind of popped up in bed and said that. And this was during a time when things were just terrible. Steve only yelled at me four or five times during the 13 years I knew him, and this was one of them.”
The other excerpts showcase Jobs’ business penchants. For example, when Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 after his exile, he immediately took a liking – and vice-versa – to a new in-house designer by the name of Jony Ive (the man who would go on to design the iPhone and other hit products). But soon thereafter, he killed two of Ive’s pet projects, an eMate digital message pad and a 20th anniversary Macintosh that doubled as a television.
The Mac TV was Ive’s “pride and joy,” write the co-authors. “It was a striking piece of out-of-the-box industrial design thinking. Jony and his team had placed the guts of a top-of-the-line laptop inside a svelte and slightly curved vertical slab, which had on the top half of its surface a color LCD monitor, and on the bottom half a vertical CD-ROM drive, all of which was framed by specially designed Bose stereo speakers.”
But despite its elegance and Jobs’ apparent friendship (“He’s kind of a cherub,” Jobs said of Ive), the project died after selling just 12,000 units. The authors quote Jobs as saying: “‘I just don’t like television. Apple will never make a TV again.’ This was Jony’s introduction to Steve’s coldhearted decision-making.”
Also excerpted from Becoming Steve Jobs are details about Jobs’ close friendship in the last years of his life with Disney boss Bob Iger. Jobs had wanted him to join Apple board, but Iger demurred due to fiduciary reasons. But the two powwowed often, the book reports, speculating on what companies were ripe for the taking. “We would stand at a whiteboard brainstorming,” recalls Iger. “We talked about buying companies. We talked about buying Yahoo together.”
Perhaps the biggest testament to Jobs’ friendship with Iger was the fact that the latter was one of few guests permitted to enter Jony Ive’s still secretive design lair.
The new Jobs book is likely to only stoke the fires for a forthcoming Jobs movie. While Ashton Kutcher’s star turn in the movie Jobs (2013) wasn’t particularly well reviewed, a new project based on Walter Isaacson’s best-selling 2011 biography Steve Jobs has fans buzzing thanks to the involvement of director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), writer Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and versatile actor Michael Fassbender in the starring role as the Apple icon.