Recently, Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli released a new biography of Steve Jobs, called Becoming Steve Jobs. The authors interviewed some of the most powerful figures in the Apple universe, including Apple’s design guru Jony Ive, chief executive Tim Cook, former head of communications Katie Cotton, Pixar chief executive Ed Catmull, and Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs.
As Steven Levy discusses on BackChannel, the new book is more than just another retrospective on one of the most important figures of the information age. Rather, it’s part of a concerted effort to reshape Jobs’ legacy, three years after an earlier biography by Walter Isaacson painted the Apple founder as a temperamental micromanager and control freak:
On October 16, 2011, the early evening weather on the Stanford University campus in Palo Alto, California, was almost unspeakably gorgeous — mild as a warm bath, a cloudless sky above, a full moon beaming benevolently on the 300 people gathered to mourn Steve Jobs. The world had lost one of its greatest creative forces, but for those in attendance, especially his family, the loss was painfully personal.
As the crowds mingled before the service, Walter Isaacson, who had been entrusted to write the official biography of Jobs, was telling people he had just dropped off an early copy of the book to Steve’s widow, Laurene.
Isaacson’s eponymous biography of Jobs became a publishing phenomenon, selling over a million copies and making Isaacson himself somewhat of a celebrity. But privately, those closest to Jobs complained that Isaacson’s portrait focused too heavily on the Apple CEO’s worst behavior, and failed to present a 360-degree view of the person they knew… Only now, over three years later, has their dissatisfaction become public. In a February New Yorker profile, Apple’s design wizard Jony Ive conspicuously insisted that, while sometimes withering, Jobs’s harsh criticisms of his employees’ work were not personal attacks, but simply the result of impatient candor. As for Isaacson’s book, Ive was quoted as saying, “My regard couldn’t be any lower.”
Management lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs
Aside from the new Steve Jobs biography, another recently released tech book focuses on the five key strategies employed by Jobs, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and former Intel chief executive Andy Grove. In Forbes, Michael Blanding reviews the strategies used by these titans of the tech world to build their empires:
If there were a Mount Rushmore for technological innovation, Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs would be the faces looking outward. The long-time CEOs of Microsoft, Intel, and Apple have done more than anyone to popularize the modern-day personal computer, and in doing so, also created three of the most highly valued companies in the world.
But how were they able to steer their companies through the volatile ups and downs of decades of changing technologies? What did they have in common? And what can we learn from them about successful strategy?
Those are the questions David B. Yoffie and Michael A. Cusumano address in their new book, Strategy Rules: Five Timeless Lessons from Bill Gates, Andy Grove, and Steve Jobs… Yoffie and Cusumano homed in on five key strategies that any manager, entrepreneur, or CEO can learn:
- Look Forward, Reason Back
- Make Big Bets, Without Betting the Company
- Build Platforms and Ecosystems—Not Just Products
- Exploit Leverage and Power—Play Judo and Sumo
- Shape the Organization around Your Personal Anchor
How the tech industry is about to disrupt fashion
Until recently, if you were to think about the industries that come to mind when you think of fashion, the tech industry would most likely be near the bottom of your list. Yet wearable devices, and especially the Apple Watch, are set to change all that.
At The Atlantic, Robinson Meyer evaluates the lessons the fashion world can learn from Silicon Valley:
Photography, telephony, music, journalism, pocket calculators. The list of industries thrown off course by the iPhone is long. Now, with the Apple Watch, it seems as if the California tech industry is at last coming for one of the oldest of old-world trades: fashion.
What we call fashion is, of course, vast and varied. It includes sneakers and sweaters, wedding rings and workout wear. Even if Apple sells as many watches as it has sold phones (an unlikely proposition), the company will directly influence only one narrow part of our attire. Still, the new watch heralds a broader convergence between the things we use and the things we wear. In a series of conversations, designers, engineers, and futurists told me that they expect many pieces of technology to look more like fashion going forward—worn on our bodies, designed to make a personal statement, subject to fads. At the same time, they said, old-fashioned fashion will become technologized. The look and feel of future clothing won’t be influenced by Apple Watch–style glass and steel as much as by standard business practices applied in a new way. Boring, buzzword‑y supply-chain management—and innovative manufacturing techniques, too—might just bring you new pieces of custom jewelry each day, or pants that are truly your size.
Is Slack really worth billions?
One of the hottest apps in Silicon Valley right now is the business-focused mobile messaging app Slack. For those who are unfamiliar with it, Amanda Hess at Slate has a good introduction:
Last year blogger Beejoli Shah started to notice a curious new artifact populating her social media feeds: screenshots of office chats, mostly taking place in an upstart workplace communication tool called Slack. At first Shah failed to see the appeal of sharing a few lines of water cooler conversation among co-workers that, more times than not, appeared basically unintelligible to outsiders. But soon she found herself mesmerized by the look and feel of Slack. As the Slackbrags mounted, Shah, an associate editor at the Frisky, campaigned for her co-workers to get on Slack “solely out of jealousy,” Shah says. “There was a definite sense of missing out not being on Slack. Like, being able to work-chat isn’t enough now. Slack itself has become a character.”
In a recent fundraising round, Slack increased its valuation to an eye-popping $US2.8 billion ($3.6 billion). So can that sort of valuation be justified? It’s a question the New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo explores in this interview with Slack’s co-founder, Stewart Butterfield:
When I recently wrote about Slack, a corporate messaging app that has aspirations to replace email, investors valued the company at $1 billion. That was a month ago. Today, the start-up announced that it has raised $160 million from a half dozen investors, and that it is now worth $2.8 billion.
Slack, which is just a year old, has more than 750,000 daily active users, 200,000 of whom are paying customers. By many estimates, it is the fastest-growing business application of all time.
Still, Slack’s escalating valuation in such a short time seems destined to spark questions about the rising possibility of a tech bubble. I asked Stewart Butterfield, Slack’s co-founder and chief executive, about the company, its growth and the bubble in a wide-ranging conversation this morning.