Littler Books cover of Steve Jobs Summary

Steve Jobs Summary and Quotes

Walter Isaacson

3.4 minutes to read • Updated May 22, 2024

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What it's about in one sentence:

A captivating biography of the Apple co-founder and visionary, providing an insightful look into his life and the development of groundbreaking products.

Bullet Point Summary

  1. Steven Paul Jobs was born on February 24, 1955, to Abdulfattah Jandali and Joanne Schieble. Schieble's strict Christian family disapproved of Jandali because he's Muslim, so Jobs was given up for adoption. Paul and Clara Jobs, a couple living in Silicon Valley, adopted Jobs.
  2. Job's interest in design and craftsmanship came from his family's Eichler house and his dad's passion for mechanics.
  3. In high school, Steve met his future business partner, Steve Wozniak. The two bonded over their love of electronics and pranks. Together, they created their first product, the "Blue Box," which allowed users to make long-distance phone calls for free. They sold almost 100 boxes.
  4. Jobs dropped out of Reed College but continued taking classes out of a curiosity to learn. His calligraphy class would heavily influence the Mac's graphical user interface.
  5. After college, Jobs was hired by Atari because he took Wozniak's version of the electronics board design of Pong and presented it as his own.
  6. At Atari, Jobs was given a task to reduce the number of chips in the circuit board for the video game Breakout. Jobs didn't know how to accomplish this, so he requested Wozniak's help, and they agreed to split the pay evenly. Wozniak was able to significantly reduce the number of chips. Jobs told Wozniak Atari paid him $700, so they both received $350. In reality, Atari paid $5,000, and Jobs kept most of it.
  7. Jobs was deeply interested in spirituality, LSD, and the arts, which influenced his aesthetic sense and intense focus.
  8. Jobs traveled to India for seven months to immerse himself in Eastern spirituality, which shaped his minimalist aesthetics and power of intuition.
  9. While Jobs and Wozniak were members of the Homebrew Computer Club, Wozniak came up with the idea of a self-contained personal computer. Wozniak was about to provide his design for free but Jobs convinced him that they should start a company based on it.
  10. The name "Apple" was chosen because Jobs had recently visited an apple farm. Wozniak and Jobs built the first 100 Apple I computers by hand.
  11. Jobs was a relentless perfectionist and it led him to be an erratic, temperamental, controlling, and verbally abusive leader (called employees β€œassholes” and their work β€œshit”).
  12. Jobs would spend an inordinate amount of time (days) on small details like the computer case's corner roundness or shade of beige.
  13. The Apple board of directors appointed Mike Scott from National Semiconductor as president and CEO of Apple to handle Jobs. Jobs hated giving up any control of the company and thus Jobs had many, sometimes heated and emotional, disagreements with Scott and the board.
  14. The Apple II was a great success for the company, but Jobs saw it as Wozniak's creation and wanted to create a machine that he could call his own that would "make a dent in the universe". He began work on the Macintosh, which he took away from its original creator, Jef Raskin, an early Apple employee.
  15. The Macintosh became an unparalleled success, partly due to a lavish marketing campaign that included a sensational TV commercial directed by Ridley Scott (the β€œ1984” commercial).
  16. Jobs's toxic behaviors continued, and in 1985, the Apple board of directors decided to let him go.
  17. After being fired from Apple, Jobs founded a new venture called NeXT, but his perfectionism made the project hard to engineer and manufacture (e.g., spending $100,000 on a logo, and insisting the computer be in the shape of a perfect cube).
  18. The NeXT computers were far too expensive and ended up being a financial failure.
  19. Meanwhile, he also bought a majority share in Pixar. After years of hardship, Pixar released Tin Toy, which won the 1988 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Tin Toy's success eventually led to the worldwide phenomenon, Toy Story.
  20. While away from Apple, Jobs reconnected with his biological mother and sister, and married Laurene Powell, with whom he had three children.
  21. Jobs attempted to mend his relationship with Lisa, his daughter from his relationship with Chrisann Brennan, whom he knew since high school. Lisa lived with Powell and Jobs until she went to Harvard College. Both Jobs and Lisa were known for being temperamental and had difficulty communicating.
  22. After Apple started to decline, Gil Amelio was appointed CEO in 1996, and he decided to acquire NeXT's software, which made Jobs an advisor to Apple.
  23. Jobs soon regained his influence within the company, and Apple's board offered Jobs the CEO position, but he declined. Eventually, Jobs had enough power to force the board to resign and Jobs became CEO again.
  24. Jobs shifted the company's focus to making fewer products, and turned a $1 billion loss in 1997 to a $309 million profit in 1998.
  25. With the help of designer Jony Ive, Apple created the iMac, which had a playful translucent blue case. The iMac became the fastest-selling computer in Apple's history.
  26. Jobs wanted to control the entire retail experience of buying Apple products, thus he painstakingly developed the concept of the Apple Store, which emphasized minimalism and aesthetics. The first Apple Store opened in May 2001, and proved to be a resounding success.
  27. Soon Jobs conceived the digital hub strategy, which refers to the idea of a central computer controlling many types of devices -- music players, phones, etc.
  28. The first step was the iPod, followed by the iPhone, and then the iPad, all with Ive's help. These products were massive successes and transformed the industry despite initial criticisms of their high prices.
  29. Jobs was diagnosed with cancer in 2003 and initially refused surgery, opting for alternative treatments -- vegan diet, acupuncture, herbal remedies, etc. Jobs even consulted a psychic.
  30. He eventually had to undergo surgery, and when the cancer returned in 2008, he continued with alternative diets until finally agreeing to a liver transplant.
  31. Jobs passed away in 2011, leaving behind a legacy at Apple as a product of his passionate personality.
  32. Jobs' strategy of tightly integrating hardware and software into a cohesive end-to-end user experience proved successful for Apple, leading the company to surpass Microsoft as the most valuable technology company in the world shortly before Jobs' death.

Steve Jobs: Resources