When Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” first hit shelves, it was an instant hit. In it, Isaacson broke major news, ignited one of Apple’s longest standing rumors (the TV), and broadly painted Jobs as the impatient, relentless, perfectionist Apple founder we remember today.
That was a few years ago, back in October 2011. Since then, some protested Isaacson’s portrayal. Apple designer-in-chief Jony Ive called it inaccurate (“My regard couldn’t be any lower,” he said in an epic New Yorker profile). Apple watcher and Markdown creator John Gruber also fiercely criticized the book, suggesting that Isaacson “mistrusted Jobs.”
But soon “Becoming Steve Jobs” will be released by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, an alternate biography widely seen as carrying Apple’s endorsement. Last week, for example, Apple’s SVP Eddy Cue said this is the first book about Steve Jobs to “get it right.”
Details about the book have been scarce, but a recent New Yorker profile about Jony Ive and an early Amazon preview helped tease out some new information. Here’s what we know so far:
Jobs refused a liver transplant offer from Tim Cook
When Jobs was gravely ill and needed a new liver, Tim Cook offered to donate a portion of his own liver because the two shared a blood type. Jobs turned down Cook’s offer and later received a full liver transplant in 2009.
When this news leaked in an Amazon preview, Fast Company quickly published an excerpt of the book related to Jobs’ flat-out refusal:
“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 book aims to undo the portrayal in Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs”
In the new biography, Tim Cook is quoted as saying Isaacson’s book did Jobs “a tremendous disservice.” Cook said “It was just a rehash of a bunch of stuff that had already been written, and focused on small parts of his personality. You get the feeling that [Jobs was] a greedy, selfish egomaniac. It didn’t capture the person. The person I read about there is somebody I would never have wanted to work with over all this time.”
Disney CEO Bob Iger knew Jobs’ cancer returned before the Pixar acquisition
Just half an hour before they were scheduled to announce the sale of Pixar to Disney for a tidy $7.4 billion, Steve Jobs confessed to Iger that his pancreatic cancer had returned. Before that confession, only Jobs’ wife and doctor were aware of the diagnosis.
In FastCompany’s excerpt, Bob Iger retells the story:
He said, “I’ve made myself a promise that I’m going to be alive for Reed’s graduation from high school.” [Reed is Jobs’s eldest son.]
So I say, of course, “How old is Reed?”
He tells me that Reed is fourteen, and will be graduating in four years. He says, “Frankly, they tell me I’ve got a fifty-fifty chance of living five years.”
“Are you telling me this for any other reason than wanting to get it off your chest?” I asked.
He says, “I’m telling you because I’m giving you a chance to back out of the deal.”
So I look at my watch, and we’ve got thirty minutes. In thirty minutes we’re going to make this announcement. We’ve got television crews, we’ve got the board votes, we’ve got investment bankers. The wheels are turning. And I’m thinking, We’re in this post Sarbanes-Oxley world, and Enron, and fiduciary responsibility, and he is going to be our largest shareholder, and I’m now being asked to bury a secret. He told me, “My kids don’t know. Not even the Apple board knows. Nobody knows, and you can’t tell anybody.”
Jobs’ time at NeXT
CultofMac also reports that the book contains significant information about Jobs’ stint at NeXT, the company he founded after being forced out of Apple in 1985. Critics of Isaacson’s book noted that this period was largely ignored.
Conflicting reports about Apple’s long-rumored foray into television
The new book also delves into (if not further complicates) the mythical Apple-branded television. Speaking to Jony Ive shortly after rejoining Apple in 1997, Jobs is quoted as saying, “I just don’t like television. Apple will never make a TV again.”
This is a likely reference to the Macintosh TV, an aborted attempt at an Apple computer that also doubled as a television.