Malcolm Gladwell published this Steve Jobs piece- called The Tweaker — today in The New Yorker. Truly a great read. Just when you thought everything that could be written about the late Steve Jobs has been written. Vintage Gladwell. Nice job, TNY.
Image Credit: The New Yorker
Jobs’s sensibility was more editorial than inventive. “I’ll know it when I see it,” he said.
Not long after Steve Jobs got married, in 1991, he moved with his wife to a nineteen-thirties, Cotswolds-style house in old Palo Alto. Jobs always found it difficult to furnish the places where he lived. His previous house had only a mattress, a table, and chairs. He needed things to be perfect, and it took time to figure out what perfect was. This time, he had a wife and family in tow, but it made little difference. “We spoke about furniture in theory for eight years,” his wife, Laurene Powell, tells Walter Isaacson, in “Steve Jobs,” Isaacson’s enthralling new biography of the Apple founder. “We spent a lot of time asking ourselves, ‘What is the purpose of a sofa?’
I never met the man, but Gladwell’s vision of him certainly comes much closer to the impressions I formed of Jobs and his contributions over the last 30 years than the endless “greatest creative mind of his generation” stories. And I agree with Gladwell that to say that Jobs’ genius was editorial, rather than inventive, does not denigrate the brilliance of his portfolio. Like any brilliant editor, Jobs had a gift for taking the work of others and recasting it to match his specific vision — one that in Jobs’ case was often beautiful, and almost always highly marketable. But I would also argue that while Jobs’ single-minded pursuit of an ideal that only he could define was his greatest strength, it was equally his greatest limitation. His refusal to license the Macintosh operating was, as much as anything, responsible for 20 years of Wintel dominance, just as his walled garden approach to iOS ensured the success of Android. From a personal perspective, it is also why, while I admired much of his work over the years, I was never able to fully embrace anything Jobs produced after the Apple II (a product so open, and so incomplete, that looking back it’s hard to envision Jobs having anything to do with it.)