Steve Jobs: Biographer Walter Isaacson hails Apple boss

Steve Jobs' biographer Walter Isaacson, talks about Jobs' battle with cancer

The genius of Apple founder Steve Jobs lay in his ability to connect poetry to technology, Steve Jobs' biographer Walter Isaacson has said.

Isaacson's book Steve Jobs, released on Monday, is based on over 40 interviews, some of which took place in the Apple co-founder's living room.

Speaking to ABC News, Mr Isaacson said Jobs intended to wait six months after publication before reading the book.

Instead he died on 5 October, aged 56, after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

The volume is the only authorised biography of the man who transformed the Silicon Valley and built one of the most valuable companies in the world.

Temper and fury

Isaacson said he warned Jobs there would be things he would not like in the book. But the only input the Apple boss asked for was to choose his biography's cover.

"He hated the cover that they originally put on it," Isaacson told ABC.

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson

Covers of Steve Jobs biography

Was he smart? No, not exceptionally. Instead, he was a genius. His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected, and at time magical. He was, indeed, an example of what the mathematician Mark Kae called a magician genius, someone whose insights come out of the blue and require intuition more than mere mental processing power. Like a pathfinder, he could absorb information, sniff the wind, and sense what lay ahead.

Steve Jobs thus became the the greatest business executive of our era, the one most certain to be remembered a century from now. History will place him in the pantheon right next to Edison and Ford. More than anyone else of his time, he made products that were completely innovative, combining the power of poetry and processors. With a ferocity that could make working him as unsettling as it was inspiring, he also built the world's most creative company. And he was able to infuse into its DNA the design sensibilities, perfectionism, and imagination that make it likely to be, even decades from now, the company that thrives best at the intersection of artistry and technology.

Extracted from Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

"And so I heard his temper, that fury he sometimes has, and he said: 'I'll only work with you if you let me have some input in the cover.'"

Steve Jobs commissioned Walter Isaacson to write his biography in 2004, before Isaacson knew about Jobs' struggle with cancer.

"I thought: he's young, has got a long career ahead of him. Then when he was sick I decided this is the most innovative guy, the guy who is connecting poetry to technology and it would be a great thing to do," the writer said.

Isaacson said that Jobs "wanted the truth out", but also wanted the biography to be a way for his children to know him better.

"No other great leader has ever opened up this way," he said.

Intense emotions

In his 627-page book Isaacson chronicles Steve Jobs' life from his childhood, through the creation and establishment of Apple, the battles with Microsoft and his great rival Bill Gates, his departure from and return to the company he founded, and its continuing long boom since the start of the 21st Century.

While much of the story is familiar, especially to Apple fans and followers, Isaacson unique access offered him the chance to paint a full picture of Steve Jobs' life.

Over the course of dozens of interviews, Isaacson interviewed Jobs at home, in his childhood neighbourhood and at the Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.

"His genius was the ability to connect poetry to technology. That art and technology thing. I mean Bill Gates has astonishing mental processing power. But he didn't have that sort of feel for design and art," he told ABC News on Monday.

That way of thinking permeated Jobs' search for treatment when he was diagnosed with cancer.

"Once he decided to get the surgery, he said: 'I should have gotten it earlier.'

"I mean it took him a few months before he decided to get the surgery. He was just searching, he was always on the search including when it came to his cancer," the author said.

'Greatest CEO ever'

Last week, a private memorial service was held at the Apple headquarters for company staff, celebrating the life of Steve Jobs.

Jonathan Ive Apple designer Jonathan Ive worked closely with Steve Jobs on many products

A video of the 90-minute memorial service was posted on Apple's website late on Sunday evening.

Speakers included chief executive Tim Cook, board member and former US Vice President Al Gore, and Jonathan Ive, the British designer responsible for many of Apple's iconic products.

Mr Cook described his friend as "the greatest CEO ever".

Mr Ive described Steve Jobs as his closest and most loyal friend. In pre-released extracts from Isaacson's biography, Jobs called Jonathan Ive his "spiritual partner".

The memorial service was also attended by his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs.

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