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“The Second Coming Of Steve Jobs”, by Alan Deutschman (Broadway Books, 2000, 301 pages) If Steve Jobs had his way, “The Second Coming of Steve Jobs” would never have been published. Written by Vanity Fair contributing editor Alan Deutschman, the book is an extended gawk at the larger-than-life personality of Jobs, apparent CEO-for-life at Apple Computer, Inc., and Pixar Animation Studios. Jobs is a mythical figure in American business culture and his prodigal son-like return to Apple only intensified his aura. If Microsoft Corp.’s Bill Gates is the mass-market messiah, Jobs is the avant-garde Dark Prince. Clever, visionary, and acerbic, he’s played the Rolling Stones to Gates’s Beatles act. He’s the boy mothers tell their daughters to stay away from. And the book tells us, mama was basically right. Unfortunately for Deutschman and his publisher, Jobs wouldn’t cooperate. He disdains journalists in general (except when it suits him, as during a product launch). And he especially detests anyone who tries to expose his private life and his legendary temper and need to control everything around him. So the scheduled publication of excerpts in Vanity Fair was mysteriously killed, Deutschman said in an interview with the online magazine Salon. And the book’s release, Deutschman claimed, was delayed because of wrangling over rights to the original cover photograph between Random House and the photographer. Although “The Second Coming’s” title makes it seem as though it’s about Jobs’s 1997 return and eventual triumph at the company he started, Apple, Deutschman spends most of the time telling the almost-forgotten story of Jobs’s dark years in the wilderness. Cast out of Apple by the man he’d hired, soda executive John Sculley, Jobs starts a new computer company, Next Software Inc. The company was going to beat Apple by being cooler, easier to use, more brilliant than the Macintosh. Unfortunately, it was priced in the stratosphere; the Next Cube desktop computer tanked. Meanwhile, Jobs had bankrolled a group of brilliant “hippies” that had begun working for film director George Lucas. The director needed some effects for the sequel to the movie “Star Wars” and hired some of the best minds in computing, people who happened to be artists as well. Lucas couldn’t afford to keep them on, so he spun the lab off with Jobs as the money man. Jobs thought he had another great computing company on his hands. But in an unexpected twist that must have been galling to such a control freak, it was the movie group that soared: producing some award-winning short films and the blockbuster feature films “Toy Story”, “A Bug’s Life”, and “Toy Story II”. Jobs, quite accidentally, became a movie mogul, even as his Next venture failed. Along the way, Deutschman writes, Jobs inspired, cajoled, pleaded with, and terrified his employees. He had many, many tantrums. It’s said that Apple employees wouldn’t get into an elevator with him, for fear that they might not have a job when they reached their floor. He dated Joan Baez, recognized an out-of-wedlock daughter, married and had a family. But being a tyrant didn’t always get him places. Before the Pixar triumph, his career and reputation lay in tatters, and he had few friends. Only Larry Ellison of Oracle Corporation still thought of him as the brilliant visionary who brought easy computing to a grateful world. Yes, “brilliant.” Everyone, or nearly so, is brilliant in this book. And if they are good-looking women, they are “stunningly attractive.” Deutschman falls prey to a pernicious case of adjective- and adverb-itis. Maybe he’s written too many celebrity profiles. It gets tired after a while. Also fatiguing is his use of shorthand to denote a personality type. “Hippies” figure prominently in this biography, as do brilliant scholars and artists. Artists, by the way, do not necessarily create art; they’re “artists” because they think of themselves as such. Like Steve (everyone is referred to by his or her first name, too), who, Deutschman regularly tells us, wears the artist uniform of jeans and black turtleneck. There are some nice, minor stories: A drunken Bill Gates once made prank calls to Jobs in the middle of the night, leaving messages on an answering machine tape that Jobs saved. In fact, the two seem obsessed with one another, each deeply resenting the other’s reputation in the tech world. Gates, Deutschman says, thought he was as visionary as Jobs, while Jobs believed that few truly respected his business acumen. That business acumen, though, often comes up short. Jobs wanted to kill the animation department at Pixar. But the group’s efforts, as well as the storytelling abilities of director John Lasseter, pulled the company out of the weeds. Then there’s the sad story of the expensive, beautiful but unloved Next Cube, whose history is eerily being replayed today by the beautiful but expensive Power Macintosh G4 Cube, a computer whose low sales have been blamed for Apple’s recent faltering profits. In the end, “The Second Coming” leaves the reader as unsatisfied as most people would be after eating Jobs’s favorite meal, a shredded carrot salad, no dressing. (Media mogul Rupert Murdoch once joked that the key to a satisfying meal at the Jobs household is to have an early dinner there — then go to a nearby restaurant.) The book drops off soon after the acquisition of Next by Apple. While Deutschman sketches out Jobs’s successful efforts to send the hapless Apple CEO Gilbert Amelio packing, he doesn’t provide much insight into Apple’s revival. For corporate managers, the main utility of “The Second Coming”, besides the gossip, lies in its lessons on how not to motivate people. That, and the somewhat discouraging (for control freaks, anyway) news that serendipity and being in the right place at the right time is just as important in business as making rational decisions — if not more so.

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