Steve is so hugely successful and yet he treated so many people so badly. How much of an Asshole do you have to be to be successful? – Daniel Kottke (Steve’s friend and Apple technician who accompanied him to India), quoted in the new documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine
As Executive Producer of the new documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine and SVP of CNN, Vinnie Malhotra, son of Indian immigrants, is partly responsible for the lube-less buggering of one of the deified icons of our era.
I’m glad director Alex Gibney, Malhotra and other collaborators chose buggery over hagiography in the Steve Jobs documentary.
So much more accurate. And so much more fun. 😉
The documentary is only in limited theatrical release in the U.S. but you can rent it online for $6.99 at Amazon or iTunes.
Silicon Valley & Steve Jobs
For the most part, two kinds of people make up Silicon Valley – Assholes and Wannabe Assholes.
The microscopic community of successful Assholes and the vast majority who desperately crave to be Assholes but lack the brains, balls and, above all, the good luck to be in the right place at the right time.
Since the prune, apricot and cherry orchards south of San Francisco gave way to Silicon Valley in the 1960s, the area has been the stage for one of the great Darwinian experiments of our times.
A native of Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs was a grade-A Asshole.
Despite little knowledge of programming and lack of a college degree, Steve Jobs went on to co-found Apple, one of the most successful, valuable and vertically integrated technology companies of the world.
Under Steve’s leadership (after he returned to Apple in 1997), Apple launched a series of wildly successful products like the iMac, iPod, iPhone, Macbook, iTunes, iPad and the App Store.
Apple TV is the only non-blockbuster product introduced in the Steve Jobs era in the 21st century.
Like most highly successful Assholes, Steve was a genius at screwing people over and a crook who managed to escape punishment for serious crimes (for instance, backdating stock options).
Early in their friendship, Steve even shafted his pal Steve Wozniak (Apple co-founder) of much of the money from an Atari project they jointly worked on.
Steve’s chronic Assholism extended even to the personal domain.
He initially refused to pay child support to his girlfriend Chrisann Brennan for their daughter Lisa.
According to this documentary, Steve claimed in a 1979 deposition that he was “sterile and infertile” and therefore “did not have the physical capacity to procreate a child.”
Steve could be brutal to employees, both direct and indirect. Several employees at Apple’s Chinese contractors committed suicide and most laborers who build our beloved iPhones and iPads are paid pittance.
By illegally colluding with Intel, Google and Adobe to not poach each other’s employees, Steve screwed tens of thousands of Silicon Valley workers by preventing them from getting higher wages.
Steve Jobs’ Apple avoided paying fair U.S. taxes by routing tens of billions in profits through tax-friendly countries like Ireland.
No wonder we see Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell commenting in the documentary that Steve “very often took short cuts to achieve his goals.”
Steve Jobs – Paradigm Shifter
But Steve was also greatly driven, monomaniacal and a genuine paradigm shifter.
Under Steve, Apple pioneered the use of graphical user interface and mouse in computers and developed compact audio and video devices, touchscreen phones and tablets that captured the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of consumers.
From Silicon Valley to Japan and Sweden to New Zealand, people stood in line to pay premium prices for the latest Apple product.
Steve had an extraordinary obsession for aesthetics and ease of use in products that rivals like Microsoft, HP, Dell and Samsung never managed to emulate.
Apple’s products touched consumers in a deeply personal way unlike any of the other technology companies (Sony was an exception with the Walkman but the Japanese company’s star has been on the wane for over two decades).
None of the technology giants including Samsung, Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, Dell, HP and Acer ever managed to build that connection with consumers.
Credit for establishing the connection and creating a fantastically fake counter-culture image for Apple must largely go to the company’s mercurial boss Steve Jobs.
Compared to Steve Jobs, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is a boring, unimaginative, classless, copycat Chutiya.
No New Ground
For those deeply familiar with the Steve Jobs and Apple story, Alex Gibney’s balanced documentary does not break much new ground.
There are no stunning new revelations here.
Until Tim Cook, Jony Ive or a family member like Laurene Powell Jobs or one of Steve’s kids puts out a tell-all biography, we’ll have to be content with regurgitations.
I found the sight of people lighting candles, dropping flowers and folding their hands outside Apple stores after Steve’s death in 2011 at the start of the documentary extremely odd. Humans are truly an unfathomably bizarre species.
In 128-minutes, Alex Gibney covers considerable ground and turns his unsparing lens on both the personal and Apple side of Steve Jobs’ life.
My disappointment with absence of fresh material notwithstanding, I’d still recommend Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine to those of you without the patience or inclination to read several 400 page biographies.
This fair documentary will leave you with two unmistakable conclusions – Steve Jobs was a grade-A Asshole but without this Asshole we wouldn’t have had Apple!