Gruber on Isaacson, Gladwell, and Steve Jobs

John Gruber:

Jobs understood technology but was not an engineer. He had profoundly exquisite taste but was not a designer. What it was that Jobs actually did is much of the mystery of his life and his work, and Isaacson, frustratingly, had seemingly little interest in that, or any recognition that there even was any sort of mystery as to just what Jobs’s gifts really were. Gladwell, alas, takes Isaacson’s portrait of Jobs at face value.

For context, here's Gladwell's article for The New Yorker.

I'm inclined to agree with Gruber. I haven't finished the biography yet, but my impression echoes much of Gruber's argument -- Isaacson didn't ask some of the most fundamentally important, and valuable questions in his book. Although Isaacson has had a chance to offer some clarification, the chance is now lost for those of us outside Apple to grasp what, exactly, constituted the processes behind some of the biggest products of the past twenty years.

The problem is that many will now take Isaacson's writing as the final doctrine on Jobs' life, as demonstrated by Gladwell's article. People will be inclined to take a biography -- the only to ever have such access to Jobs -- as immutable truth.

While there is, of course, a great deal of truth to Isaacson's writing, that is not to say that it encompasses all that was Steve Jobs, nor does it articulate all there is to discuss.

Gruber's closing statement acknowledges this with a palpable sense of regret, summing up what may prove to be a painfully missed opportunity for those of us external to Apple to learn more about the man who guided it so effectively:

Steve Jobs really did re-imagine the world. The thing is, he actually made it happen, too.