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Biographer: Jobs brilliant, prickly, eccentric

Joel Mathis | Oct. 25, 2011
Steve Jobs was a brilliant-but-belligerent eccentric who transformed seven different industries, his biographer said in an interview that aired Sunday night on 60 Minutes.

And he spoke of watching his Apple colleagues amass money, buy cars, and get plastic surgeries. Jobs instead opted for a simpler life, with a Palo Alto home he regarded as "normal" and ungated.

"I made a promise to myself," Jobs told Isaacson. "I'm not going to let this money ruin my life."

Isaacson added, "Jobs has within him sort of this conflict--but he doesn't see it as a conflict--between being hippie-ish and anti-materialistic, and wanting to sell things like [Apple co-founder Steve] Wozniak's board, wanting to create a business. I think that's exactly what Silicon Valley was all about in those days."

• Jobs, perhaps unsurprisingly, was contemptuous of both Microsoft and Google. He felt both companies had ripped off his company's ideas--but not very well.

"Microsoft never had the humanities and the liberal arts in its DNA," he told Isaacson. "It's a pure technology company. And they just didn't get it. When they saw the Mac, they didn't get it. How dumb do you have to be not to get it once you see it? Google's the same way. They just don't get it."

But he expressed admiration for another industry CEO also sometimes regarded as single-minded and abrasive: Mark Zuckerberg.

"You know we talk about social networks in the plural but I don't see anybody other than Facebook out there. It's just Facebook--they're dominating this," Jobs said--perhaps a surprise, given how integrated iOS 5 is with Twitter. "I admire Mark Zuckerberg. I only know him a little bit, but I admire him for not selling out. For wanting to make a company. I admire that a lot."

• Jobs and Gates had a famously complicated relationship. "People can sometimes love each other and hate each other at the same time," Isaacson said.

Gates told Isaacson that Apple's business model "only worked if you had a Steve Jobs." Jobs' response? That Microsoft's model also worked, "but only if you don't mind putting out crappy products."

Jobs, it appears, gets the last word.


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