I haven’t seen the Ashton Kutcher movie Jobs yet and may take a pass given all the negative reviews it’s received so far.
It would have been a tough sell for me anyway. I covered Apple since before the Macintosh was first released and was present for most of Jobs' major announcements, though despite interviewing him a few times, I certainly wouldn’t claim to know him.
That said, my experience with movies about recent events or people that I had direct experience with is that you can be sure there will be plenty of significant inaccuracies. (Just ask Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about The Social Network).
Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak told Bloomberg TV that Jobs, the movie, was entertaining, but largely wrong. Among other problems, Woz said Jobs was indeed a visionary and the greatest tech leader of our time, but the movie gives him way too much credit for decisions and strategy developed by others.
In any case, the movie focuses on the early years of Apple and products like the Apple II and Mac that certainly helped establish the company as one of the greats, but also set the stage for what was to come much later -- the resurrection of Apple into one of the most successful companies of all time.
Back to the future
To me, the latter would have been a far more interesting movie. Start with Jobs triumphantly unveiling the Mac and then, just a little over a year later in 1985, kicked out of the company he co-founded, wondering what to do next.
Next indeed was on the agenda. Jobs started a new company, NeXT paying a whopping $250,000 for the design of the company’s logo and scored big investments from Canon and, of all people, Ross Perot (could we get Dana Carney to play Perot for the movie?) The NeXT team included members of the original Mac team, and created a revolutionary, high-priced computer that ultimately failed. Or did it?
Jobs re-entry to Apple was fueled in large part by the company’s willingness to buy NeXT and use its software as the basis for a new Macintosh operating system that helped resuscitate the Mac. So even from failure, Jobs ultimately powered his way to victory.
In Jobs famous Stanford commencement speech he said in part: “The heaviness of being successful, was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again. It freed me to enter one of the creative periods of my life.”
(Stay on top of the latest iPad news, reviews and analysis. Subscribe to the free TabTimes for iPad newsletter).
iPad to the future
The crowning achievement of Jobs return was the introduction of the iPhone. Had he retired after getting the Mac back on track and the phenomenal success of the iPod, well, that would have been plenty.
But no, he led Apple to recreate the smartphone industry. Interestingly, he later said the plan was to do a tablet first, but then realized the technology wasn’t quite there yet to do a great tablet - an insight lost on Microsoft.
So first came iPhone. And then for yet another encore, Jobs & Company re-imagined the tablet and came up with the iPad.
I think the early years of Apple are incredibly important. But as Woz points out, the Jobs movie conveniently ignores the many failures in those early years, the ill-fated Apple III, the Lisa (the Mac’s over-priced predecessor designed for business executives) and more.
In other words, Jobs wasn’t always right and his first tenure at Apple was marked by success as well as big failures.
It was really the second coming of Steve Jobs, Jobs II, that were the go-go years for Apple that transformed multiple industries and who’s impact is still evolving forward.
When that movie is finally made, I hope they get it right and we find out more about, not only Jobs, but key roles others at Apple played in its success and an accurate portrayal of how some of those knock down, screaming argument sessions at the executive level led, ultimately, to some great decisions.
You can’t really teach that in business school, but the right movie might just prove to be uniquely informative and entertaining.