The Steve Jobs story you should see isn't told in 'Jobs'

'Jobs' the movie is worth seeing, but falls short with omission of Steve Jobs's real transformation or later, greater achievements

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Also missing is the corrosive pirate culture that Jobs created as he tried to use the Macintosh product not just for personal redemption, but also as a payback weapon against the rest of the company. That pirate culture persisted more than a decade later when Amelio was there and was one reason the company was dying. The engineer-pirates had mutinied, and although Amelio wasn't the right guy to lead the company, he at least could have been a partner for them to reinvent it -- unlike predecessor Spindler. In Apple's culture of internecine warfare, pulling together was not an option.

The most interesting part of the Steve Jobs story occurs after Jobs was fired from Apple, and that's where I wish the movie had focused its attention. It would have provided rich material for a more compelling drama.

After Jobs was fired from Apple in 1985, he vainly tried to create another Apple with the Next Cube, a beautiful black box that was overengineered, underpowered, innovative, and self-limited all at the same time. The Next Cube expressed Jobs's arrogance and blindness while showing the deep appreciation for the intersection of form and function Jobs believed in deeply. Jobs was widely unloved then, with many people feeling he deserved failure after his arrogance and meanness at Apple. He was talking to lowly trade press like me at the time, but you could feel the distaste in his body language and locution.

Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" masterfully shows how Jobs reflected and reinvented himself during his wilderness period. Once it was clear the Next Cube wasn't going anywhere, Jobs pulled off the remarkable feat of becoming a major Hollywood player through his purchase of Pixar Studios, which under his guidance reinvented the animated movie and enabled Jobs to learn how to play effectively with others in Hollywood. This, in turn, served him well when he later cut the music deals for iTunes that transformed the music industry. Although Hollywood can handle big egos, it also requires compromise, which had not been a Jobs strong suit up until that point.

This Next Cube and Pixar period would have made great material for the "Jobs" movie, letting us follow his downward spiral after being fired from Apple and the struggle he undertook first to understand his own failings, then to adjust himself so he could succeed again. And where, as in the case of his fatal cancer, his old habits prevailed. If the "Jobs" movie has focused on that period, the redemption at Apple would have both made more sense and been more powerful. The movie's attempt to portray the genius of the man also would have been more compelling.

Also missing, though perhaps too hard to depict on film, is the tension that a long sojourn to India seems to have caused in Jobs: a conflict between the utter simplicity of life that he learned to appreciate there and the wanton materialism of Apple's products. "Jobs" goes nowhere near this. From what I can tell as a longtime Apple observer, Jobs never reconciled that tension, but instead made it essential to his success after returning to Apple.

Jobs continued to be a difficult visionary after his return, but he was vastly more effective. He produced the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad in a single triumphant decade while also making OS X the best personal computer operating system bar none and revitalizing the tired old Mac into the leading light for the PC industry. As epic as the founding of Apple and the birth of the Mac were, those look accidental compared to the steady series of game-changing innovations brought to market after the post-failure Jobs returned to Apple.

Understanding how Jobs transformed himself enough to succeed over such a long period, both at Apple and in his personal life, would have resulted in a much more absorbing story with greater lows and highs to explore. Here's hoping someone makes that movie.

This story, "The Steve Jobs story you should see isn't told in 'Jobs'," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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