I Love Apple, But We Should Be Leery of Them Anointing a Particular Version of Their History

Brian X. Chen and Alexandra Alter, writing for The New York Times:

The book-on-book criticism is a rare public cavalcade from Apple executives, who under Mr. Jobs kept quiet about the company’s activities. It shows the lengths that Apple is going in its effort to reshape the posthumous image of Mr. Jobs as a kinder spirit, rather than a one-dimensional mercurial and brash chief. To that end, Apple gave the authors of “Becoming Steve Jobs” interviews with four executives, including Mr. Cook. In another sign of the company’s implicit approval of the biography, the writers will discuss the book and field questions about it on Thursday at the Apple store in Soho.

Apple is also promoting the book heavily in emails and in the iBooks Store. And just to be clear, I pre-ordered the book. I’m excited to read it. But I cannot not point out just how wrong The Apple Press is about this topic in general.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of the friendship that Tim Cook, Jony Ive, et al., had with Steve Jobs. And I’m not even willing to say that their frustration with elements of the Walter Isaacson biography (a biography, as the above linked-to piece points out, that “Isaacson interviewed Mr. Jobs more than 40 times and spoke to more than 100 of his friends, relatives, rivals and colleagues, including Mr. Cook, Mr. Ive and Mr. Cue” for) isn’t real or sincere.

But the fact of the matter is that, going forward, Steve Jobs still plays a role at Apple—as part of the Apple mythology. And I don’t say that in a negative way. I think it’s totally reasonable. But let’s face it—a company that is currently set to release “the most personal product [they’ve] ever made,” a product that allows you to literally send someone a recording of your heartbeat (as well as a company that is poised to start selling their company brand as the hub of all of their products) is harmed, even in the smallest way, by the element of the Apple mythology that includes a cuss-spouting, employee badgering, disabled vehicle parking spot-taking founder. It’s the kind of stuff that any Apple Follower (myself included) knows at least a couple of stories about. And we all chuckle about them in that that’s-kind-of-horrifying-but-man-he-was-cool! way, but from a business perspective, it’s a conflicting message to say the least.

Tim Cook, Steve Job’s friend, might, for very real, personal reasons, want to see a biography that paints a more serene picture of Jobs. But Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple? As well as all of the other members of Apple’s senior leadership that have spoken out against Isaacson’s book by way of speaking up for Becoming Steve Jobs? (By the way—nobody in The Apple Press find its at least a little coincidental that this newfound disregard for the Isaacson book is only coming to light now that there’s a new, much more favorable book about to hit the shelves? Yeah, sure, they don’t talk much, but Isaacson’s book came out in October of 2011. If they found it that flagrant, I’m sorry, it would have come up by now.) You’re totally off in La La Land if you can’t see the conflict here.

I trust Apple with an awful lot of information about my life. And I don’t regret it. But the last thing we should trust them to do—or expect them to do—is abide by journalism ethics and standards. I’m going to read Becoming Steve Jobs, and I’ll probably enjoy it, but I won’t ever be able to totally forget the gross way in which Apple tried to get me to.