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Hidden message in Jobs book: Is Apple's golden age really over?

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By Noel Young | Correspondent

November 9, 2011 | 4 min read

A columnist in Steve Jobs's local paper today delivers a startling assessment on the future of Apple after a "thorough" reading of the new Jobs book. The biggest surprise, says Chris O'Brien, was that the book told him: Apple's golden age is over.

Revelations from the Jobs book

The book paints Jobs as a one-of-a-kind businessman, says O"Brien, "and then an insufferable jerk who was blessed with uncanny design instincts and the ability to drive his minions to greatness."

The book "Steve Jobs," originally to be titled "iSteve", is the best-selling book in America right now with 379,000 copies snapped up since it hit bookstores on October 24. In its first five days in the UK it sold 37,000 copies.

O'Brien writing in the San Jose Mercury News, insists that despite his verdict, the company won't collapse tomorrow, " But without Jobs, its decade-long march of big innovations is done. Mostly likely, the company will continue to chug along, grinding out incremental updates, banking healthy profits . . . it will enter a sedate, middle age."

It will, however, "no longer single-handedly revolutionise entire industries with dazzling new products, the way it did with the iPod, iPhone and iPad.".

Rather than give Jobs all the credit, the company has recently been highlighting the important roles of other executives, such as British design genius Jony Ive.

But, citing the book, O'Brien says Jobs played an essential role at every critical juncture of Apple's journey.

After reviving Apple's fortunes with the iMac, for instance, Jobs decided the company would move to a "digital hub" strategy in 2001. It was Jobs who , frustrated with the state of Internet mobile phones, decided the company would create its own phone.

Ive led the team that designed the phone - but it was Jobs who "after a sleepless night," decided that Ive's team was headed down the wrong path after months of work and insisted they start over.

O'Brien says, "That is the question the book left me asking: Who is the person at Apple who will wake up at 3 a.m. and realise that the latest product is all wrong?"

Jobs in the book condemned John Sculley, the man who fired him, for being more a salesman than a product guy. Of Bill Gates, Jobs says: "Bill likes to portray himself as a man of the product, but he's really not. He's a businessperson."

Jobs also puts Apple's current CEO, Tim Cook in that category."Tim's not a product person, per se," Jobs tells author Isaacson.

The sales of the Jobs book are the best of any title since November 2010 - but it is still behind last year big sellersm George Bush's book, "Decision Points," and Jeff Kinney's "Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth". Both sold more than 430,000 copies.

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Bill Gates Steve Jobs Jony Ive

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