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The Cloud, the Spaceship, and Beyond

The iPad 2

Even before the iPad went on sale, Jobs was thinking about what should be in the iPad 2. It needed front and back cameras—everyone knew that was coming—and he definitely wanted it to be thinner. But there was a peripheral issue that he focused on that most people hadn’t thought about: The cases that people used covered the beautiful lines of the iPad and detracted from the screen. They made fatter what should be thinner. They put a pedestrian cloak on a device that should be magical in all of its aspects.

Around that time he read an article about magnets, cut it out, and handed it to Jony Ive. The magnets had a cone of attraction that could be precisely focused. Perhaps they could be used to align a detachable cover. That way, it could snap onto the front of an iPad but not have to engulf the entire device. One of the guys in Ive’s group worked out how to make a detachable cover that could connect with a magnetic hinge. When you began to open it, the screen would pop to life like the face of a tickled baby, and then the cover could fold into a stand.

It was not high-tech; it was purely mechanical. But it was enchanting. It also was another example of Jobs’s desire for end-to-end integration: The cover and the iPad had been designed together so that the magnets and hinge all connected seamlessly. The iPad 2 would have many improvements, but this cheeky little cover, which most other CEOs would never have bothered with, was the one that would elicit the most smiles.

Because Jobs was on another medical leave, he was not expected to be at the launch of the iPad 2, scheduled for March 2, 2011, in San Francisco. But when the invitations were sent out, he told me that I should try to be there. It was the usual scene: top Apple executives in the front row, Tim Cook eating energy bars, and the sound system blaring the appropriate Beatles songs, building up to “You Say You Want a Revolution” and “Here Comes the Sun.” Reed Jobs arrived at the last minute with two rather wide-eyed freshman dorm mates.

“We’ve been working on this product for a while, and I just didn’t want to miss today,” Jobs said as he ambled onstage looking scarily gaunt but with a jaunty smile. The crowd erupted in whoops, hollers, and a standing ovation.

He began his demo of the iPad 2 by showing off the new cover. “This time, the case and the product were designed together,” he explained. Then he moved on to address a criticism that had been rankling him because it had some merit: The original iPad had been better at consuming content than at creating it. So Apple had adapted its two best creative applications for the Macintosh, GarageBand and iMovie, and made powerful versions available for the iPad. Jobs showed how easy it was to compose and orchestrate a song, or put music and special effects into your home videos, and post or share such creations using the new iPad.

Once again he ended his presentation with the slide showing the intersection of Liberal Arts Street and Technology Street. And this time he gave one of the clearest expressions of his credo, that true creativity and simplicity come from integrating the whole widget—hardware and software, and for that matter content and covers and salesclerks—rather than allowing things to be open and fragmented, as happened in the world of Windows PCs and was now happening with Android devices:

It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. We believe that it’s technology married with the humanities that yields us the result that makes our heart sing. Nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices. Folks are rushing into this tablet market, and they’re looking at it as the next PC, in which the hardware and the software are done by different companies. Our experience, and every bone in our body, says that is not the right approach. These are post-PC devices that need to be even more intuitive and easier to use than a PC, and where the software and the hardware and the applications need to be intertwined in an even more seamless way than they are on a PC. We think we have the right architecture not just in silicon, but in our organization, to build these kinds of products.

It was an architecture that was bred not just into the organization he had built, but into his own soul.

After the launch event, Jobs was energized. He came to the Four Seasons hotel to join me, his wife, and Reed, plus Reed’s two Stanford pals, for lunch. For a change he was eating, though still with some pickiness. He ordered fresh-squeezed juice, which he sent back three times, declaring that each new offering was from a bottle, and a pasta primavera, which he shoved away as inedible after one taste. But then he ate half of my crab Louie salad and ordered a full one for himself, followed by a bowl of ice cream. The indulgent hotel was even able to produce a glass of juice that finally met his standards.

At his house the following day he was still on a high. He was planning to fly to Kona Village the next day, alone, and I asked to see what he had put on his iPad 2 for the trip. There were three movies: Chinatown, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Toy Story 3. More revealingly, there was just one book that he had downloaded: The Autobiography of a Yogi, the guide to meditation and spirituality that he had first read as a teenager, then reread in India, and had read once a year ever since.

Midway through the morning he decided he wanted to eat something. He was still too weak to drive, so I drove him to a café in a shopping mall. It was closed, but the owner was used to Jobs knocking on the door at off-hours, and he happily let us in. “He’s taken on a mission to try to fatten me up,” Jobs joked. His doctors had pushed him to eat eggs as a source of high-quality protein, and he ordered an omelet. “Living with a disease like this, and all the pain, constantly reminds you of your own mortality, and that can do strange things to your brain if you’re not careful,” he said. “You don’t make plans more than a year out, and that’s bad. You need to force yourself to plan as if you will live for many years.”

An example of this magical thinking was his plan to build a luxurious yacht. Before his liver transplant, he and his family used to rent a boat for vacations, traveling to Mexico, the South Pacific, or the Mediterranean. On many of these cruises, Jobs got bored or began to hate the design of the boat, so they would cut the trip short and fly to Kona Village. But sometimes the cruise worked well. “The best vacation I’ve ever been on was when we went down the coast of Italy, then to Athens—which is a pit, but the Parthenon is mind-blowing—and then to Ephesus in Turkey, where they have these ancient public lavatories in marble with a place in the middle for musicians to serenade.” When they got to Istanbul, he hired a history professor to give his family a tour. At the end they went to a Turkish bath, where the professor’s lecture gave Jobs an insight about the globalization of youth:

I had a real revelation. We were all in robes, and they made some Turkish coffee for us. The professor explained how the coffee was made very different from anywhere else, and I realized, “So fucking what?” Which kids even in Turkey give a shit about Turkish coffee? All day I had looked at young people in Istanbul. They were all drinking what every other kid in the world drinks, and they were wearing clothes that look like they were bought at the Gap, and they are all using cell phones. They were like kids everywhere else. It hit me that, for young people, this whole world is the same now. When we’re making products, there is no such thing as a Turkish phone, or a music player that young people in Turkey would want that’s different from one young people elsewhere would want. We’re just one world now.

After the joy of that cruise, Jobs had amused himself by beginning to design, and then repeatedly redesigning, a boat he said he wanted to build someday. When he got sick again in 2009, he almost canceled the project. “I didn’t think I would be alive when it got done,” he recalled. “But that made me so sad, and I decided that working on the design was fun to do, and maybe I have a shot at being alive when it’s done. If I stop work on the boat and then I make it alive for another two years, I would be really pissed. So I’ve kept going.”

After our omelets at the café, we went back to his house and he showed me all of the models and architectural drawings. As expected, the planned yacht was sleek and minimalist. The teak decks were perfectly flat and unblemished by any accoutrements. As at an Apple store, the cabin windows were large panes, almost floor to ceiling, and the main living area was designed to have walls of glass that were forty feet long and ten feet high. He had gotten the chief engineer of the Apple stores to design a special glass that was able to provide structural support.

By then the boat was under construction by the Dutch custom yacht builders Feadship, but Jobs was still fiddling with the design. “I know that it’s possible I will die and leave Laurene with a half-built boat,” he said. “But I have to keep going on it. If I don’t, it’s an admission that I’m about to die.”

He and Powell would be celebrating their twentieth wedding anniversary a few days later, and he admitted that at times he had not been as appreciative of her as she deserved. “I’m very lucky, because you just don’t know what you’re getting into when you get married,” he said. “You have an intuitive feeling about things. I couldn’t have done better, because not only is Laurene smart and beautiful, she’s turned out to be a really good person.” For a moment he teared up. He talked about his other girlfriends, particularly Tina Redse, but said he ended up in the right place. He also reflected on how selfish and demanding he could be. “Laurene had to deal with that, and also with me being sick,” he said. “I know that living with me is not a bowl of cherries.”

Among his selfish traits was that he tended not to remember anniversaries or birthdays. But in this case, he decided to plan a surprise. They had gotten married at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, and he decided to take Powell back there on their anniversary. But when Jobs called, the place was fully booked. So he had the hotel approach the people who had reserved the suite where he and Powell had stayed and ask if they would relinquish it. “I offered to pay for another weekend,” Jobs recalled, “and the man was very nice and said, ‘Twenty years, please take it, it’s yours.’”

He found the photographs of the wedding, taken by a friend, and had large prints made on thick paper boards and placed in an elegant box. Scrolling through his iPhone, he found the note that he had composed to be included in the box and read it aloud:

We didn’t know much about each other twenty years ago. We were guided by our intuition; you swept me off my feet. It was snowing when we got married at the Ahwahnee. Years passed, kids came, good times, hard times, but never bad times. Our love and respect has endured and grown. We’ve been through so much together and here we are right back where we started 20 years ago—older, wiser—with wrinkles on our faces and hearts. We now know many of life’s joys, sufferings, secrets and wonders and we’re still here together. My feet have never returned to the ground.

By the end of the recitation he was crying uncontrollably. When he composed himself, he noted that he had also made a set of the pictures for each of his kids. “I thought they might like to see that I was young once.”


In 2001 Jobs had a vision: Your personal computer would serve as a “digital hub” for a variety of lifestyle devices, such as music players, video recorders, phones, and tablets. This played to Apple’s strength of creating end-to-end products that were simple to use. The company was thus transformed from a high-end niche computer company to the most valuable technology company in the world.

By 2008 Jobs had developed a vision for the next wave of the digital era. In the future, he believed, your desktop computer would no longer serve as the hub for your content. Instead the hub would move to “the cloud.” In other words, your content would be stored on remote servers managed by a company you trusted, and it would be available for you to use on any device, anywhere. It would take him three years to get it right.

He began with a false step. In the summer of 2008 he launched a product called MobileMe, an expensive ($99 per year) subscription service that allowed you to store your address book, documents, pictures, videos, email, and calendar remotely in the cloud and to sync them with any device. In theory, you could go to your iPhone or any computer and access all aspects of your digital life. There was, however, a big problem: The service, to use Jobs’s terminology, sucked. It was complex, devices didn’t sync well, and email and other data got lost randomly in the ether. “Apple’s MobileMe Is Far Too Flawed to Be Reliable,” was the headline on Walt Mossberg’s review in the Wall Street Journal.

Jobs was furious. He gathered the MobileMe team in the auditorium on the Apple campus, stood onstage, and asked, “Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?” After the team members offered their answers, Jobs shot back: “So why the fuck doesn’t it do that?” Over the next half hour he continued to berate them. “You’ve tarnished Apple’s reputation,” he said. “You should hate each other for having let each other down. Mossberg, our friend, is no longer writing good things about us.” In front of the whole audience, he got rid of the leader of the MobileMe team and replaced him with Eddy Cue, who overs............
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