SAN FRANCISCO - A new biography portrays Steve Jobs as a skeptic all his life — giving up religion because he was troubled by starving children, calling executives who took over Apple “corrupt” and delaying cancer surgery in favor of cleansings and herbal medicine.
"Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson, to be published Monday, also says Jobs came up with the company’s name while he was on a diet of fruits and vegetables, and as a teenager perfected staring at people without blinking. The Associated Press purchased a copy of the book Thursday.
The book delves into Jobs’ decision to delay surgery for nine months after learning in October 2003 that he had a neuroendocrine tumor — a relatively rare type of pancreatic cancer that normally grows more slowly and is therefore more treatable.
Instead, he tried a vegan diet, acupuncture, herbal remedies and other treatments he found online, and even consulted a psychic. He also was influenced by a doctor who ran a clinic that advised juice fasts, bowel cleansings and other unproven approaches, the book says, before finally having surgery in July 2004.
Isaacson, quoting Jobs, writes in the book: “‘I really didn’t want them to open up my body, so I tried to see if a few other things would work,’ he told me years later with a hint of regret.” Jobs died Oct. 5, at age 56, after a battle with cancer.
The book also provides insight into the unraveling of Jobs’ relationship with Eric Schmidt, the former chief executive of Google and an Apple board member from 2006 to 2009. Schmidt had quit Apple’s board as Google and Apple went head-to-head in smartphones, Apple with its iPhone and Google with its Android software.
Apple sued, and Jobs told Isaacson in an expletive-laced rant that Google’s actions amounted to “grand theft.” "I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong,” Jobs said. “I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this."
Jobs used an expletive to describe Android and Google Docs, Google’s Internet-based word processing program. In a subsequent meeting with Schmidt at a Palo Alto, California, cafe, Jobs told Schmidt that he wasn’t interested in settling the lawsuit, the book says. "I don’t want your money. If you offer me $5 billion, I won’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want.”
The meeting, Isaacson wrote, resolved nothing.
The book is clearly designed to evoke the Apple style. Its cover features the title and author’s name starkly printed in black and gray type against a white background, along with a black-and-white photo of Jobs, thumb and forefinger to his chin.
The biography, for which Jobs granted more than three dozen interviews, is also a look into the thoughts of a man who was famously secretive, guarding details of his life as he did Apple’s products, and generating plenty of psychoanalysis from a distance. Jobs resigned as Apple’s chief executive on Aug. 24, six weeks before he died.
Doctors said Thursday that it was not clear whether the delayed treatment made a difference in Jobs’ chances for survival. "People live with these cancers for far longer than nine months before they’re even diagnosed,” so it’s not known how quickly one can prove fatal, said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.
Dr. Michael Pishvaian, a pancreatic cancer expert at Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, said people often are in denial after a cancer diagnosis, and some take a long time to accept recommended treatments. "We’ve had many patients who have had bad outcomes when they have delayed treatment.
Nine months is certainly a significant period of time to delay,” he said. Fortune magazine reported in 2008 that Jobs tried alternative treatments because he was suspicious of mainstream medicine.
The book says Jobs gave up Christianity at age 13 whenhe saw starving children on the cover of Life magazine. He asked his Sunday school pastor whether God knew what would happen to them.
Jobs never went back to church, though he did study Zen Buddhism later. Jobs calls the crop of executives brought in to run Apple after his ouster in 1985 “corrupt people" with “corrupt values” who cared only about making money. Jobs himself is described as caring far more about product than profit.
After that, he introduced the candy-colored iMac computer, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, and turned Apple into the most valuable company in America by market value for a time. The book says that, while some Apple board members were happy that Hewlett-Packard gave up trying to compete with Apple’s iPad, Jobs did not think it was cause for celebration.
"Hewlett and Packard built a great company, and they thought they had left it in good hands,” Jobs told Isaacson. “But now it’s being dismembered and destroyed.” "I hope I’ve left a stronger legacy so that will never happen at Apple,” he added.
Advance sales of the book have topped best-seller lists. Much of the biography adds to what was already known, or speculated, about Jobs. While Isaacson is not the first to tell Jobs’ story, he had unprecedented access.
Once accepted, his parents tried to talk him out of attending Reed, but he told them he wouldn’t go to college if they didn’t let him go there. Jobs wound up attending but dropped out after less than a year and never went back.
Jobs told Isaacson that he tried various diets, including one of fruits and vegetables. On the naming of Apple, he said he was “on one of my fruitarian diets." He said he had just come back from an apple farm, and thought the name sounded “fun, spirited and not intimidating.”
Jobs’ eye for simple, clean design was evident early. The case of the Apple II computer had originally included a Plexiglas cover, metal straps and a roll-top door. Jobs, though, wanted something elegant that would make Apple stand out. He told Isaacson he was struck by Cuisinart food processors while browsing at a department store and decidedhe wanted a case made of molded plastic.
He called Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design chief, his “spiritual partner” at Apple. He told Isaacson that Ive had “more operation power” at Apple than anyone besides Jobs himself — that there’s no one at the company who can tell Ive what to do. That, says Jobs, is “the way I set it up.”
Jobs was never a typical chief executive. Apple’s first president, Mike Scott, was hired mainly to manage Jobs, then 22. One of his first projects, according to the book, was getting Jobs to bathe more often. It didn’t work.
Jobs’ dabbling in LSD and other aspects of 1960s counterculture has been well documented. In the book, Jobs says LSD “reinforced my sense of what was important — creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could."
He also revealed that the Beatles were one of his favorite bands, and one of his wishes was to get the band on iTunes, Apple’s revolutionary online music store, before he died. The Beatles’ music went on sale on iTunes in late 2010.
The book was originally called “iSteve” and scheduled to come out in March. The release date was moved up to November, then, after Jobs’ death, to Monday. It is published by Simon & Schuster and will sell for $35.
Issacson will appear Sunday on "60 Minutes." CBS News, which airs the program, released excerpts of the book Thursday.