Review: Apple Confidential (book): The Real Story of Apple Computer, Inc.
Author: Owen L. Linzmayer
Published by: No Starch Press
By the time your read this, it will be close to two months since TNT aired Pirates of Silicon Valley, their movie about the histories of Apple Computer and Microsoft. I first read Apple Confidential: The Real Story of Apple Computer, Inc., a few weeks before TNT’s movie aired. I cannot vouch for TNT’s portrayal of Microsoft’s rise, but based on other things I have read, Apple Confidential is a lot more accurate when it comes to the history of Apple Computer.
Right off the bat, Owen Linzmayer starts to shatter the misconceptions about Apple’s past and enlighten the reader about our favorite and/or ill-fated ideas, including, but not limited to: the Macintosh, the Newton, and the Apple III. As for shattering misconceptions, did you know that Apple was not actually started by the two Steve’s in a garage? The company actually started in a bedroom and included a third founder. By page 2, you would have learned this.
The chapters of Apple Confidential seem to fall into four categories: general Apple history, products, people, and minutiae. Products includes both hardware and software. Minutia incorporates facts like product code names and smaller Apple related lawsuits (no, not the Windows suit—that most definitely falls into the Apple history section). People covers the individuals who are intrinsically linked with Apple—the CEOs, Steve Jobs, and others. General Apple history is a more encompassing category, concerning things like the founding of Apple and several of Apple’s deals with Microsoft.
The history, products, and people classifications tend to mix together at times. While a chapter called “The Remarkable Rise and Fabulous Fall of John Sculley” is definitely a person chapter, it gets into his near obsession with the Newton. Furthermore, “The Making of Macintosh” covers the thought process of Jef Raskin and his subsequent battles with Steve Jobs. The overlap is more than understandable, though. Without the people who put their hearts and minds into the company or the ideas that turned people against each other, the history of Apple Computer would not be that different from that of any other corporate entity. Nor, for that matter, would it be any more entertaining than the history of any other corporate entity. While Apple has always had colossal successes and blunders, it is the people who built the mystique of Apple Computer. By focusing on the technology along with the people, as opposed to the technology in lieu of the people, Linzmayer crafts an enjoyable read.
For the most part, Apple Confidential reads chronologically. Aside from the occasional chapter of minutia, the start of the chapter usually features the next major event following the start of the previous chapter. Since some events in Apple’s history span many years, however, there is some overlap. For instance, the chapter about cloning covers Bill Gates’ pleadings that Apple license the OS as far back as 1984 up to the end of Macintosh cloning during the Steve Jobs era. Some of this same information appears in the chapters about Michael Spindler and Gilbert Amelio. Sometimes, when reading, I felt as though I was covering the same information several times. As far as I can tell, the only other option would have been to mention the information once and ignore it in later chapters. This would probably have been more confusing, however, since Apple’s history is so intertwined. For instance, the Newton played a large role in John Sculley’s removal as CEO of Apple and Sculley played a large role in the path of the Newton’s development, so that leaving one out of the other’s chapter would not give the reader a complete picture of the circumstances.
Apple Confidential includes several little extras that make the book more enjoyable. First, for history buffs, several letters and memos are included, including Steve Jobs letter of resignation. Secondly, there is a timeline of relevant events at the end of every chapter, to help clear up the sometimes confusing course of events. Thirdly, and arguably most enjoyably, many of the pages contain quotes in the margins relevant to the topic on the accompanying page. Some of these quotes are serious, while others are downright hilarious, especially the quotes from Jean-Louis Gassée.
In all honesty, the are only two minor complaints I have about Apple Confidential. First, it seems like nearly every product line has at least a sentence devoted to it. That is, nearly every product but the IIGS. It appears on the Apple II timeline, but that is it. Even though it is technically an Apple II, it seemed to be an attempt to bridge the gap between the Apple II’s command line interface and the Mac’s GUI. I would have been interested in learning something about the machine.
Secondly, everything seems to get rushed once we get to the chapter covering the return of Steve Jobs. In eight pages, we get Jobs’ reason for not taking the permanent position as CEO, the revamping of the Board of Director’s, and the departure of Mike Markkula (the only person continuously with Apple from the beginning), Apple’s deal with Microsoft at Macworld Boston 1997, the rehiring of TBWA Chiat/Day as Apple’s advertising agency, the end of Power Computing, the CompUSA store within a store, the release of the G3 Power Macs, the AppleStore, the reorganization of Claris Corporation into FileMaker, Inc., Apple’s first yearly profit since Spindler was CEO, and the release of the iMac followed by the Blue and White G3s. Some of these topics are minor and some are covered in other sections, but some others could be explained in more depth.
If you are at all interested in the history of Apple Computer, read Apple Confidential: The Real Story of Apple Computer, Inc. It succeeds in being both informative and enjoyable. Furthermore, if you watched Pirates of Silicon Valley when it aired on TNT, read Apple Confidential now!
Also in This Series
- Review: Apple Confidential 2.0 (book) · June 2004
- Review: Apple Confidential (book): The Real Story of Apple Computer, Inc. · August 1999