By Richard Waters 2010-02-04

Seven years ago, the globally recognisable boss of a certain giant
technology company spoke often of the touch-screen “tablet” computer
whose development he championed. This pet project was going to change
computing for millions of people.

The man was Bill Gates, and the product was the Tablet PC – a device
that, while still on sale, has fallen into the limbo reserved for
failed electronic gadgets. This week, when Steve Jobs of Apple ended
months of feverish speculation by unveiling his own company’s tablet
machine – branded the iPad – the echoes were hard to ignore.

Mr Gates has since left the business stage to pursue philanthropy. But
for Mr Jobs, who last year took six months off work to fight a
near-fatal cancer and undergo a liver transplant operation, it is back
to business as usual: sprinkling his pixie dust over inanimate lumps
of metal and glass to create objects of desire for the digital age.

Tablets (bigger than a smartphone, smaller than a laptop, and without
a keyboard) have been the graveyard of personal computing. If Mr Jobs,
54, can succeed, it will open a new phase in a comeback career. The
launch was classic Jobs, points out Jean-Louis Gassée, a high-ranking
Apple development executive in the 1980s who later founded a rival
personal computing company called Be Inc. “The whole product reflects
Steve’s attention to detail and the drive for a minimalist approach –
just enough, as opposed to piling on feature after feature,” he said.
“It’s from the Steve we know and admire.”

Behind the simple lines of the iPad lie a technological mastery,
aesthetic flair and marketing savvy that have long set the Apple chief
executive apart. Mr Jobs’ perfectionism, bordering on the obsessive,
is summed up in a telling anecdote by John Lasseter, the top creative
brain behind Walt Disney’s animation business and a long-time friend.

“He found this one really great black turtleneck which he loved – I
think it was Issey Miyaki – so tried to buy another one and they
didn’t have any more,” Mr Lasseter confided to the FT recently. “He
called the company and asked if they would make another one, and they
refused. So he said: ‘Fine, how many do you have to make before I can
buy them?’ So they made them – I think he has a closet full of them.”

For anyone who has worked for him, that perfectionism has a downside:
a stinging lack of patience that can border on bullying. Approached to
comment about his management style for this article, several former
employees and associates declined. The fear of Mr Jobs is still
powerful, one person said.

One figure who is less cowed is Steve Wozniak, Apple’s co-founder.
“Steve can be annoying to people, and he can be obnoxious,” he told
the FT in a recent interview. “He would walk into meetings and just
say, ‘Forget it. It’s all a bunch of junk. You’re not doing it,’ and
walk out, and: ‘You’re all idiots.’”

Mr Job’s harshest critics accuse him of a secretive manner. The
accusations dogged him three years ago when Apple blamed two former
senior employees for a scandal over the improper issuance of stock
options – even though Apple belatedly revealed that Mr Jobs had known
about it and received some of the options. Mr Jobs was later
exonerated after a review by regulators.

Of course, no one ever said geniuses had to be easy to work with – and
“genius” is one word that long-time associates like Mr Lasseter use
freely. Larry Ellison, the billionaire head of software company Oracle
and a friend, summed up his talent: “He has the mind of an engineer
and the heart of an artist.”

That blend is key to his success. He once studied calligraphy and said
it influenced the first Macintosh, calling it “the first computer with
beautiful typography”. It is evident in his computer-animated hits at
Pixar, a company he bankrolled before its sale to Disney in 2006, and
in the success of the iPod, the first digital media device not to feel
soldered together by ham-fisted engineers.

Yet his career has also been defined by a rare clarity of purpose.
Returning to Apple in 1997 – 12 years after losing a power struggle
and being ejected – he had to put aside years of bitterness. According
to Mr Lasseter: “His simple statement to me about it was: ‘The reason
I went back to Apple is that I feel like the world would be a better
place with Apple in it than not. And it’s hard to imagine the world
without Apple now.’”

In a remarkable speech at Stanford University in 2005, in which he
laid bare some of the most sensitive parts of his life – his unwed
mother had put him up for adoption, his sacking from Apple, the moment
in 2004 when his doctors believed he was dying of cancer – he
delivered an eloquent testimonial to what makes him tick. “Remembering
that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever
encountered to help me make the big choices in life,” he said.
“Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all
fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the
face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Such public declarations have reinforced a feeling that the enfant
terrible of the tech world has matured, or sees things in a new light.
They add to the impression, stirred by his counter-cultural San
Francisco roots, that he stands apart from the judgments of the crowd,
with their ordinary measures of success. The trappings of eastern
religion have followed him for much of his life, from the Hare Krishna
temple he says he ate at each day while “dropping in” as an illicit
student at Reed College, to the Buddhist monk who officiated at his
wedding in 1991.

This week, Mr Jobs seemed unusually relaxed. Looking less gaunt than
for some time, and in his trademark turtleneck, he mixed easily with
journalists in San Francisco after the launch – a rare event. Yet he
has little to be shy about. Apple’s stock market value has soared to
$180bn – above Google and two-thirds that of Microsoft . Mr Jobs’ last
launch, the iPhone, accounts for more than a third of group revenues
and sparked a doubling of Apple’s shares in a year.

Initial reaction to the iPad has been muted. Like Mr Gates before him,
Mr Jobs could fall flat on his face. But if his record is anything to
go by, consumers could yet find it hard to live without their iPads.

乔布斯:苹果的灵魂
作者:英国《金融时报》 理查德•沃特斯 2010-02-04

7年前,某家大型科技公司的全球知名老总,常常谈到一款他推动开发的触屏“平板”电脑。他的这一得意项目将改变数百万人使用电脑的方式。

这人就是比尔•盖茨(Bill Gates),那款产品是平板电脑(Tablet
PC)——该设备虽然仍在销售,但已被打入失败电子产品的冷宫。本周,当苹果(Apple)公司的史蒂夫•乔布斯(Steve
Jobs)结束外界长达数月的疯狂猜测,推出他自己公司的iPad牌平板机时,其反响很难让人忽视。

盖茨已经离开商业舞台,转而投身慈善。但对乔布斯来说,一切又恢复如常:在死气沉沉的金属和玻璃块上撒上“仙尘”,为数字时代创造令人觊觎之物。去年,为与一种几近致命的癌症作斗争,他休了6个月的病假,还接受了肝脏移植手术。

对细节的关注和对极简主义的追求

平板电脑(个头比智能手机大,比手提电脑小,没有键盘)一直是个人电脑的死穴。如果现年54岁的乔布斯能够成功,他东山再起的职业生涯将进入一个新的阶段。曾在上世纪80年代担任苹果开发高管、后来创建个人电脑对手公司Be
Inc的让-路易•卡西(Jean-Louis
Gassee)指出,新产品带有经典的乔布斯风格。“整个产品反映出史蒂夫对细节的关注和对极简主义的追求——恰到好处,而不是堆砌一个又一个功能,”他表示。“它来自我们熟悉且敬佩的史蒂夫。”

iPad简约线条的背后,是令这位苹果首席执很早就与众不同的特质:对技术的驾驭、审美眼光和营销才能。迪斯尼(Walt
Disney)动画业务的幕后创意人才、乔布斯的老朋友约翰•拉斯特(John
Lasseter)讲述了一件轶事,可以概括乔布斯几近偏执的完美主义精神。

“他发现一件非常不错的黑色高领衫——我记得是三宅一生(Issey
Miyake)的——他很喜欢,想再买一件,但他们没货了,”拉斯特最近向英国《金融时报》透露。“他打电话到那家公司,问他们会不会再做一件,他们拒绝了。于是他说:‘好吧,你们必须做多少件我才能买到?’后来他们把衣服做出来了,我记得他买了整整一橱。”

缺乏耐心

在任何为他工作过的人看来,这种完美主义精神有其弊端:让人伤心的缺乏耐心,几乎到了霸道的程度。在我们为撰写本文而联系的前雇员和同事中,不少人拒绝评论他的管理风格。其中一人表示,他们对乔布斯的畏惧依然强烈。

苹果的联合创始人史蒂夫•沃兹尼亚克(Steve
Wozniak)不那么胆怯。“史蒂夫有时会令人不快,甚至惹人讨厌,”他在最近一次采访中向英国《金融时报》表示。“他会在开会时走进来,扔下一句:‘算了吧。那都是一堆垃圾。你们没有做好,”然后就走出去,还说:‘你们都是白痴。’”

对乔布斯批评最严厉的人士认为他行事神秘。乔布斯在3年前受到指控,当时苹果公司将一起不当发行股票期权的丑闻归咎于两名前高层雇员,尽管该公司过了很久以后透露,乔布斯此前了解有关那次发行的情况,还获得了一些期权。后来,经过监管机构的一番审查,乔布斯被证明是清白的。

工程师的头脑和艺术家的心灵

当然,从来就没有人说过,天才必须要容易共事——而“天才”是像拉斯特这样与乔布斯长期合作的人常常使用的一个词。他的朋友——软件公司甲骨文(Oracle)主管、亿万富翁拉里•埃里森(Larry
Ellison)这样概括他的天赋:“他具有一个工程师的头脑和一颗艺术家的心灵。”

这种结合对他的成功至关重要。他学过美术字,并且表示,那段经历影响了第一台Macintosh电脑,他称其为“第一款使用漂亮字体的电脑”。无论是他在皮克斯(Pixar)公司——该公司曾获得他的资金支持,后于2006年被迪斯尼买下——用电脑制作的热门动画片,还是iPod(第一款不让人感觉是由笨手笨脚的工程师焊接起来的数字媒体设备)的大获成功,都清晰地体现了这种结合。

但他的事业还由一种罕见的明确目的性所界定。1997年,当他再次回到苹果(12年前,他输掉了一场权力斗争,继而遭到驱逐)时,他必须搁置多年的怨恨。拉斯特表示:“关于这件事,他给我的简单说法是:‘我当时之所以回到苹果,是因为我觉得,有苹果存在,世界会变得更加美好。而现在,人们已经很难想象一个没有苹果的世界会是什么样子。”

真正重要的东西

2005年,他在斯坦福大学(Stanford
University)发表了一次不同寻常的演讲,道出了自己人生中一些最敏感的往事——未婚的母亲把他送给别人收养,他被苹果辞退,2004年医生认为他将死于癌症的那一刻——并对自己何以成功发表了精辟的看法。“记住自己将很快死去,是我得到的有助于我做出人生重大选择的最重要工具,”他表示。“因为几乎每一件事情——别人对你的所有期待,所有的骄傲,对难堪或失败的所有畏惧——这些事情在死亡面前都会淡去,留下真正重要的那些东西。”

此类公开声明令人们更加觉得,技术界的叛逆顽童已经成熟,或者正以新的视角观察事物。由于早年曾加入旧金山的反文化运动,他给人的另一种印象是超然世外,不理会那些以普通标准衡量成功的平庸之辈对他的评价。他的大部分人生轨迹都有东方宗教的标记:在里德学院(Reed
College)当“旁听生”时,他说自己每天都去Hare Krishna神庙吃饭;而他1991年的婚礼是由一名和尚主持的。

本周,乔布斯显得少见的放松。他的气色比前一段时间好了一些,在旧金山举行的产品发布会结束后,他身着标志性的高领衫,与记者们轻松交谈——这十分难得。但他没有理由害羞。苹果的股票市值已经飙升至1800亿美元,超过了谷歌(Google),并达到微软(Microsoft)的三分之二。乔布斯推出的上一款产品iPhone,为集团贡献了三分之一的收入,并推动苹果的股价在一年里翻了一番。

iPad引起的最初反响并不算大。就像在他之前的盖茨一样,乔布斯可能会遭遇惨败。但如果他的过往记录有任何参考意义的话,消费者可能还是会发现,他们的生活很难离开iPad。

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