Isaacson: Jobs Will Rank With Ford, Edison In History

Walter Isaacson Discussing Steve JobsWalter Isaacson discussing Steve Jobs at the Royal Institution.

Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs will, in time, be regarded as highly as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison due to his transformation of multiple industries, according to Mr. Jobs’s biographer Walter Isaacson, who spoke Wednesday at London’s Royal Institution.

In a lecture discussing Apple and Mr. Jobs, Mr. Isaacson pointed out that while other tech visionaries such as Microsoft’s Bill Gates greatly contributed to the computing revolution, Mr. Jobs “is a greater genius than [Mr. Gates] because he transformed multiple industries,” including “computers, music, desktop and digital publishing, retail stores, telephones, and digital animation.” All of these industries, Mr. Isaacson argues, “were all changed forever by Steve Jobs.”

Predicting Apple’s future without Mr. Jobs at the helm, Mr. Isaacson expressed little concern for the long term success of the Cupertino company. The company still employs “the world’s greatest industrial designer, Sir Jony Ive.”

He added that current CEO Tim Cook, while very different from Mr. Jobs, is less “emotional” and will take steps that are in the best interest of the company, such as settling Apple’s various patent battles involving Google’s Android smartphone operating system.

Mr. Isaacson pointed out that the rest of the management team was put together by Steve Jobs, and that this team is still largely intact. He believes they will “revolutionize” the television and digital photography businesses in the next two years, based on information obtained during the process of writing Steve Jobs that is not yet known to the public.

“Apple has revolutionized industries so that we get what we want, when we want it, personalized for us. Television does the opposite,” Mr. Isaacson told the audience.

Responding to recent comments by Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page that Apple’s public and legal battle with Android was “for show,” Mr. Isaacson clarified that Mr. Jobs was legitimately angry with Google for what he perceived was wholesale theft of Apple’s intellectual property.

“Steve was furious when he saw Microsoft stealing the Mac OS interface and licensing it to every PC maker who paid for it. So when Google licensed its Android mobile operating system so promiscuously to junkie handset makers he was determined to act,” Mr. Isaacson said. “Steve said to Google ’You can’t pay me off. I’m here to destroy you’. But Tim Cook will settle that lawsuit. He’s a lot less emotional about business than Steve.”

It was this “petulance” and “exuberance” that drove Mr. Jobs and why, according to Mr. Isaacson, future generations will honor and remember him as one of the great figures not just in computing, but in all of technology, entertainment, and communications.