Book Review – ‘I Woz’ by Steve Wozniak

Posted: December 23, 2013 in Books

I’d read the biography of Steve Jobs a while ago and I had been meaning to read the book about the ‘other guy’ behind Apple for some time. It’s safe to say Jobs gets most of the headlines when it comes to information about Apple, but Wozniak’s contribution was every bit as important, so I started this book with high hopes. I even read it on my iPad.

iWoz-313387

The book started with the usual biography stuff, early family details, school etc. From there it was into college life, how he met Jobs, the formation of Apple and the launch of Apple up to the initial IPO.Thereafter it was about what Steve or ‘Woz’ as he seems tobe known did next. The first ever universal remote control and Rock concerts that lost a lot of money.

Overall I  was disappointed with the book. Whereas Jobs biography was written by Walter Isaacson and was done in a compelling style taking the reader seamlessly through Jobs life, this read like a bunch of episodes loosely linked together. I found the writing rather bland and far from gripping.  Which considering Wozniak’s part in the Apple story, was almost surreal. There was a real story to be told here, but this book just didn’t do it.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Jobs was the moneyman, the frontman  and driving force through marketing that made Apple great. Or at least made it a phenomena – Wozniak was the engineer who designed the Apple Mac and who’s goal to produce a low-cost computer that everyone could use was years ahead of the competition.  Without his engineering prowess Apple would never have designed the items that sold so well.

The book uses lots of engineering terms which are nicely explained and it comes across quite clearly that Wozniak loves engineering, but does little to make these things as interesting as they could have been.

Wozniak, from the book, had little interest in money and would have been happy to have all but given away the design breakthroughs which made Apple rich. The feeling I got from reading was there must have been some wild ‘discussions’ with Jobs about how the company should do things and these are hinted at but we get little detail. When Wozniak left Apple, he complains about what the press said and how they got it wrong. He doesn’t really go into detail as to why he did leave, ‘I just felt it was time to move on’ seems very lame. Why Woz? Why did you feel it was time to move on, what had changed, what did you try to do about it? All unanswered, barely mentioned.

I got the feeling the book went out of its way not to upset anyone and this robbed it of a lot of its potential. I wasn’t expecting scandalmongering but I was expecting a little more than ‘nice’.  There is also a bit of an ego to Wozniak, he talks at some length about doing things which lost large sums of money. But it was all worth while for the pleasure it brought people. I can accept that up to a point but this feels laboured. Especially when any form of Jobs/Wozniak confrontation is either glossed over or missed out altogether it just doesn’t sit right. Instead any failures financially after he left Apple are put across as not being about the money anyway, it reads a bit like he’s ‘beyond money’ and it’s almost a charitable event instead. Yet it doesn’t ring true. He didn’t stage concerts to make money, that’s true, but did he stage them to lose millions either. Yet rather than deem them failures he puts across that they were success because it wasn’t about the money anyway. To me its justification for the failure (to make money/break even) is ‘oh well it wasn’t about that anyway’.

So what do we end up with:

Steve Wozniak

  • A nice guy. Check
  • More generous than Steve Jobs. Check
  • A brilliant engineer. Check.
  • Tells a compelling story. Nope

The biggest disappointment in all this for me was I couldn’t help but thinking a more honest story with less whitewash would have been a compelling story from start to finish. I think ‘I Woz’ was a bit of a missed opportunity. At the end of the book he says it took him this long to tell his side of the story as he wanted the facts put across accurately. I think instead we got some of the story of Wozniak and the other bits with a better writer would have been downright fascinating.

Score 6/10.

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