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Infinite Loop: How Apple, the World's Most Insanely Great Computer Company, Went Insane

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The inside story of how one of America's most beloved companies - Apple Computer - took off like a high-tech rocket-only to come crashing to Earth twenty years later. How did Apple lose its way? Why did the world still care so deeply about a company that had lost its leadership position? Michael S. Malone, from the unique vantage point of having grown up with the company's The inside story of how one of America's most beloved companies - Apple Computer - took off like a high-tech rocket-only to come crashing to Earth twenty years later. How did Apple lose its way? Why did the world still care so deeply about a company that had lost its leadership position? Michael S. Malone, from the unique vantage point of having grown up with the company's founders, and having covered Apple and Silicon Valley for years, sets out to tell the gripping behind-the-scenes story - a story that is even zanier than the business world thought. In essence, Malone claims, with only a couple of incredible inventions (the Apple II and Macintosh), and backed by an arrogance matched only by its corporate ineptitude, Apple managed to create a multibillion-dollar house of cards. And, like a faulty program repeating itself in an infinite loop, Apple could never learn from its mistakes. The miracle was not that Apple went into free fall, but that it held up for so long. Within the pages of Infinite Loop, we discover a bruising portrait of the megalomaniacal Steve Jobs and an incompetent John Sculley, as well as the kind of political backstabbings, stupid mistakes, and overweening egos more typical of a soap opera than a corporate history.


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The inside story of how one of America's most beloved companies - Apple Computer - took off like a high-tech rocket-only to come crashing to Earth twenty years later. How did Apple lose its way? Why did the world still care so deeply about a company that had lost its leadership position? Michael S. Malone, from the unique vantage point of having grown up with the company's The inside story of how one of America's most beloved companies - Apple Computer - took off like a high-tech rocket-only to come crashing to Earth twenty years later. How did Apple lose its way? Why did the world still care so deeply about a company that had lost its leadership position? Michael S. Malone, from the unique vantage point of having grown up with the company's founders, and having covered Apple and Silicon Valley for years, sets out to tell the gripping behind-the-scenes story - a story that is even zanier than the business world thought. In essence, Malone claims, with only a couple of incredible inventions (the Apple II and Macintosh), and backed by an arrogance matched only by its corporate ineptitude, Apple managed to create a multibillion-dollar house of cards. And, like a faulty program repeating itself in an infinite loop, Apple could never learn from its mistakes. The miracle was not that Apple went into free fall, but that it held up for so long. Within the pages of Infinite Loop, we discover a bruising portrait of the megalomaniacal Steve Jobs and an incompetent John Sculley, as well as the kind of political backstabbings, stupid mistakes, and overweening egos more typical of a soap opera than a corporate history.

30 review for Infinite Loop: How Apple, the World's Most Insanely Great Computer Company, Went Insane

  1. 5 out of 5

    Eric_W

    The real hero of the PC revolution is Stephen Wozniak. Jobs just came along for the ride — sort of. Wozniak was a brilliant engineer who was able to design and build radically new concepts almost on the spur of the moment. His memory of code could be prodigious, and numerous stories are recounted in this book of Wozniak designing something new — and better — at seemingly the last minute to save Apple’s bacon. His most telling breakthrough was to put multiple functions on a single processor. Anot The real hero of the PC revolution is Stephen Wozniak. Jobs just came along for the ride — sort of. Wozniak was a brilliant engineer who was able to design and build radically new concepts almost on the spur of the moment. His memory of code could be prodigious, and numerous stories are recounted in this book of Wozniak designing something new — and better — at seemingly the last minute to save Apple’s bacon. His most telling breakthrough was to put multiple functions on a single processor. Another breakthrough was completely redesigning the floppy disk controller that recognized the superfluity of the contemporary design and produced something far more reliable and efficient. This changed the game. No longer would large computer companies spend time trying to dumb down the computer for personal use, but rather to increase the power of the desktop PC. The miniframe companies soon lost the battle they had won over the mainframes. In just two years, in a feat of extraordinary creative bursts, Woz had “designed one of the world’s first personal computers, then built the first practical home computer complete with color display; he had also written the programming language for those computers, and now had brought mass memory to the average computer user. Hardware, software, display, and storage: Wozniak had pulled off an engineering hat trick that has not been matched.” Many could have predicted success for the shy “Woz.” At thirteen, on his own, he designed a computer that was as powerful as any in the world just a few years before. What was even more incredible was that his design was elegant. It used less board space and fewer parts. Elegance was to be characteristic of many of his future designs. Typically engineers had created a more complex solution as the problem became more complex. Woz possessed a supernatural talent to simplify (Bill Gates should hire this guy). Ironically, Woz was forced to build the first Apple around the Motorola 6502 because he didn’t have the money to buy the Intel 8080, a far superior chip. The reason he didn’t have the money was because Steven Jobs wouldn’t pay him back some $3,000 Jobs owed Woz. If the Apple had been designed by Woz around the 8080, it might very well have blown all the competition away. Jobs’ role in all this was an entrepreneur, convincing those with money of the value of their product, building coalitions, and persuading the skeptical. It wasn’t long before Apple had become fat and arrogant, going out of its way to kill off thirdparty vendors. They even insisted on building their own keyboards. Soon Apples became more expensive than anyone else’s brand. Another error was the way they abandoned Apple III owners. After its initial flop, it was redesigned and was actually a very good machine, but the decision was made to abandon it in favor of the Mac, leaving all those who owned the Apple III high and dry. Many of these people would never again trust the company that claimed to be different. In the meantime, design genius Wozniak had, thanks to the hugely successful IPO, discovered the wonderful world of material goods and was abandoning computer design for fast cars and airplanes. The myth that Steve Jobs created the ideas for the Mac after a visit to Xerox’s famous research facility is punctured. The LISA and Mac that used the mouse and bitmapped screens were already on the Apple drawing boards before his visit. In fact, the Mac was the brainchild of John Raskins, who had been inspired by his visit to Xerox several years earlier. Jobs had even tried to sabotage the Mac concept within the company until he realized how successful it had become. Jobs’s decision to hire John Scully was a huge mistake. Scully had made his name marketing Pepsi, but the industry selling sugared water was so venerable that a huge market shift might represent a mere point in market share. Scully failed to recognize that making a mistake in the bitterly competitive computer world would mean the death of the company. Atari, three years before, had been at the pinnacle of success; now Silicon Valley was littered with its parts. Even though he understood some of the IBM culture, Scully failed to recognize that corporate purchasers were looking for stability, not a company that celebrated its counterculture. “No one ever lost his job by buying IBM,” was the favorite saying of purchasing agents, and IBM was just about to announce the IBM XT. After being turned down by many others Jobs personally lured Scully. It was a strange relationship: Jobs looking for a mentor, and Scully, the frustrated art major, succumbing to the father-image Jobs sought. “He [Scully:] confessed that if he hadn’t been a businessman he probably would have become an artist. Jobs, in a remarkable coincidence, said that if he hadn’t become a technologist, he would have been a poet in Paris. The birds twittered in the trees.” Scully was the ultimate marketing person, and decisions he made during the first six months spelled doom for the company in its race to dominate the market. Neither he nor Jobs understood that the business world would decide the fate of the personal computer. It was not yet an appliance like the telephone, where styling might make the difference between a purchase or not. Ironically, Jobs’ return to Apple has resulted in the cute little Apples now selling reasonably well. Scully’s pay compensation was so huge that, in typical fashion, it pissed off the insiders who had been working hundreds of hours on salary. He and Jobs had failed to recognize the dispiriting impact of a CEO who accrues bonuses and perks to him/herself at the perceived expense of the workers in the company. The company never could decide what it wanted to become: supplier to the business world or to the consumer market, with its vastly differing needs for open architecture and price sensitivity. The LISA, Apple III, and Mac were each developed by different teams without any cross-platform compatibility. They never figured out who their customers were until it was already too late. Eventually, the company and the employees lost sight of where they were headed and this “drains energy. It tires out people who are working hard.” Of course, this book was written before the iPod changed everything.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    "Infinite Loop" tells the epic tale of Apple Computer, from the childhood of its co-founders all the way up through Steve Jobs' return to the company and the introduction of the iMac in 1998. Obviously Apple's story since then could probably fill a book in and of itself, but "Infinite Loop" is still an interesting look back at the early days of personal computing. It tells how two young men named Steve started a company that changed the world, and how poor management in the second decade of Appl "Infinite Loop" tells the epic tale of Apple Computer, from the childhood of its co-founders all the way up through Steve Jobs' return to the company and the introduction of the iMac in 1998. Obviously Apple's story since then could probably fill a book in and of itself, but "Infinite Loop" is still an interesting look back at the early days of personal computing. It tells how two young men named Steve started a company that changed the world, and how poor management in the second decade of Apple's life very nearly killed it. In fact, the author writes throughout the book as if Apple was essentially dead already, that the iMac was nothing more than a final hurrah for a declining company. I don't hold the author's failure to foresee Apple's eventual dominance of digital music players and smartphones against him, though. Nobody could have reasonably expected ten years ago that Apple would be in the position it is in today. "Infinite Loop" contains plenty of amusing anecdotes from Apple's early days, mentions many of the important events in its history, and provides plenty of examples of how (not) to run a major corporation.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dave Mozealous

    If you want to read the Steve Jobs biography, read this instead. Much of Walter Isaacson Steve Jobs biography was based on this book, and you can even directly relate passages in the biography back to passages in Infinite Loop. I criticized the Steve Jobs biography for it's lack of insight to the technologically significant milestones in Jobs later career, but thought that he did a pretty solid job of understanding the important events of his early career, well, the reason Isaacson was able to p If you want to read the Steve Jobs biography, read this instead. Much of Walter Isaacson Steve Jobs biography was based on this book, and you can even directly relate passages in the biography back to passages in Infinite Loop. I criticized the Steve Jobs biography for it's lack of insight to the technologically significant milestones in Jobs later career, but thought that he did a pretty solid job of understanding the important events of his early career, well, the reason Isaacson was able to provide those insights on his early career is Malone did his homework for him in this book. Jon Siracusa also talks about this in his review of Isaacson's Jobs biography in episode 42 of Hypercritical http://5by5.tv/hypercritical/42 . Much of this book was also used as the foundation for the made for TV movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, which also isn't a bad movie. As this book was written in 1998 just as Jobs returned to Apple, I would love to see Michael Malone do an update to this book that covers recent Apple history, and technological innovations from Apple like the iPod, iPhone and iPad. In Infinite Loop Malone points out failures of Apple/Jobs made along the way in the history of Apple, i.e. Jobs abrasive leadership style, not licensing Mac OS, choosing to use the Motorola processor over Intel, Apple losing its vision post Jobs and dwindling market share as reasons for the Apple decline of the 1990s. I would love to get his opinion on how he thinks the company is trending now that they are facing some similar issues in the mobile space i.e. market share decline, an Apple without Steve Jobs.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Derek Giromini

    I read this book not long after it was published. It lifts the veil of the early years of Apple all the way through to the tumultuous late 1990s when Apple was at the brink of collapse. In the edition I read, Steve Jobs's then-recent return was relegated to the epilogue. He had just announced his deal made with Bill Gates, and there was but a glimmer of hope for the company. I recommend this if only for the rather gloomy tone in the last few chapters. The history of Apple since this book was publ I read this book not long after it was published. It lifts the veil of the early years of Apple all the way through to the tumultuous late 1990s when Apple was at the brink of collapse. In the edition I read, Steve Jobs's then-recent return was relegated to the epilogue. He had just announced his deal made with Bill Gates, and there was but a glimmer of hope for the company. I recommend this if only for the rather gloomy tone in the last few chapters. The history of Apple since this book was published has gone in the opposite direction.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sidharth

    A brilliant book that outlined the true story behind one of the most innovative companies of our era, Apple. For Apple fans like me, periods of the book are quite depressing due to the number of mistakes made by the different heads of Apple. Otherwise we would be living in a non-Microsoft dominated world. But nonetheless, I found the book extremely educational as it gave me an idea of what Silicon Valley was like during those crazy years. Extremely well written, I absolutely loved it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Dwayne Ackley

    A very difficult book for me to get through. An exhaustive study of Apple Computer through 1995. A lot of behind the scenes specifics from players in the company. A good book for anyone intersted in Apple.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Glen

    Great history of Apple up until the late 90s. Details both the early successes and the continuing series of missteps throughout the 80s and 90s that almost led to it's downfall. Presents a fairly balanced view of Steve Jobs (as well as other Apple personalities).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Edwin

    A very readable history of Apple computer

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    quiet worth reading

  10. 5 out of 5

    Vince

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nacho Toosweet

  12. 4 out of 5

    AD White King

  13. 5 out of 5

    John Manzer

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dwight T

  15. 4 out of 5

    Avanish Singh

  16. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chris Skinner

  18. 4 out of 5

    gary hahn

  19. 4 out of 5

    Atle

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dean

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sean McArdle

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jay

  23. 5 out of 5

    Scott

  24. 5 out of 5

    Chris Boraski

  25. 5 out of 5

    Anupam Chatterjee

  26. 5 out of 5

    Howard

  27. 4 out of 5

    Nelson Man

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rashik Pokharel

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eula Faye Chapman

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

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