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Book Review: Carlton, "Apple: The Inside Story of Intrigue, Egomania, and Business Blunders"

"Apple: The Inside Story of Intrigue, Egomania, and Business Blunders". Jim Carlton, 1997, Random House.

TL;DR:  Don't read this book.


An Apple history book that I've never heard of? Impossible! I actually found it sitting next to "West of Eden" at the university library (review forthcoming). It looked tantalizing when I sampled a paragraph. Why hadn't I heard of this gem? Now I know.


This is supposedly a business book, hence its subtitle. What it really is, though, is story after story about who hated who, how they screwed up, and a few things that engineers said while working on secret projects.


All of this is thrown together in a pot and stirred violently. The rambling mishmash of quotes and executive finger-pointing is so long-winded and quick to jump back and forth in time that I don't know why anyone bothered with chapter markings. "Random House" indeed.


Carlron seems to have been a journalist for the WSJ and this is his first book. Little wonder that it feels like a 450-page newspaper article.


In some sense, this is a perfect depiction of Apple through most of the 1990s--brilliant engineers and terrible managers, all of whom could not stay out of their own way, aimlessly burning through cash and time with random projects that had nothing to do with (as Guy Kawasaki would say) "doing the right things and doing things right". (OpenDoc, Pink, Taligent, ...)


The only two distinct parts of the book I could distinguish were "the Sculley era" and "the Spindler era". The book ends as Giblet comes into power. (Published in 1997 = written at Giblet's "peak".)


The only interesting and previously untold stories I gleaned from this book were two pages about the Mac OS-on-Intel project of the early 1990s known as "Star Trek", and these anecdotes about the Mac Portable:


A telling moment came at an employee gathering... a woman came up onstage to claim the [Macintosh Portable] she had won in a company raffle.
"She almost dropped it because it was too heavy," recalls Paul Mercer, an engineer in the audience that day.
[Jean-Louis Gassée, former Apple exec and founder of Be, Inc.] "I offered to give a two hundred dollar trade-in for anybody who brought in a [Macintosh Portable] in exchange for a BeBox. I wanted to destroy all evidence."


I wouldn't say this book is a total loss, but it is almost certainly not worth your time. If you want an introduction to Apple history, stick to the main roads.


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