cover image A Whole New Life

A Whole New Life

Reynolds Price, Randall Stross. Atheneum Books, $24 (213pp) ISBN 978-0-689-12135-7

Jobs, who with Steve Wozniak founded Apple Computer and made the list of the Forbes 400 richest Americans, emerges as a mesmerizing, irrational, self-deluding and ultimately pathetic person in this portrait by the author of Bulls in the China Shop and Other Sino-American Business Encounters . Having been forced out of Apple in 1985, Jobs sought in vain to recover his ``boy wonder'' dominance in the ultra-competitive computer world through lavish spending on his new company, setting the tone early by paying a designer $100,000 to devise the name ``NeXT.'' With no market profiles clearly in mind, Jobs unilaterally chose a small, black, cube-shaped ``personal mainframe'' box, noncompatible and overpriced, to be the firm's sole hardware item with exclusive software applications--a ``retrograde'' posture, notes Stross. NeXT consistently fell far short of sales and production targets--while rivals Microsoft, Sun Systems and IBM forged ahead with innovations--to which Jobs responded with outrageously fanciful boasting at trade events and in the press. The book serves as an instructive case study of the power and peril of the computer industry. Photos not seen by PW . (Nov.)