'60 Minutes' on Steve Jobs: Hear icon's last pitch

Walter Isaacson, author of Steve Jobs' biography, appears on the CBS News magazine. While much of the book has already leaked out, Isaacson also offers tapes of Jobs discussing his life and impending death.

Greg Sandoval Former Staff writer
Greg Sandoval covers media and digital entertainment for CNET News. Based in New York, Sandoval is a former reporter for The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. E-mail Greg, or follow him on Twitter at @sandoCNET.
Greg Sandoval
3 min read

On tonight's "60 Minutes" broadcast, there's something for both lovers and haters of Steve Jobs.

A screen capture from '60 Minutes' showing Steve Jobs with his wife. To watch online, click on the photograph or scroll to the bottom of this page. 60 Minutes/CBS

Even if you have no opinion on the Apple co-founder, the man who gave us some of the most culture-changing devices of our times, the show is worth watching. Included in the broadcast are tapes of the hyper-secretive Jobs discussing intimate details of his life and character as well as his impending death with Walter Isaacson, author of the Jobs' biography that goes on sale this week.

Jobs died on October 5 at the age of 56 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

For those of you on the West Coast, the show will air at 7 p.m. on CBS, which is parent company of CNET. The broadcast just concluded on the East Coast. I don't want to spoil it but just two-and-a-half weeks since Jobs died, it's a bit eerie to hear him talking about his death.

The show, however, isn't morose. It's a character study about one of the great visionaries, industrialists, and pitchmen of our time. There are places in the show where its obvious Isaacson is a little in awe of Jobs and there are others where the author digs into Jobs' grittiest personality flaws.

As I said before, the haters will love this show because the warts are all there.

Isaacson discusses how Jobs was sometimes arrogant, sometimes petty, and often abrasive. Isaacson cites one anecdote about Steve Wozniak, the gentler of the two main Apple co-founders, who was concerned after Apple started making big money. Not all the top employees were sharing in the bonanza, so Woz started giving away his options.

Jobs refused.

Isaacson retold an anecdote about how one of Apple's engineers went to Jobs and told him he would give stock to another employee if Jobs matched it. Jobs responded: "Yeah, I'll match it. I'll give zero and you give zero."

Later in the show, we hear Jobs, via Isaacson's tapes, explaining his ability to be critical without worrying about other people's feelings.

"I feel totally comfortable going in front of everybody else, you know, (and say) God we really f***d up the engineering on this, didn't we?" Jobs says. "That's the ante for being in the room. So we're brutally honest with each other and all of them can tell me they think I'm full of s**t, and I can tell anyone I think they're full of s**t. And we've had some rip-roaring arguments where we're yelling at each other."

Isaacson didn't bushwhack Jobs in the telling of his story. On the contrary, it was Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve's wife, who implored Isaacson not to whitewash his story. She wanted all of his strengths as well as weaknesses in the book.

The show's producers did a nice job of covering all the major high points of Jobs career and Isaacson got Jobs to open up about what he was working on towards the end of his life. The author said that Jobs told him he believed he had figured out how to do to the TV what he did to the cellphone, computer and digital music player. To the end, Jobs was pitching products.

Where the "60 Minutes" show broke some new ground was by lifting the veil on Jobs' private life. We saw photos of Steve on vacation with the three children he had with Laurene and a couple of shots of Steve and his eldest daughter Lisa Brennan-Jobs.

What comes through clearly in the broadcast is just how human Jobs really was. Upon hearing that Jobs tried to treat his cancer initially with alternative medicines instead of having an operation, "60 Minutes" reporter Steve Kroft asked an obvious question: "How could such a smart man do something so stupid?"

That's okay. Sure, there's undoubtedly fans out there who might be disappointed to know that Jobs was no super human. They can console themselves with the fact that even though he was just like the rest of us, he was still capable of denting the universe.