by Owen W. Linzmayer
1999, No Starch Press
This would appear to be version 2.0 of Linzmayer’s The Mac Bathroom Reader , one of those books that unashamedly lives up to its title. References to the meditation chamber have been removed from the title, but that doesn’t mean this is no longer perfect for short discontinous reading. Linzmayer has been covering Apple (and the Macintosh) for… well, since forever, and his depth of knowledge and trivia about one of the most colorful technological companies on the planet is without match. Apple Confidential is loosely organized, skipping back and forth a little bit to illustrate points within the general timeline of the company, and though it’s a bit confusing at first (especially if you’re used to reading dry orthodox business biographies), it works well within the company’s casual atmosphere.
To put it bluntly, Apple was founded by a couple of nuts. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak are not what you’d call loony (though several ex-Apple employees may disagree about Jobs), but they were certainly unconventional, and “plagued” by visions. As the history of the company unfolds, a pattern begins to emerge: the more straight-laced and by-the-book the company becomes, the worse they fare, culminating in the terrifying “Apple’s Dying” media hype spiral of 1997. I’d hardly consider today’s Apple to be on the level of kookyness present in those early days, but it’s a far less ordinary company than it was turning into under the leadership of CEOs Sculley, Spindler Amelio (witness multi-colored personal computers), and their fortunes seem to have rebounded accordingly.
Linzmayer’s exhaustively documented just about everything you might find interesting about Apple (and related projects, like Jobs’ NeXT and Pixar), and there’s probably no better source of Apple info-nuggets than this book. Project code names? An entire chapter, twelve pages, covering not just computers and software but oddball projects like keyboards and inline cache. Just about all the information on here is handily sectioned for quick consumption, and if you find yourself reading on, it’s mostly because of Linzmayer’s engaging style and fascinating tidbits of information, rather than because there is no convenient stopping point.
Not everyone will enjoy reading about the travails of Apple, or any technology company for that matter. If you’re looking for management or financial insight for your own high-stakes venture, this is probably not your book, though Linzmayer doesn’t skimp on analyzing Apple’s fortunes and misfortunes. Apple is a company that inspires personal commitment and loyalty from its customers — you’ll never hear someone defending FedEx over UPS with as much heat and passion as a Mac user does his computer — and this book is perfect for those unique personalities.