The Cloud, the Spaceship, and Beyond

The iPad 2

Even before the iPad went on sale, Jobs was thinking about what should be in the iPad 2. It needed front and back cameras—everyone knew that was coming—and he definitely wanted it to be thinner. But there was a peripheral issue that he focused on that most people hadn’t thought about: The cases that people used covered the beautiful lines of the iPad and detracted from the screen. They made fatter what should be thinner. They put a pedestrian cloak on a device that should be magical in all of its aspects.

Around that time he read an article about magnets, cut it out, and handed it to Jony Ive. The magnets had a cone of attraction that could be precisely focused. Perhaps they could be used to align a detachable cover. That way, it could snap onto the front of an iPad but not have to engulf the entire device. One of the guys in Ive’s group worked out how to make a detachable cover that could connect with a magnetic hinge. When you began to open it, the screen would pop to life like the face of a tickled baby, and then the cover could fold into a stand.

It was not high-tech; it was purely mechanical. But it was enchanting. It also was another example of Jobs’s desire for end-to-end integration: The cover and the iPad had been designed together so that the magnets and hinge all connected seamlessly. The iPad 2 would have many improvements, but this cheeky little cover, which most other CEOs would never have bothered with, was the one that would elicit the most smiles.

Because Jobs was on another medical leave, he was not expected to be at the launch of the iPad 2, scheduled for March 2, 2011, in San Francisco. But when the invitations were sent out, he told me that I should try to be there. It was the usual scene: top Apple executives in the front row, Tim Cook eating energy bars, and the sound system blaring the appropriate Beatles songs, building up to “You Say You Want a Revolution” and “Here Comes the Sun.” Reed Jobs arrived at the last minute with two rather wide-eyed freshman dorm mates.

“We’ve been working on this product for a while, and I just didn’t want to miss today,” Jobs said as he ambled onstage looking scarily gaunt but with a jaunty smile. The crowd erupted in whoops, hollers, and a standing ovation.

He began his demo of the iPad 2 by showing off the new cover. “This time, the case and the product were designed together,” he explained. Then he moved on to address a criticism that had been rankling him because it had some merit: The original iPad had been better at consuming content than at creating it. So Apple had adapted its two best creative applications for the Macintosh, GarageBand and iMovie, and made powerful versions available for the iPad. Jobs showed how easy it was to compose and orchestrate a song, or put music and special effects into your home videos, and post or share such creations using the new iPad.

Once again he ended his presentation with the slide showing the intersection of Liberal Arts Street and Technology Street. And this time he gave one of the clearest expressions of his credo, that true creativity and simplicity come from integrating the whole widget—hardware and software, and for that matter content and covers and salesclerks—rather than allowing things to be open and fragmented, as happened in the world of Windows PCs and was now happening with Android devices:

It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. We believe that it’s technology married with the humanities that yields us the result that makes our heart sing. Nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices. Folks are rushing into this tablet market, and they’re looking at it as the next PC, in which the hardware and the software are done by different companies. Our experience, and every bone in our body, says that is not the right approach. These are post-PC devices that need to be even more intuitive and easier to use than a PC, and where the software and the hardware and the applications need to be intertwined in an even more seamless way than they are on a PC. We think we have the right architecture not just in silicon, but in our organization, to build these kinds of products.

It was an architecture that was bred not just into the organization he had built, but into his own soul.

After the launch event, Jobs was energized. He came to the Four Seasons hotel to join me, his wife, and Reed, plus Reed’s two Stanford pals, for lunch. For a change he was eating, though still with some pickiness. He ordered fresh-squeezed juice, which he sent back three times, declaring that each new offering was from a bottle, and a pasta primavera, which he shoved away as inedible after one taste. But then he ate half of my crab Louie salad and ordered a full one for himself, followed by a bowl of ice cream. The indulgent hotel was even able to produce a glass of juice that finally met his standards.

At his house the following day he was still on a high. He was planning to fly to Kona Village the next day, alone, and I asked to see what he had put on his iPad 2 for the trip. There were three movies: Chinatown, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Toy Story 3. More revealingly, there was just one book that he had downloaded: The Autobiography of a Yogi, the guide to meditation and spirituality that he had first read as a teenager, then reread in India, and had read once a year ever since.

Midway through the morning he decided he wanted to eat something. He was still too weak to drive, so I drove him to a café in a shopping mall. It was closed, but the owner was used to Jobs knocking on the door at off-hours, and he happily let us in. “He’s taken on a mission to try to fatten me up,” Jobs joked. His doctors had pushed him to eat eggs as a source of high-quality protein, and he ordered an omelet. “Living with a disease like this, and all the pain, constantly reminds you of your own mortality, and that can do strange things to your brain if you’re not careful,” he said. “You don’t make plans more than a year out, and that’s bad. You need to force yourself to plan as if you will live for many years.”

An example of this magical thinking was his plan to build a luxurious yacht. Before his liver transplant, he and his family used to rent a boat for vacations, traveling to Mexico, the South Pacific, or the Mediterranean. On many of these cruises, Jobs got bored or began to hate the design of the boat, so they would cut the trip short and fly to Kona Village. But sometimes the cruise worked well. “The best vacation I’ve ever been on was when we went down the coast of Italy, then to Athens—which is a pit, but the Parthenon is mind-blowing—and then to Ephesus in Turkey, where they have these ancient public lavatories in marble with a place in the middle for musicians to serenade.” When they got to Istanbul, he hired a history professor to give his family a tour. At the end they went to a Turkish bath, where the professor’s lecture gave Jobs an insight about the globalization of youth:

I had a real revelation. We were all in robes, and they made some Turkish coffee for us. The professor explained how the coffee was made very different from anywhere else, and I realized, “So fucking what?” Which kids even in Turkey give a shit about Turkish coffee? All day I had looked at young people in Istanbul. They were all drinking what every other kid in the world drinks, and they were wearing clothes that look like they were bought at the Gap, and they are all using cell phones. They were like kids everywhere else. It hit me that, for young people, this whole world is the same now. When we’re making products, there is no such thing as a Turkish phone, or a music player that young people in Turkey would want that’s different from one young people elsewhere would want. We’re just one world now.

After the joy of that cruise, Jobs had amused himself by beginning to design, and then repeatedly redesigning, a boat he said he wanted to build someday. When he got sick again in 2009, he almost canceled the project. “I didn’t think I would be alive when it got done,” he recalled. “But that made me so sad, and I decided that working on the design was fun to do, and maybe I have a shot at being alive when it’s done. If I stop work on the boat and then I make it alive for another two years, I would be really pissed. So I’ve kept going.”

After our omelets at the café, we went back to his house and he showed me all of the models and architectural drawings. As expected, the planned yacht was sleek and minimalist. The teak decks were perfectly flat and unblemished by any accoutrements. As at an Apple store, the cabin windows were large panes, almost floor to ceiling, and the main living area was designed to have walls of glass that were forty feet long and ten feet high. He had gotten the chief engineer of the Apple stores to design a special glass that was able to provide structural support.

By then the boat was under construction by the Dutch custom yacht builders Feadship, but Jobs was still fiddling with the design. “I know that it’s possible I will die and leave Laurene with a half-built boat,” he said. “But I have to keep going on it. If I don’t, it’s an admission that I’m about to die.”

He and Powell would be celebrating their twentieth wedding anniversary a few days later, and he admitted that at times he had not been as appreciative of her as she deserved. “I’m very lucky, because you just don’t know what you’re getting into when you get married,” he said. “You have an intuitive feeling about things. I couldn’t have done better, because not only is Laurene smart and beautiful, she’s turned out to be a really good person.” For a moment he teared up. He talked about his other girlfriends, particularly Tina Redse, but said he ended up in the right place. He also reflected on how selfish and demanding he could be. “Laurene had to deal with that, and also with me being sick,” he said. “I know that living with me is not a bowl of cherries.”

Among his selfish traits was that he tended not to remember anniversaries or birthdays. But in this case, he decided to plan a surprise. They had gotten married at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, and he decided to take Powell back there on their anniversary. But when Jobs called, the place was fully booked. So he had the hotel approach the people who had reserved the suite where he and Powell had stayed and ask if they would relinquish it. “I offered to pay for another weekend,” Jobs recalled, “and the man was very nice and said, ‘Twenty years, please take it, it’s yours.’”

He found the photographs of the wedding, taken by a friend, and had large prints made on thick paper boards and placed in an elegant box. Scrolling through his iPhone, he found the note that he had composed to be included in the box and read it aloud:

We didn’t know much about each other twenty years ago. We were guided by our intuition; you swept me off my feet. It was snowing when we got married at the Ahwahnee. Years passed, kids came, good times, hard times, but never bad times. Our love and respect has endured and grown. We’ve been through so much together and here we are right back where we started 20 years ago—older, wiser—with wrinkles on our faces and hearts. We now know many of life’s joys, sufferings, secrets and wonders and we’re still here together. My feet have never returned to the ground.

By the end of the recitation he was crying uncontrollably. When he composed himself, he noted that he had also made a set of the pictures for each of his kids. “I thought they might like to see that I was young once.”


In 2001 Jobs had a vision: Your personal computer would serve as a “digital hub” for a variety of lifestyle devices, such as music players, video recorders, phones, and tablets. This played to Apple’s strength of creating end-to-end products that were simple to use. The company was thus transformed from a high-end niche computer company to the most valuable technology company in the world.

By 2008 Jobs had developed a vision for the next wave of the digital era. In the future, he believed, your desktop computer would no longer serve as the hub for your content. Instead the hub would move to “the cloud.” In other words, your content would be stored on remote servers managed by a company you trusted, and it would be available for you to use on any device, anywhere. It would take him three years to get it right.

He began with a false step. In the summer of 2008 he launched a product called MobileMe, an expensive ($99 per year) subscription service that allowed you to store your address book, documents, pictures, videos, email, and calendar remotely in the cloud and to sync them with any device. In theory, you could go to your iPhone or any computer and access all aspects of your digital life. There was, however, a big problem: The service, to use Jobs’s terminology, sucked. It was complex, devices didn’t sync well, and email and other data got lost randomly in the ether. “Apple’s MobileMe Is Far Too Flawed to Be Reliable,” was the headline on Walt Mossberg’s review in the Wall Street Journal.

Jobs was furious. He gathered the MobileMe team in the auditorium on the Apple campus, stood onstage, and asked, “Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?” After the team members offered their answers, Jobs shot back: “So why the fuck doesn’t it do that?” Over the next half hour he continued to berate them. “You’ve tarnished Apple’s reputation,” he said. “You should hate each other for having let each other down. Mossberg, our friend, is no longer writing good things about us.” In front of the whole audience, he got rid of the leader of the MobileMe team and replaced him with Eddy Cue, who oversaw all Internet content at Apple. As Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky reported in a dissection of the Apple corporate culture, “Accountability is strictly enforced.”

By 2010 it was clear that Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and others were aiming to be the company that could best store all of your content and data in the cloud and sync it on your various devices. So Jobs redoubled his efforts. As he explained it to me that fall:

We need to be the company that manages your relationship with the cloud—streams your music and videos from the cloud, stores your pictures and information, and maybe even your medical data. Apple was the first to have the insight about your computer becoming a digital hub. So we wrote all of these apps—iPhoto, iMovie, iTunes—and tied in our devices, like the iPod and iPhone and iPad, and it’s worked brilliantly. But over the next few years, the hub is going to move from your computer into the cloud. So it’s the same digital hub strategy, but the hub’s in a different place. It means you will always have access to your content and you won’t have to sync.

It’s important that we make this transformation, because of what Clayton Christensen calls “the innovator’s dilemma,” where people who invent something are usually the last ones to see past it, and we certainly don’t want to be left behind. I’m going to take MobileMe and make it free, and we’re going to make syncing content simple. We are building a server farm in North Carolina. We can provide all the syncing you need, and that way we can lock in the customer.

Jobs discussed this vision at his Monday morning meetings, and gradually it was refined to a new strategy. “I sent emails to groups of people at 2 a.m. and batted things around,” he recalled. “We think about this a lot because it’s not a job, it’s our life.” Although some board members, including Al Gore, questioned the idea of making MobileMe free, they supported it. It would be their strategy for attracting customers into Apple’s orbit for the next decade.

The new service was named iCloud, and Jobs unveiled it in his keynote address to Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2011. He was still on medical leave and, for some days in May, had been hospitalized with infections and pain. Some close friends urged him not to make the presentation, which would involve lots of preparation and rehearsals. But the prospect of ushering in another tectonic shift in the digital age seemed to energize him.

When he came onstage at the San Francisco Convention Center, he was wearing a VONROSEN black cashmere sweater on top of his usual Issey Miyake black turtleneck, and he had thermal underwear beneath his blue jeans. But he looked more gaunt than ever. The crowd gave him a prolonged standing ovation—“That always helps, and I appreciate it,” he said—but within minutes Apple’s stock dropped more than $4, to $340. He was making a heroic effort, but he looked weak.

He handed the stage over to Phil Schiller and Scott Forstall to demo the new operating systems for Macs and mobile devices, then came back on to show off iCloud himself. “About ten years ago, we had one of our most important insights,” he said. “The PC was going to become the hub for your digital life. Your videos, your photos, your music. But it has broken down in the last few years. Why?” He riffed about how hard it was to get all of your content synced to each of your devices. If you have a song you’ve downloaded on your iPad, a picture you’ve taken on your iPhone, and a video you’ve stored on your computer, you can end up feeling like an old-fashioned switchboard operator as you plug USB cables into and out of things to get the content shared. “Keeping these devices in sync is driving us crazy,” he said to great laughter. “We have a solution. It’s our next big insight. We are going to demote the PC and the Mac to be just a device, and we are going to move the digital hub into the cloud.”

Jobs was well aware that this “big insight” was in fact not really new. Indeed he joked about Apple’s previous attempt: “You may think, Why should I believe them? They’re the ones who brought me MobileMe.” The audience laughed nervously. “Let me just say it wasn’t our finest hour.” But as he demonstrated iCloud, it was clear that it would be better. Mail, contacts, and calendar entries synced instantly. So did apps, photos, books, and documents. Most impressively, Jobs and Eddy Cue had made deals with the music companies (unlike the folks at Google and Amazon). Apple would have eighteen million songs on its cloud servers. If you had any of these on any of your devices or computers—whether you had bought it legally or pirated it—Apple would let you access a high-quality version of it on all of your devices without having to go through the time and effort to upload it to the cloud. “It all just works,” he said.

That simple concept—that everything would just work seamlessly—was, as always, Apple’s competitive advantage. Microsoft had been advertising “Cloud Power” for more than a year, and three years earlier its chief software architect, the legendary Ray Ozzie, had issued a rallying cry to the company: “Our aspiration is that individuals will only need to license their media once, and use any of their . . . devices to access and enjoy their media.” But Ozzie had quit Microsoft at the end of 2010, and the company’s cloud computing push was never manifested in consumer devices. Amazon and Google both offered cloud services in 2011, but neither company had the ability to integrate the hardware and software and content of a variety of devices. Apple controlled every link in the chain and designed them all to work together: the devices, computers, operating systems, and application software, along with the sale and storage of the content.

Of course, it worked seamlessly only if you were using an Apple device and stayed within Apple’s gated garden. That produced another benefit for Apple: customer stickiness. Once you began using iCloud, it would be difficult to switch to a Kindle or Android device. Your music and other content would not sync to them; in fact they might not even work. It was the culmination of three decades spent eschewing open systems. “We thought about whether we should do a music client for Android,” Jobs told me over breakfast the next morning. “We put iTunes on Windows in order to sell more iPods. But I don’t see an advantage of putting our music app on Android, except to make Android users happy. And I don’t want to make Android users happy.”

A New Campus

When Jobs was thirteen, he had looked up Bill Hewlett in the phone book, called him to score a part he needed for a frequency counter he was trying to build, and ended up getting a summer job at the instruments division of Hewlett-Packard. That same year HP bought some land in Cupertino to expand its calculator division. Wozniak went to work there, and it was on this site that he designed the Apple I and Apple II during his moonlighting hours.

When HP decided in 2010 to abandon its Cupertino campus, which was just about a mile east of Apple’s One Infinite Loop headquarters, Jobs quietly arranged to buy it and the adjoining property. He admired the way that Hewlett and Packard had built a lasting company, and he prided himself on having done the same at Apple. Now he wanted a showcase headquarters, something that no West Coast technology company had. He eventually accumulated 150 acres, much of which had been apricot orchards when he was a boy, and threw himself into what would become a legacy project that combined his passion for design with his passion for creating an enduring company. “I want to leave a signature campus that expresses the values of the company for generations,” he said.

He hired what he considered to be the best architectural firm in the world, that of Sir Norman Foster, which had done smartly engineered buildings such as the restored Reichstag in Berlin and 30 St. Mary Axe in London. Not surprisingly, Jobs got so involved in the planning, both the vision and the details, that it became almost impossible to settle on a final design. This was to be his lasting edifice, and he wanted to get it right. Foster’s firm assigned fifty architects to the team, and every three weeks throughout 2010 they showed Jobs revised models and options. Over and over he would come up with new concepts, sometimes entirely new shapes, and make them restart and provide more alternatives.

When he first showed me the models and plans in his living room, the building was shaped like a huge winding racetrack made of three joined semicircles around a large central courtyard. The walls were floor-to-ceiling glass, and the interior had rows of office pods that allowed the sunlight to stream down the aisles. “It permits serendipitous and fluid meeting spaces,” he said, “and everybody gets to participate in the sunlight.”

The next time he showed me the plans, a month later, we were in Apple’s large conference room across from his office, where a model of the proposed building covered the table. He had made a major change. The pods would all be set back from the windows so that long corridors would be bathed in sun. These would also serve as the common spaces. There was a debate with some of the architects, who wanted to allow the windows to be opened. Jobs had never liked the idea of people being able to open things. “That would just allow people to screw things up,” he declared. On that, as on other details, he prevailed.

When he got home that evening, Jobs showed off the drawings at dinner, and Reed joked that the aerial view reminded him of male genitalia. His father dismissed the comment as reflecting the mind-set of a teenager. But the next day he mentioned the comment to the architects. “Unfortunately, once I’ve told you that, you’re never going to be able to erase that image from your mind,” he said. By the next time I visited, the shape had been changed to a simple circle.

The new design meant that there would not be a straight piece of glass in the building. All would be curved and seamlessly joined. Jobs had long been fascinated with glass, and his experience demanding huge custom panes for Apple’s retail stores made him confident that it would be possible to make massive curved pieces in quantity. The planned center courtyard was eight hundred feet across (more than three typical city blocks, or almost the length of three football fields), and he showed it to me with overlays indicating how it could surround St. Peter’s Square in Rome. One of his lingering memories was of the orchards that had once dominated the area, so he hired a senior arborist from Stanford and decreed that 80% of the property would be landscaped in a natural manner, with six thousand trees. “I asked him to make sure to include a new set of apricot orchards,” Jobs recalled. “You used to see them everywhere, even on the corners, and they’re part of the legacy of this valley.”

By June 2011 the plans for the four-story, three-million-square-foot building, which would hold more than twelve thousand employees, were ready to unveil. He decided to do so in a quiet and unpublicized appearance before the Cupertino City Council on the day after he had announced iCloud at the Worldwide Developers Conference.

Even though he had little energy, he had a full schedule that day. Ron Johnson, who had developed Apple’s stores and run them for more than a decade, had decided to accept an offer to be the CEO of J.C. Penney, and he came by Jobs’s house in the morning to discuss his departure. Then Jobs and I went into Palo Alto to a small yogurt and oatmeal café called Fraiche, where he talked animatedly about possible future Apple products. Later that day he was driven to Santa Clara for the quarterly meeting that Apple had with top Intel executives, where they discussed the possibility of using Intel chips in future mobile devices. That night U2 was playing at the Oakland Coliseum, and Jobs had considered going. Instead he decided to use that evening to show his plans to the Cupertino Council.

Arriving without an entourage or any fanfare, and looking relaxed in the same black sweater he had worn for his developers conference speech, he stood on a podium with clicker in hand and spent twenty minutes showing slides of the design to council members. When a rendering of the sleek, futuristic, perfectly circular building appeared on the screen, he paused and smiled. “It’s like a spaceship has landed,” he said. A few moments later he added, “I think we have a shot at building the best office building in the world.”

The following Friday, Jobs sent an email to a colleague from the distant past, Ann Bowers, the widow of Intel’s cofounder Bob Noyce. She had been Apple’s human resources director and den mother in the early 1980s, in charge of reprimanding Jobs after his tantrums and tending to the wounds of his coworkers. Jobs asked if she would come see him the next day. Bowers happened to be in New York, but she came by his house that Sunday when she returned. By then he was sick again, in pain and without much energy, but he was eager to show her the renderings of the new headquarters. “You should be proud of Apple,” he said. “You should be proud of what we built.”

Then he looked at her and asked, intently, a question that almost floored her: “Tell me, what was I like when I was young?”

Bowers tried to give him an honest answer. “You were very impetuous and very difficult,” she replied. “But your vision was compelling. You told us, ‘The journey is the reward.’ That turned out to be true.”

“Yes,” Jobs answered. “I did learn some things along the way.” Then, a few minutes later, he repeated it, as if to reassure Bowers and himself. “I did learn some things. I really did.”