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In the final pages of her heartbreaking memoir about her childhood, Small Fry, Lisa Brennan-Jobs addresses head on one of the central unanswered questions about her accomplished, famous and appallingly cruel father, Steve Jobs. “When people speak and write about my father’s meanness, they sometimes assume that meanness is linked to genius,” she writes. It’s a variation of the “asshole” hypothesis so many in Silicon Valley posit all the time: Is it necessary to be an asshole, like Steve Jobs was, to achieve greatness?
Brennan-Jobs, who devotes perhaps one page out of nearly 400 to her father’s business affairs, has come to her own conclusion. “Maybe the meanness protected the part that created—so that acting mean to approximate genius is as foolish as trying to be successful by copying his lisp or his walk” or other Jobsian mannerisms.
This is a haunting book. Apologists for Steve Jobs tend to talk about his charisma, his great charm, his uncanny ability to be right. They tend to dismiss or change the subject from his dark side. His eldest child, whose paternity he denied before being compelled in court to accept, sees the good in him, too. But her patient, beautifully written account of how he treated her from a young age almost to the day he died is blot on his reputation. No parent or sibling or child can read this book and not come away empathizing with its author and reviling the character around whom her story revolves.
If your goal in reading books is to be a better manager or spot future trends or to understand Apple’s secrets, this is the wrong book for you. If, on the other hand, you want to gain insight into the man whose company revolutionized industries even as he played the ogre to a defenseless child, I highly recommend it.
Speaking of Apple, The Wall Street Journal had a good piece of insight over the weekend, explaining how Apple’s geographic expansion last week neatly informs its ongoing strategy of offering services, higher-priced phones, and original content. The paper wrote: “Culver City gives Apple a Hollywood home base as it pushes into video programming. Seattle is a machine-learning hub where it can develop algorithms that personalize streaming-music playlists and improve Siri. San Diego and Austin offer semiconductor engineers who can advance the customized-chip efforts that help Apple wring more money out of its iPhones, iPads, and Macs.”
I also recommend The Journal’s tour de force explanation of GE’s demise under Jeff Immelt. The article nicely builds out the angle Fortune’s Geoff Colvin explored recently in his piece about the travails of activist investor Nelson Peltz in owning GE’s stock. The reading public will get even more on this subject. Financial journalist, and sometimes Fortune contributor, William Cohan, recently signed a deal to write a book on the rise and fall of GE.
I can see you now. A bug in the code for Facebook’s photo sharing feature exposed to third-party developers almost 7 million pictures that users had not shared, the company admitted on Friday. The potential privacy violation occurred between September 13 and September 25. Meanwhile, researchers on Tencent’s Blade security team found a vulnerability in the open source SQLite database software that could have allowed hackers to run malicious code. SQLite is used by many apps and smart, connected devices, including the Google Home. A patch was issued on December 1.
Bumpy ride. The price of Apple’s stock slumped another 3% on Friday, following a report by influential analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that the company will seller fewer iPhones than he expected. Apple shares peaked at an all-time midday trading high of $233.47 in early October, but have since fallen 29%.
My complication had a little complication. Free stock trading app startup Robinhood delayed its plan for new checking and savings accounts that pay 3% interest. The company admitted it had not worked closely enough with its regulator, the Securities Investor Protection Corp., and needed more time to “revamp” the offerings.
Anything you can do, I can do better. After Amazon and Apple announced major office expansions, Google on Monday said it would spend $1 billion building a new campus in New York City’s West Village of Manhattan. The move follows Google’s major investments in the city, as it previously spent $1.8 billion for a building on Eighth Avenue and $2.4 billion for Chelsea Market.
Clever girl. Security improves and hackers evolve to defeat it. A group working for the Iranian government targeted U.S. government employees with a sophisticated phishing attack designed to get around the protection of two-factor authentication. The hackers were alerted in real time when a potential victim was logging on, allowing them to capture the user’s password and then prompt for the needed six digit 2FA code using another bogus login screen.
The not paying attention economy. Confirming what you already suspected about watching TV in the modern era, a study by Nielsen found 45% of viewers “very often” or “always” simultaneously used a digital device while watching TV. Of course, that report is about standard TV viewing. Research firm Sensor Tower estimated which apps brought in the most for Apple this year and six of the top 10 are for watching video, including #1 Netflix and #2 Tencent Video.
RIP. Colin Kroll, the co-founder and CEO of HQ Trivia, was found dead in his New York apartment on Sunday of a suspected drug overdose. Kroll, who was 34, was also the co-founder of short video service Vine.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Meditation has grown into a $1 billion industry, with perhaps the fastest growing segment among smartphone users who pay subscription fees for mindfulness apps. In the Wall Street Journal, reporter Hilary Potkewitz digs into the app battle by getting behind the scenes of the two fierce rivals and market leaders: Headspace and Calm. Headspace has aimed at the corporate market, while Calm has focused on individual users. Headspace’s chief business officer Ross Hoffman explains:
“We’re just fishing where the fish are,” Mr. Hoffman says. Over the past 18 months, he has signed deals with more than 300 companies to integrate Headspace subscriptions into their employee health and wellness benefits, including Unilever, Adobe, Genentech, and LinkedIn. Last March, Headspace announced a deal with the National Basketball Association to become the league’s official mediation and mindfulness partner. It involves branded content, promotions and about 7,000 subscriptions for players and staff, but no money exchanged hands, Headspace says.
Calm has largely ignored the business market, declining most corporate requests until recently, when some major companies started calling. Calm executives say such deals don’t add substantial revenue. Corporations typically negotiate bulk purchasing discounts of up to 50% off standard subscription fees. “Calm has managed to overtake Headspace because they’ve been laser-focused without getting distracted by the types of vanity partnerships, like with sports teams, that look good in the press but don’t move the needle,” says Harley Miller, principal at Insight Venture Partners, a Calm investor.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Apple Watch Series 4 Review: A Healthy Future By Aaron Pressman
The Future of Drones Might Involve Bees By Veronica Neto
The Late Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen’s Health Care Legacy By Sy Mukherjee
BEFORE YOU GO
In one of the cutest stories of the year, Rocco, an African Grey Parrot who lives in Berkshire, England, has been trying to use its owner’s Alexa to order items from Amazon like strawberries and a kite. None of the orders went through, thanks to the device’s parental control feature. But Rocco also asked Alexa to play him songs and tell jokes.