But by July 2011, his cancer had spread to his bones and other parts of his body, and his doctors were having trouble finding targeted drugs that could beat it back. He was in pain, sleeping erratically, had little energy, and stopped going to work. He and Powell had reserved a sailboat for a family cruise scheduled for the end of that month, but those plans were scuttled. He was eating almost no solid food, and he spent most of his days in his bedroom watching television.
In August, I got a message that he wanted me to come visit. When I arrived at his house, at mid-morning on a Saturday, he was still asleep, so I sat with his wife and kids in the garden, filled with a profusion of yellow roses and various types of daisies, until he sent word that I should come in. I found him curled up on the bed, wearing khaki shorts and a white turtleneck. His legs were shockingly sticklike, but his smile was easy and his mind quick. “We better hurry, because I have very little energy,” he said.
He wanted to show me some of his personal pictures and let me pick a few to use in the book. Because he was too weak to get out of bed, he pointed to various drawers in the room, and I carefully brought him the photographs in each. As I sat on the side of the bed, I held them up, one at a time, so he could see them. Some prompted stories; others merely elicited a grunt or a smile. I had never seen a picture of his father, Paul Jobs, and I was startled when I came across a snapshot of a handsome hardscrabble 1950s dad holding a toddler. “Yes, that’s him,” he said. “You can use it.” He then pointed to a box near the window that contained a picture of his father looking at him lovingly at his wedding. “He was a great man,” Jobs said quietly. I murmured something along the lines of “He would have been proud of you.” Jobs corrected me: “He was proud of me.”
For a while, the pictures seemed to energize him. We discussed what various people from his past, ranging from Tina Redse to Mike Markkula to Bill Gates, now thought of him. I recounted what Gates had said after he described his last visit with Jobs, which was that Apple had shown that the integrated approach could work, but only “when Steve is at the helm.” Jobs thought that was silly. “Anyone could make better products that way, not just me,” he said. So I asked him to name another company that made great products by insisting on end-to-end integration. He thought for a while, trying to come up with an example. “The car companies,” he finally said, but then he added, “Or at least they used to.”
When our discussion turned to the sorry state of the economy and politics, he offered a few sharp opinions about the lack of strong leadership around the world. “I’m disappointed in Obama,” he said. “He’s having trouble leading because he’s reluctant to offend people or piss them off.” He caught what I was thinking and assented with a little smile: “Yes, that’s not a problem I ever had.”
After two hours, he grew quiet, so I got off the bed and started to leave. “Wait,” he said, as he waved to me to sit back down. It took a minute or two for him to regain enough energy to talk. “I had a lot of trepidation about this project,” he finally said, referring to his decision to cooperate with this book. “I was really worried.”
“Why did you do it?” I asked.
“I wanted my kids to know me,” he said. “I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did. Also, when I got sick, I realized other people would write about me if I died, and they wouldn’t know anything. They’d get it all wrong. So I wanted to make sure someone heard what I had to say.”
He had never, in two years, asked anything about what I was putting in the book or what conclusions I had drawn. But now he looked at me and said, “I know there will be a lot in your book I won’t like.” It was more a question than a statement, and when he stared at me for a response, I nodded, smiled, and said I was sure that would be true. “That’s good,” he said. “Then it won’t seem like an in-house book. I won’t read it for a while, because I don’t want to get mad. Maybe I will read it in a year—if I’m still around.” By then, his eyes were closed and his energy gone, so I quietly took my leave.
As his health deteriorated throughout the summer, Jobs slowly began to face the inevitable: He would not be returning to Apple as CEO. So it was time for him to resign. He wrestled with the decision for weeks, discussing it with his wife, Bill Campbell, Jony Ive, and George Riley. “One of the things I wanted to do for Apple was to set an example of how you do a transfer of power right,” he told me. He joked about all the rough transitions that had occurred at the company over the past thirty-five years. “It’s always been a drama, like a third-world country. Part of my goal has been to make Apple the world’s best company, and having an orderly transition is key to that.”
The best time and place to make the transition, he decided, was at the company’s regularly scheduled August 24 board meeting. He was eager to do it in person, rather than merely send in a letter or attend by phone, so he had been pushing himself to eat and regain strength. The day before the meeting, he decided he could make it, but he needed the help of a wheelchair. Arrangements were made to have him driven to headquarters and wheeled to the boardroom as secretly as possible.
He arrived just before 11 a.m., when the board members were finishing committee reports and other routine business. Most knew what was about to happen. But instead of going right to the topic on everyone’s mind, Tim Cook and Peter Oppenheimer, the chief financial officer, went through the results for the quarter and the projections for the year ahead. Then Jobs said quietly that he had something personal to say. Cook asked if he and the other top managers should leave, and Jobs paused for more than thirty seconds before he decided they should. Once the room was cleared of all but the six outside directors, he began to read aloud from a letter he had dictated and revised over the previous weeks. “I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know,” it began. “Unfortunately, that day has come.”
The letter was simple, direct, and only eight sentences long. In it he suggested that Cook replace him, and he offered to serve as chairman of the board. “I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.”