Inside Steve's Brain, a book about Steve Jobs written by Leander Kahney, is a fascinating look at the thought processes and inspiration behind Apple's products and branding. It has a particular and much welcome focus on the current era - iPod/iTunes, the latest iMacs, the Apple Store and more. The central theme of the book is that much of Apple's success can be attributed to the personality traits of co-founder and current CEO Steve Jobs.

His perfectionism, design sensibility, need to control, elitism, narcissism. All of these things and more have shaped Apple into the market leader in 'digital lifestyle' tech products, as well as made Apple into a brand that is much loved.

This book has a lot of business lessons in it for budding startup entrepreneurs, so for that reason alone I recommend it to our readers. For example when Steve Jobs returned as Apple CEO in the 90's, one of the first things he did was cut down the number of products Apple had - from around 40, to just 4. The book describes how Jobs went about simplifying Apple's brand and focusing in on the key products that consumers wanted. This is something a lot of startups and media companies would do well to emulate.

Also compelling are the stories behind the phenomenal success of the candy-colored iMacs, the iPod, the Apple Store, and other Apple products of this era. I'd read much of this before in media articles and the like, but Kahney does a great job of bringing all those stories together in one book, while adding new quotes and commentary from key Apple staff members. For example on the Apple Store:

"We said, we want our stores to create an ownership experience for the customer," explained (Apple's Ron) Johnson. The store should be about the lifetime of the product, not the moment of the transaction.

Leander Kahney obviously knows his stuff when it comes to Apple. He is a news editor for Wired.com and the main author of the Cult of Mac blog. He previously wrote two other Apple books, The Cult of Mac and The Cult of iPod. I may have browsed through one or both of those books before, but Inside Steve's Brain is a more memorable look at the person behind much of Apple's success today. I highly recommend it, even if you're not an Apple user.

On that note, here's my story about my Mac conversion...

I didn't become a passionate Machead until the last couple of years. I had used Apple products in the 80's and 90's (my primary computer in my Uni years in the early 90's was a Macintosh). But I have always been a bit wary about Apple's hip factor and the cult-like behavior of its more rabid fans. And yes, I am one of those people who finds 'The Mac Guy' in the current TV ads just a little too smug (I feel a bit sorry for Windows Guy, who is actually far more like the typical nerds that I know and love). However I've came around to being a Mac Guy. I currently use a Macbook as my main computer, and I am going to buy an iMac next; I have a couple of iPods, I use iTunes, I visit Apple Stores whenever I'm in America, and of course I am a huge fan and fervent user of the iPhone. I will probably even buy an Apple TV in the near future - and then the Digital Lifestyle will be almost exclusively Apple for me!

It's hard to ignore Apple products when they are so beautifully designed, simple to use, ground-breaking (e.g. iPhone), highly functional, and (yes) hip! If you want to know the reasons behind all that, this book provides excellent insights.

Are you an Apple user? If so what's your story?