Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has set off on his Woz Live tour across Australia and New Zealand, revealing why Steve Jobs liked secrecy, why he thinks computers should be able to interact with humans, how he feels about leaving Apple and what he knows about the iPhone 5.
Speaking at the Sydney session of the tour on Monday, Wozniak talked about where he believes true innovation is found: “Innovation comes from brain power; it comes from having smart people around. It doesn’t come from just cranking a wheel.”
“Mobiles have changed my life in ways I wouldn’t have expected,” said Woznaik. “I used to teach kids in school: “You’re in a science fair, think of something at home you could make better.” Sometimes those apps catch on, they go viral, and all of a sudden millions of people are using it. That’s a great area for innovation.”
Wozniak believes that the key to coming up with an innovative new product is to begin with engineers. “It’s always better to start with some great engineers who are inspired to build things.”
“Then there’s the engineer that’s special, like an inventor Those types take risks. When I came up with the colour formula to deliver colour with a $1 chip, it was very risk taking. Would it work? It had never been in a book,” Wozniak continued.
Apple is known for innovative products, said Wozniak. “All I brought was a good company that had a culture of doing things different, and also being delightful and entertaining to the consumer. It started out with Soundjam (which became iTunes), iPod went so easily with it.”
Wozniak revealed that there were lots of trials involved in the making of products, all of which took place in secrecy. “Steve Jobs kept a lot of products secret when he returned. If everyone knows what you’re doing it makes you scared.”
“Now the iPod wasn’t let out until it was so obvious that this was an extreme step different to everyone else’s music player,” he said.
“People like things that are easy. With iPhone, the secrecy allowed us a lot of ways to look at it. Apple developed other phones, for 6 years, but the problem is, they just didn’t have that special gleam,” said Wozniak. “That’s what lead Apple to finally recognising that once we’ve solved the problems with the iPhone, we had a product that the world had never expected to see.”
Wozniak said that when they first started Apple, “Steve Jobs was worried that the big companies will jump on us. They’ve got more resources.”
He says that they came to realise: “if our people are smart they can do just as good a job. If you start out early and do a good job and get a good market share, you’ll grow and maintain your percentage as you grow.”
Wozniak, who taught 10 to 11 year olds for eight years, emphasised the importance of technology in education. “Students should love the tools that will allow them to get places. The modern tool is the computer. Some kids fall in love with it and have to be on it all day long. They’re the wacko kids who will wind up starting Facebook. Every student of mine had to have a laptop so they could take it with them, it had to become part of their body.”
He believes that the future could be see computers that are able to process human interactions. “What if the computer could be a teacher. It’s so inexpensive, we could have 30 teachers in a classroom. The kids haven’t taken to the computer the way they take to a teacher. Why? Because a computer isn’t human, personable, it doesn’t feel. In the future I hope we get to the state where the computers are conscious, they understand us.”
Wozniak thinks that the future is in voice technology. “I speak to my phone so many times. But so often it won’t understand me. That’s going to be improved in the future. If I had a son going into computer science right now, I’d say go into voice. That would be an area to explore for the innovative future.”
In a question and answer session that took place after Wozniak’s presentation in Sydney, the Apple co-founder said: “I like a lot of the openness in Facebook and Google, and Apple makes it difficult to get into (things like) calendars. I think Apple could be just as strong and good and be open.”
“I’d like a programming language like Applescript on my iPad, but no, no no. There are a lot of things about the closed-ness of Apple I don’t like, and wouldn’t do myself. But obviously there’s a lot of quality to the products. If making it open wouldn’t make the quality the same we want to make it, I’d say keep it closed,” he said.
When asked about the iPhone 5, Wozniak said: “I could tell you about iPhone 5, but i’d have to kill you.”
Wozniak said that he carries two iPhones on different carriers, just in case the battery runs out.
He also says that he switches back and forth between Android, iPhone and Windows phone. “I’ll use the iPhone for voice, but Android for navigation, because the iPhone doesn’t do that right yet. With Windows Phone 7, I really just admire its visual beauty. It’s like what Apple does. I think somebody went to Microsoft from Apple. I think Steve Jobs might have been reincarnated there.”
“I’m confident in Apple’s ability to introduce new products that fit into your life,” said Wozniak. “Lots of devices could have never been done well enough. I would hope Apple would get into navigation. Think about what TV is like. Apple’s in a very good stance to grow from.”
“The worst thing [for Apple] would be if you looked at them and thought “this is not Apple quality – Apple is losing that Shine,” Wozniak warned. “Apple’s got to be very careful to keep the best appearance.”
When asked whether he regrets leaving Apple when he did, Wozniak replied: “I judge my life not by Apple’s success, not by the amounts of money we made. When I was 20 I had formulas for happiness, I didn’t need any of that. I do a little bit miss out on being on the spot for iProducts because they were exciting, but as a consumer I can get that.”
“I left Apple, did a degree under an assumed name – Rocky Racoon Clark – and I love startups; I love what we were at Apple when there were three or four of us. So I left Apple to start up the first universal remote control company. The big company thing isn’t for me. I’ll be an engineer forever,” he concluded.