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The Way It Woz: Steve Wozniak on All Things Apple

Apple and Beyond


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by Joanna Stern on January 28, 2008

way_it_woz_shIt's been more than three decades since Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs formed Apple Computer, where "the Woz" brought the Apple I and II to life, and where he played a critical role in bringing the original Macintosh to market. He's considered one of the most influential people in the history of personal computing, and his passion for producing easy-to-use software is still very much a part of Apple's DNA. On the eve of the Leopard launch, we asked Wozniak whether Apple was staying true to its roots and what innovations he'd like to see become a reality.
 
LAPTOP: How are you keeping busy these days?
Steve Wozniak:
I've been doing various levels of volunteer work on local nonprofit boards. I also do regular speaking engagements around the world about my experience. I started a financial type company with a couple Apple executives, and we acquired a chip maker in Southern California. And we are called Jazz Technologies. At this point I haven't taken a role yet and am trying to figure out what part I will play.
 
L: Will you be switching to Leopard? Have you tried Vista?
Steve Wozniak: Yes, I will [switch to Leopard], the first day it comes out. I really don't know anything about it; I like to be surprised when I first play around with it. No, I haven't tried Vista. I bought Parallels, but I didn't install it. I don't have any desire to try out Vista and haven't seen the need to yet. 
 
LAPTOP: You were recently quoted as saying that a lot of the intuitiveness had gone away from Apple's programs. Do you think Leopard might change that?
SW:
Early on with the first Apples, we had these dreams that the computer would let you know what you wanted to do. The idea was that little icons or words would suggest what you wanted to do, but now I have to find my way around to odd little icons that aren't positioned in the prominent places. When conducting a common task, I have to go searching around in folders or the bottom of the screen. I don't think any of it will be solved with Leopard because I don't think there is incentive to. They want to make things easy, and if it seems easy and it can be demonstrated quickly then it's okay. The real dreams of how it will work for someone who knows nothing about the computer have been lost and don't get addressed anymore.
 
L: What about the aesthetic appeal of the OS?
SW:
I don't think it makes it easier or harder. I think it's just more fun.
 
L: Do you think Linux has a lot of potential?
SW:
I don't think it's going to make a big mark. The masses of users aren't going to be going that way. You have to be in a geeky crowd to take advantage of that. You have to be an expert, and not everyone is an expert. In my mind, it's very idealistic people, but most people want to take it easy.
 
L: Mac's notebook market share has climbed as high as 8.8 percent in the U.S. How much higher do you think it can go?
SW:
I think Macintosh has a lot higher market share than it's ever credited for. I think normal people who buy and use computers on their own choose Macs. It's close to a 50/50 split in my mind. It's businesses that are buying thousands of Microsoft PCs, and there are tons of countries where Apple isn't sold at all.
 
L: Do you think Leopard will provide a boost?
SW:
I don't think any operating system, despite all its promises, is what sells a computer nowadays. I think OS changes are just done to keep your loyal people happy. Learning an entirely new operating system is something no one wants to do. You get stuck on a platform, and you don't want to start learning a whole new computer system.
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