Wozniak: iPhone biggest disruptor of mobile biz

16th Oct 2008 | 09:42

Wozniak: iPhone biggest disruptor of mobile biz

Apple co-founder on one of the biggest products of all time

Steve Wozniak – or 'Woz' as he is affectionately known – is the cofounder of Apple and creator of the Apple II, one of the most successful, visible and earliest personal computers ever made. He's still technically an employee at Apple, but he's now best known for supporting and championing new technologies, either directly or through Acquicor, the company he co-founded with Apple alumni Gil Amelio and Ellen Hancock.

Is the iPhone as important a device as the hype suggests?

"Importance of a consumer electronics product is more related to its acceptance and sales as anything else. In addition to strong worldwide sales for such an advanced phone, the iPhone has been the biggest disruptor of the cell phone business in recent times. It sets the bar for features and user interface in a market where even the tiniest of advantages can spell success versus failure. The iPhone does not do everything, but what it does, it does superbly and is very easy to use – as sophisticated cell phones go – and leaves the user with a sense of satisfaction, of happiness. It is one of those products that you come to love as a part of yourself. You bet that's important."

What will the iPhone's place in the market be in five years?

"Consumer electronics markets can overturn in a shorter time than five years. I'm trying to remember if the Motorola RAZR has even been around five years. Since Steve Jobs's return, Apple has shown that it only wants to market products that will have a long life. iPhone is a brand now in addition to the brand 'Apple', and even if Apple comes out with much better or different approaches to cell phone-based tools, the label 'iPhone' would surely be used. It's not easy for any company, and not something they get a chance to do often, as to create such a strong brand."

Which features is the iPhone missing, and which do you never use?

"I have been a gadget collector and I like to find different approaches and features of many products, including cell phones. Hence, I have a long list of useful features that are left off the iPhone. But the ultimate selection must be done by one small group, preferably one person, to keep consistency. Otherwise bloat occurs and everyone remarks that it was designed by a committee and doesn't have one consistent look and feel. Based on this, I'm not sure I want any of these features I like in the iPhone without a lot of consideration and testing as to whether they belong in this unique product.

"I have made extensive use of turbo dial and auto-answer (when on Bluetooth) with other phones. I have enjoyed the concept of profiles, whereby I can have different ringer settings when plugged in and different ones when using Bluetooth. I like fuller Bluetooth, as I have had such things as stereo Bluetooth headphones for some time. I like to access the file system of phones simply by plugging it into USB. I like to control computer programs with my phone, but this usually involves controlling it while in bed with my eyes shut, and that would not apply to the iPhone touchscreen.

"I like BlackBerry-like scroll wheels with a select button. This is like having a keyboard in addition to a mouse. All the time I take movies with my cell phones. I carry spare batteries for cell phones and cameras; why not the iPhone? I have tethered my computer to my cell phones since the early analog cell phones. This puts my computer on the internet wherever I am. I consider the most valuable computer accessory of my life to be my Verizon card, which saves me in hotel after hotel and many other places, even on the road.

"Still, all of these things can be done without. I can fortunately afford other cell phones, so I use whichever phone best fits the task I have going at any time. In some cases, the iPhone is the best, like for internet browsing and email and texting. But since I have a laptop, I tend to wait until I'm near the big screen and keyboard for even those things.

"If I could have only one cell phone then, hands down, it would be the iPhone."

How has the iPhone changed the way you engage with your mobile?

"I'm not sure what this question is. I have a constantly-travelling life. Sometimes in airports it's nice to check for email or look something up on the web. But my main internet life is rather huge and I prefer my laptop. I also don't want to be one of those people who constantly pulls out their phone to check email during lunches and dinners. That's as rude as taking a bunch of calls. We go through stages and I predict that those who do this sort of thing will stop after a while, except for a few diehards who only hang around techies like themselves."

What can Apple do to maintain the iPhone's momentum?

"Keep the iPhone features and model selections from getting out of hand. Feature bloat is worse than missing features. It's a matter of fine-tuning the markets more than anything else. Invisible improvements in speed, memory size, screen quality, battery life and the like are important. Marketing can study where certain problems inhibit large numbers of people and then get improvements implemented in applications like in the browser with Flash, for example."

What will be its lasting legacy?

"One of the big hit products of all time. A product that is like another entire company within Apple."

Is the iPhone Newton 2.0?

"I never once thought that, and I loved my MessagePads. It's odd you would ask that but I used to love carrying my Newton and taking notes, in addition to many other things. On the Newton I would type a phrase the way my brain thought of it, like 'Sara dentist Tuesday 2 PM' and the Newton would open the calendar and make the entry. The iPhone is more structured (left brainish?) with apps you have to run and procedures to follow to get things like this entered. On the Newton I would hand-write 'call Jim' and it would emit the touch tones to phone Jim. I miss the dreams of computing equipment that the Newton brought to me."

Is the iPhone as revolutionary as the Apple II?

"No. I hate to say that but I'm an engineer in my heart and have to tell the truth. The Apple II brought the concept of computing equipment in the home to all of us. It was like something that never existed, and almost every new hardware and software app changed our view of the world and shocked and amazed us. There was a revolution going on.

"The iPhone is more an example of creating the most excellent product in a market that existed. It didn't do new things, it just did them better.

"After some time it may be possible to look back and see that the iPhone really made smartphones go for people. The Model T was not the first car but it was key to the driving revolution. The Apple II compares to the Model T but, because the cell phone and smartphone markets were already huge, the word 'revolutionary' is harder to apply to the iPhone. Clearly the iPhone is a major step, but we forget many such major steps."

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