Peter Nowak: What Apple co-founder actually said [MP3 audio]

By AUDIO: Click on link at end of page

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has posted a statement online [see link below] in which he denied some of the comments attributed to him in an article I wrote recently.

In that statement, he suggests that I pushed him to make some of those comments, that I had an agenda in interviewing him, and that he feels used.

I find Mr Wozniak's response shocking as it is a serious attack – not only on my credibility, but also on that of the press in general. My only agenda in interviewing Mr Wozniak was to get his honestly-held thoughts on current events in technology, particularly in respect to the company he helped build.

Mr Wozniak did indeed make all the comments attributed to him, and he certainly was not pushed or used to accomplish any agenda, because one did not exist. I asked very open-ended questions – what was his opinion on Apple switching to Intel, what did he think about iPods, and where did he think Microsoft was heading? If anything, Mr. Wozniak steered the interview; any other questions I asked arose from where he took the conversation.

We are posting verbatim transcripts of the relevant sections of the interview, as well as an audio recording of the full interview, so that readers and listeners can decide for themselves whether Mr Wozniak was pushed or used.

I recommend listening to the audio to hear the full context, flow and nuance of the conversation.

Verbatim extract from interview:

Q: So there are two interesting things going on with Apple these days. First is the switch to Intel processors. What do you think about that?

A: Even from when it was first announced, I was kind of bored with it. The reasoning for it was correct. We want faster laptops and the like and the key to that is performance per watt. So it was exactly to a computer architect designer... I wish that Motorola had a brand new silicon process that would be applied forever, like IBM had copper to get higher speeds at lower power. No, Intel just did a very good logic design to not turn on more than needed at any time on the chip and it keeps the power lower, so we'll have higher-speed Macintoshs. And we switched before to a Power PC. Anyone who went through that transition of going from one processor to another with emulators to make the old stuff work, this one actually should be simpler and easier because we've developed for so long on Intel hardware anyway.

Q: Do you think on a philosophical level though there's a good many people out there who think, oh I can't believe Apple has switched to Intel, it's kind of like consorting with the enemy?

A: Absolutely. And you said it exactly right, it's like consorting with the enemy. We have had this long, long history of saying the enemy is the big black-hatted guys, they kind of represent evil, and we are different and by being different we're better. All of a sudden we're the same in this hardware regard, it's a little hard to swallow your own words from the past. And if it wasn't needed, I would say we shouldn't do it, and I have some questions as to how much it's needed. But I don't really have any fears or it's not going to bother me that some software isn't going to work for a while. I mean, anybody who jumps into it real early still has their old computer anyway.

Q: The other thing with Apple these days is what about iPods? Obviously they have a growing importance in the business, what do you think about the whole phenomenon?

A: That one totally surprises me. I'm just blown away by the number of stores I go into that never really carried big consumer electronics, music-type products for ages anyway, since Walkmans. And they just got these huge areas of you know, so many little carrying cases and headsets and this entire iPod auxiliary world. It just totally amazes me, and now it's getting to the point that everybody has an iPod and how do you sell them two, and once they have two how do you sell them three?

Q: Is it a good move for the company to be putting more emphasis on that aspect of the business?

A: It's a good move in the sense that it's ... not diversion. What do you call it when you put your eggs in more than one basket?

Q: Diversity?

A: Diversity, right. So diversification that the company no longer resides on one product, its fortunes with up and down markets and up and down competition and security flaws and bad press, we aren't subject to one product driving the whole company's financial stake. So it's very, very good for Apple. Maybe it should be a separate division.

Q: You think so?

A: We're a computer company, we really think computers. Of course every product nowadays has a computer inside every technical product, so it's not too hard. I think spinning off a separate division for iPods makes an awful lot of sense.

Q: In what sense?

A: It doesn't have any Macintosh software in it really, it interfaces with the Macintosh's iTunes, and the PC iTunes, but really it's got its own processor, its own operating system, so there's a different group working on it anyway. And how far does it go that you need that much closeness to a computer company? Look, it's the majority of our revenues now, or a majority of our profit - I'm not exactly certain - the iPod is so important to Apple but that's the first product we've had that really sells in mass to PC owners because it's the best. For a long time, we Macintosh users knew we had the best music program, it was called Soundjam and then it diverged into iTunes. And we just knew we had one that was so good, and this one brought even that technology into the PC world. Also, as an example, Apple has long, long believed we should be a hardware and software company, and I've got to say there's a lot of people - myself, even Steve Jobs - have had doubts on occasion as to how we should run this, but by being a hardware and software company we have the integration - the hardware knows about the software, the software knows about the hardware, and they take advantage of each other. The funny thing is, we even did that back in the Apple II.

So here we go, we got the iPod and the iTunes - it's a satellite to your computer. Only by one company having their feet in both camps could the job have been done so well.

Q: So wait a minute, doesn't that contradict what you said earlier, that they should be separate divisions? If they're working together so well, isn't that a good reason for no division?

A: I think for the initial model of the iPod, that thinking applies, but at this point the iPod is more an ongoing, incrementally improve it. I think it's getting time to spin it out. In other words, we're not doing very new, very radical things.

Q: So when you say divide it, are you suggesting perhaps a separate public company that deals with iPods in and of itself?

A: You know, I wouldn't go so far as to suggest how it's spun out, but one thing I believe... at Hewlett-Packard, we had divisions out in very many, different, nice-environment cities of the country - Colorado Springs, Santa Rosa, you know, we had some up in Portland. These divisions all kind of had their nice little living entity areas, and it makes the people work together more as a family, as a community. I believe in that, and Apple's [unknown word - world, perhaps] development is in one campus. This is the only time we've had two such huge products at once, so maybe one should be somewhere else. Even when we had Apple IIs and Macintoshs, the two groups weren't in the same building. The two groups didn't really interface.

Q: Interestingly, with the mention of iTunes and the iTunes store, and also now that you're getting into selling the videos, it's just a whole distribution model. That's an entirely different business too, isn't it?

A: Extremely, but it kind of ties in too with the philosophy of using the internet to help us do things we want to do in our life, not just giving it to us as a tool to figure out what we can do and what we must do with it, but giving us the final solution via the internet. That goes along with eventually we're going to put more and more of our bandwidth increases too... our apps will be out there on some computer on the internet, somewhere in the world. We'll store our photographs out there and we'll finally trust it like a bank some day.


Q: A couple quick questions about some of the other guys, some of the other tech guys going around, Microsoft and Google specifically. What do you think of their moves? Let's talk about Microsoft first, where are they going?

A: I think that Microsoft wants to get out of the whole image of the big, black Darth Vader evil guy. Innovation is probably going on within the company, because anytime you put smart engineers in places, eventually they wind up talking and innovating no matter how you try to hold them back. It's funny that Apple so often finds the way to introduce new technologies to get them to the masses even before Microsoft does. I hope Microsoft improves and becomes more like Apple.

Q: I read something the other day that Bill Gates was promising a rival to the iPod. Do you think they'll ever do something about that?

A: If they do it, they'd better do it excellent, excellent, excellent because the iPod sure is. Doing something weaker and somehow trying to use your big size and market power - of course they've been in trouble with the Justice Department for that - that's just not good if you don't turn out something superior.


The interview begins with a discussion of Mr Wozniak's visit to New Zealand to play Segway polo...

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