Woz worries about iPhone rivals

Apple co-founder talks about growing smartphone market, reflects on Apple's past

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is concerned that Apple's smartphone prowess could be threatened by rival products coming to market.

Speaking at an Avaya event in the San Francisco Bay Area this week, Wozniak said when iPhone first came out, there was nothing like it. But now there are Windows and Google Android phones that are very usable, he said. Rival products are besting iPhone with some features, according to Wozniak: "I worry if that's going to hurt Apple or if Apple's market is different."

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Wozniak, who is chief scientist at flash memory technology vendor Fusion-io, shared some perspectives on contemporary devices while also giving a history lesson on Apple, the company he started in 1976 with the late Steve Jobs. Apple's popular iPad tablet, Wozniak said, lacks the complexities built up in computers over time; it is a safe buy. "Only one program can run at a time, just like an Apple II," he notes.

He also sees the rise of videoconferencing. "Now, we're ready for video everywhere." (Avaya offers videoconferencing technologies.)

Reflecting on the early days of Microsoft and Apple, Wozniak said Jobs had viewed Microsoft as a company that could write software for Apple's products: "He thought that Bill Gates knew that the future was the Macintosh way." But Jobs viewed Gates as "really less of a person" for sticking to low-cost PCs, Wozniak said. The Macintosh, with its memory requirements, was always going to cost more than PCs and never did get the big market share, Wozniak recalled. The Macintosh "failed real heavily at the start," he said. Its ill-fated, expensive predecessor, the Lisa, meanwhile, "was the first machine with a mouse," Wozniak said.

Wozniak also gave credit to investor Mike Markkula as the third partner of Apple. "Mike Markkula really's the one that really made Apple the great success that it was more than anyone else." While HP, where Wozniak had worked, was an engineering-driven company, Markkula determined Apple would be marketing-driven, Wozniak said.

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