Steve Wozniak illustration by Charis Tsevis

Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple and the original architect of the Apple I and Apple II computers in the mid-1970s, is a self-proclaimed Android fan (and of course he loves his iPhone, too). He has been quoted as predicting that Android will win smartphone wars (although he hopes Google’s platform will never beat iPad) and was one of the first customers in the United States to get their hands on the Galaxy Nexus handset.

Wozniak visited Bangalore yesterday, a city in south central India and capital of the country’s state of Karnataka, to speak to young entrepreneurs. AS always, everyone’s favorite geek had interesting thoughts to share, particularly on the state of mobile industry today. NDTV.com reported that the Woz likened today’s smartphones to the Apple III, an ill-fated computer of the 1908s that was largely considered a failure in the market:

If the guys at Apple had built the machine that they would love, it would have been successful. It came instead from formulas from Apple executives. Marketing people were in charge and some very bad decisions got made, in my opinion. There were hardware failures. You put out a product that has failures right away, and even if you fix it a year later, it just doesn’t sell. It’s the same thing with any smartphone today. It comes out and it has something horribly wrong about it. You can fix everything wrong about it, and it still won’t sell. It has missed its window of opportunity.

He hasn’t had time to read his copy of the authorized Steve Jobs biography he keeps on his Kindle, iPhone, iPad and computer (plus, he owns a hard cover) and said the death of Steve Jobs was shocking, but not hard emotionally “because we had expected his death for so long”, although Steve being such an important part of his life means he sometimes “tear up”.

He also said this on Apple’s first computer products:

The Apple III was a failure, the LISA was a failure, and the Macintosh was a failure. It was only by modifying the Macintosh hugely and over time that we made it a good computer.

And this on the failure of the Apple III:

If the guys at Apple had built the machine that they would love, it would have been successful. It came instead from formulas from Apple executives. Marketing people were in charge and some very bad decisions got made, in my opinion. There were hardware failures. You put out a product that has failures right away, and even if you fix it a year later, it just doesn’t sell. It’s the same thing with any smartphone today. It comes out and it has something horribly wrong about it. You can fix everything wrong about it, and it still won’t sell. It has missed its window of opportunity. 

According to Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs bio, Wozniak drew upon himself the wrath of Steve Jobs for inventing the universal remote outside the Apple umbrella. Wozniak commented on the remote incident:

That was about the only incident where he treated me like he has treated other people. The reason he did it was because of miscommunication. He thought that I was against him and Apple. I wasn’t. I had made one phone call to John Sculley (the Apple CEO then). All I told him was that during the shareholders’ meeting, the Apple II was not mentioned once. All they talked about was Macintosh, Macintosh, Macintosh! And the people that I worked with were hurt. They felt ignored; they felt that they did not matter. I stood up for people who had been ignored. But later I sat Steve down, and then Apple gave me a nice letter and let me start my own remote control company (CL 9) even when I was with Apple. So I am still with Apple. At a small salary, but I am still with them.

Isaacson shared a similar depiction of events in the biography book:

One Saturday, a few weeks after they had visited Washington together, Jobs went to the new Palo Alto studios of Hartmut Esslinger, whose company frogdesign had moved there to handle its design work for Apple. There he happened to see sketches that the firm had made for Wozniak’s new remote control device, and he flew into a rage. Apple had a clause in its contract that gave it the right to bar frogdesign from working on other computer-related projects, and Jobs invoked it. “I informed them,” he recalled, “that working with Woz wouldn’t be acceptable to us.”

When the Wall Street Journal heard what happened, it got in touch with Wozniak, who, as usual, was open and honest. He said that Jobs was punishing him. “Steve Jobs has a hate for me, probably because of the things I said about Apple,” he told the reporter.

Jobs’s action was remarkably petty, but it was also partly caused by the fact that he understood, in ways that others did not, that the look and style of a product served to brand it. A device that had Wozniak’s name on it and used the same design language as Apple’s products might be mistaken for something that Apple had produced.

“It’s not personal,” Jobs told the newspaper, explaining that he wanted to make sure that Wozniak’s remote wouldn’t look like something made by Apple. “We don’t want to see our design language used on other products. Woz has to find his own resources. He can’t leverage off Apple’s resources; we can’t treat him specially.”

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