June 21, 2013

Ahead of its August 16th opening, the creators of the “Jobs” biopic starring Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs have released the first official trailer (via MR). The trailer gives a peak at the film, demonstrating that the movie will cover early Apple with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to Steve Jobs’s departure to Steve Jobs’s return in the 1990s. Earlier this year, the film premiered to a small audience which gave the movie mixed reviews. Following this, the film was delayed from its original April opening date. Below is another clip from the film (from January):

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January 17, 2013

December 3, 2012

Screen Shot 2012-12-03 at 9.25.23 PM

Sundance Film Festival announced this afternoon that the Steve Jobs biopic, titled “jOBS”, starring famed-actor Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs, would premiere at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival this January.

As we previously covered, the biopic will look at the early founding and 30 years of Apple, while centered on the late co-founder Steve Jobs. Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak will make an appearance in the film, played by Josh Gad, and former CEO and cofounder John Sculley will make an appearance, played by Matthew Modine. Scenes in the movie were also filmed in the “historic garage” where Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple. The film’s early scenes will even feature Jobs’ Los Altos home where he grew up to maintain “accuracy and authenticity” during the movie-making process, as the film makers revealed in the summer.

The 2013 Sundance Film Festival will run from Jan. 17 to Jan. 27, and “jOBS” will get the honor of being the festival’s closing film on Jan. 27, as Hollywood Reporter first noted. It is not clear whether it will air thus after.

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June 25, 2012

Apple retail employees cheering ahead of third-generation iPad launch (SJMN)

Over the weekend, The New York Times profiled Apple’s retail operations and controversially touched upon Apple’s retail employees. The profile put out a simple, yet controversial, statement about the wages given to those who act as ushers for turning people into new Apple customers and product advocates:

About 30,000 of the 43,000 Apple employees in this country work in Apple Stores, as members of the service economy, and many of them earn about $25,000 a year. They work inside the world’s fastest growing industry, for the most valuable company, run by one of the country’s most richly compensated chief executives, Tim Cook. Last year, he received stock grants, which vest over a 10-year period, that at today’s share price would be worth more than $570 million.

The NYT goes on to say that each employee, while making an average of $25,000 a year, nets Apple approximately $473,000 per year. With the profile and the above statements in mind, we polled several current and some former Apple retail employees about their thoughts on the profile. We provided a few guiding questions that many of the employees used to compile their answers. Some employees defend the NYT’s article, and some completely disagree. The breakdown of feelings towards Apple Retail is interesting.

Some of these questions include: how has your general Apple retail experience been? Has it improved your life? Do you think that working for Apple in retail will better your future? What are your specific responses to the article’s controversial claims? What are your thoughts on the NYT’s statement about employees making a very small percentage of the amount of money that they actually bring in for Apple?

As you will read, some responses defend and agree with the New York Times, and some reflect it by praising Apple and the opportunities that the company has provided them. The common theme, though, is that many (not all, some completely agree with the NYT) employees seem to agree that Apple retail has provided them with incredible benefits and opportunities that set it apart (positively) from any other retail organization.

At the regularly scheduled quarterly store meetings last night, Apple managers defended Apple and pointed out how important every retail employee is to the company. Managers were instructed to show employees this Fortune list proclaiming Apple as the number 1 most admired company.

We’ve compiled some of the answers (with no edits) after the break, and it is an amazing and sometimes intense read. The answers are broken down into a question/answer section and a long-form reflection section. 

January 16, 2012

UPDATE [Wednesday, January 18, 2012 at 7:35am ET]: Steve Wozniak commented on the original article on Facebook, saying he’s been misinterpreted (again). His full comment can be found at the bottom of this article.

Journalist Dan Lyons (aka Fake Steve Jobs) filed a report with The Daily Beast on Saturday that highlights Steve Wozniak’s thoughts on the iPhone 4S’s widely reported battery woes (that did not go away with iOS 5.1 Beta 3):

With the iPhone, something happened with the new OS or the new phone, and it just started running through the battery so fast. I’ve had a lot of issues with things I have to turn off just to save the battery life.

Wozniak, 61, who cofounded Apple with Jobs in 1976, also has gripes with Siri. The engineer thinks Siri is cool, but at times impractical compared to Android’s voice action. This is mostly due to Siri’s architectural reliance on network connectivity that is required to complete functions.

I have a lower success rate with Siri than I do with the voice built into the Android, and that bothers me. I’ll be saying, over and over again in my car, ‘Call the Lark Creek Steak House,’ and I can’t get it done. Then I pick up my Android, say the same thing, and it’s done. […] On the 4S I can only do that when Siri can connect over the Internet. But many times it can’t connect. I’ve never had Android come back and say, ‘I can’t connect over the Internet. […] Plus I get navigation. Android is way ahead on that.

Apple is thought to be creating its own navigation and mapping solution stemming from the company’s three mapping-related acquisitions: C3 Technologies, Poly9 in 2010, and Placebase. Wozniak is also good friends with Andy Rubin who heads the Android project and one said, “There’s more available [on Android] in some ways.”

Although Apple did not detail Siri, its voice recognition and artificial intelligence systems run on Apple’s servers rather than the phone itself. Siri may also infringe old Excite patents, said to be changing hands soon as a valuable asset in order to compete with Siri. In case you are wondering, the iPhone remains Wozniak’s primary phone. He loves “the beauty of it,” and he is first to recommend it to friends. However, Wozniak sometimes wants the iPhone to do “all the things my Android does.”

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January 4, 2012

December 29, 2011

Stanford University’s Silicon Valley Archives currently holds “the largest assembly of Apple historical materials” stored within hundreds of boxes taking up over 600 feet of shelf space in an undisclosed facility outside San Fran.

The Associated Press published a story today detailing their recent visit to Stanford’s Apple Collection, which contains in-house video Apple recorded in the 80s, blueprints for early Macs, user manuals, company shirts, and drafts of Steve Jobs’ speeches.

Stanford historian Leslie Berlin had this to say about the collection:

“Through this one collection you can trace out the evolution of the personal computer. These sorts of documents are as close as you get to the unmediated story of what really happened.”

While you may have heard versions of how the name Apple came to be, an interview recorded with Wozniak and Jobs in the 80s (originally meant to be an in-house video for employees) has the two men recalling the exact moment:

Woz: “I remember driving down Highway 85. We’re on the freeway, and Steve mentions, `I’ve got a name: Apple Computer.’ We kept thinking of other alternatives to that name, and we couldn’t think of anything better.”

Jobs: “And also remember that I worked at Atari, and it got us ahead of Atari in the phonebook.”

That video and others were donated to Stanford in 1997 after Jobs returned to the company and plans for an in-house Apple museum were cancelled. Also included in the collection is this “Blue Busters” Ghostbusters-style internal ad featuring Apple executives, embedded below. The ad was originally shown in October 1984 at an international sales meeting in Hawaii. Blue Busters is obviously a not so subtle reference to their biggest competitor at the time, IBM.

Other items currently stored in the Stanford Apple Collection include (via AP): expand full story

December 14, 2011

Calcalist, a daily business newspaper published in Israel by the Yedioth Ahronoth Group (which also publishes Yedioth Ahronoth, the country’s most widely circulated newspaper) on Tuesday ran a story claiming Apple was actively engaged in talks to buy fabless flash memory chip maker Anobit for as much as half a billion dollars. In a follow-up story this morning, Calcalist reports that Apple’s senior research and development executive Dr. Edward H. Frank is already touring Israel, investigating possibilities of an Apple-run development center as numerous Silicon Valley technology giants already operate R&D centers in the country, including Intel, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Yahoo!, eBay and China-based Huawei, to name just a few.

Apple’s Frank is a member of Carnegie Mellon University’s Board of Trustees and chairs the university’s Inspire Innovation campaign. He is apparently holding meetings with a bunch of Israeli startups who are hoping to wow the world’s most valuable technology company with next-generation solutions promising to bring flash storage prices down while substantially extending the lifespan of flash memory chips. The delegation headed by Frank has already met with executives at Intel Israel, the Calcalist story claims.

Globes chimed in with information from sources that “Apple has hired Aharon Aharon, a veteran player in Israel’s high tech industry, to lead the new development center”.

Should the Anobit deal go through, reporters Assaf Gilad and Meir Orbach write, Apple may be interested in further acquisitions of other Israeli startups specializing in innovative flash storage solutions. This includes XtremIO which develops server-based storage systems and its rival Kaminario, as well as DensBits which specializes in controller based signal processing to improve the operation of flash memory chip processors.

DensBits licenses its technology which improves flash memory chips’ reliability to about 100,000 deletions – twice that of its nearest competitor Anobit – helping reduce the prices of flash memory chips dramatically. Both DensBits’ and Anobit’s technology is believed to be licensed by many flash memory chip makers. Specifically, South Korean Hynix uses Anobit’s solution for a flash memory chip inside the iPhone 4S. Interestingly, Apple co-Founder Steve Wozniak is lead scientist for a competing enterprise SSD operation called Fusion I/O.

Ed Frank can be seen in the below clip talking about his experience at Carnegie Mellon University and how it continues to influence him today.

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November 28, 2011

35 years ago, Steve Jobs invited Ron Wayne to persuade Wozniak to join him in his entrepreneurial foray called Apple Computer Co. Jobs and Wayne go back a long way and had known each other from Jobs’s Atari days. Wayne drafted the original four-page founding contract that established Apple Computer Co. on a typewriter and came up with all the legalese of their partnership agreement.

Twelve days later, Wayne left the young startup and sold his stake. 35 years later, the original founding contract goes up for auction at Sothesby’s and is expected to fetch a cool $150,000. Apparently the consigner bought the legal papers back in the mid-1990s “from a manuscript dealer” who is thought to had acquired them from Wayne, Sotheby’s Richard Austin told the publication.

What’s interesting about the documents are the terms of Wayne’s withdrawal from Apple. So, how much did the two Steves compensate Wayne for his ten percent stake of the company, now worth $35 billion? According to Bloomberg:

On April 12, Wayne withdrew as partner. The move is documented by a County of Santa Clara statement and an amendment to the contract, both of which are part of the Sotheby’s lot. Wayne received $800 for relinquishing his 10 percent ownership of Apple, according to the document. He subsequently received another payment of $1,500, according to Sotheby’s.

Included right after the break is a video interview of Ron Wayne with The Next Web’s Matt Brian from September highlighting why he left Apple after just twelve days. One of the reasons is Wayne’s realization that he would be standing in the shadows of geniuses.

The original legal document that established Apple Computer Company (left) and signatures of Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ron Wayne (right).

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November 9, 2011

Ron Johnson, Apple’s former vice president of retail and the creator of the Apple Store, left for J.C. Penney November 1 and already he is picking industry veterans to join his leadership team at the Plano, Texas-headquartered department store chain. The Wall Street Journal reports that Johnson is tapping former Apple talent, including former chief financial office of Apple Retail Michael Kramer and Apple’s chief talent officer Daniel Walker.

Interestingly, it was Walker who helped Steve Jobs hire Ron Johnson to head Apple’s retail efforts. Both men served at Apple from 2000 to 2005. Granted, Walker and Kramer are both long-exited Apple people, but the temptation for current Apple talent to somehow make its way to Penney will always linger.

Sure, you might say who would  rather work at J.C. Penney rather than the most powerful, cool technology company in the world. But on a granular level, there might be high paying jobs with Johnson that Apple won’t match that could draw some top Apple talent.  Johnson himself is probably the best example of that.

There is also likely a non-compete clause in Ron Johnson’s severance agreement barring him from poaching Apple employees, but those are easily circumvented.  Just as Steve Jobs poached a bunch of his top Apple engineers to build out NeXT…
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August 26, 2011

Steve Jobs stepping down as the CEO of Apple has brought a lot of old stories out of the woodwork.  Bloomberg television, as they have for the last few days, interviewed Steve Wozniak and Ron Wayne together, the two guys that started Apple with Steve Jobs in his parents’ garage – that was 35 years ago, guys. The interview, embedded above or available over at Bloomberg, is full of interesting little nuggets, such as how Jobs introduced Wozniak to Ron Wayne as “a person we could trust as an intermediary if we ever had disagreements”.

And because Ron had, in Wozniak’s words, “a mature adult mentality” and a clear sense of how companies are run, he drafted on a typewriter all the legalese of their partnership agreement that “looked like it came from a lawyer”. expand full story

June 23, 2011

From the earliest days Steve Jobs has tirelessly and continuously been molding Apple into a place where art meets form and technology. This romantic notion is still very much alive and embodied in the iconic products of today like iPad and iPhone, having especially become evident in Apple’s vision of tomorrow, the breathtaking (and incredibly expensive) Mothership spaceship campus. And Apple’s boss himself is being often deemed an artful storyteller and a masterful marketeer. You may have noticed how Jobs often wraps up his presentations with a huge street sign image depicting the intersection of Technology and Liberal Arts streets.

“We’re not just a tech company, even though we invent some of the highest technology products in the world. It’s the marriage of that plus the humanities and the liberal arts that distinguishes Apple”, Jobs remarked at the end of the iPhone 4 introduction last summer. The message is consistent with a recent iPad commercial entitled “We Believe”, but also jives well with the now 14-year-old Think Different advertising campaign.

What you may have not known is that Apple’s product philosophy, their design language, the marketing and communications strategies and the collective DNA all stem from a single focal point, a random event from the early days when the technology bug had bitten the two Steves in Jobs parents’ garage. Addressing staff and students recently after receiving an honorary doctorate from Concordia University in Montreal, Dr. Steve Wozniak let us in on a secret, telling this (mark 1:18):

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June 3, 2011

Everyone’s favorite geek, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, always make great headlines and today’s business congress on Australian’s Gold Coast was no exception. The other Steve, as some call him, likened sophisticated machines we have created to “the superior beings”, adding:

We’re already creating the superior beings, I think we lost the battle to the machines long ago. We’re going to become the pets, the dogs of the house. Every time we create new technology we’re creating stuff to do the work we used to do and we’re making ourselves less meaningful, less relevant. Why are we going to need ourselves so much in the future? We’re just going to have the easy life.

Of course, this comes from the man who created the original Apple I and II computers that kickstarted the personal computer revolution in the mid-1970s. Following-up on his last month’s comment that the machines are already winning, he conceded to have partly joked, elaborating:

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May 10, 2011

As Apple is about to finally flip the switch on a massive 500,000 square feet datacenter in North Carolina, said to be one of the biggest in the world, TechCrunch heard the company’s rumored iOS 5 voice recognition technology is driven by Nuance Communications’ technology that runs in the Apple cloud. A formal announcement is expected next month at WWDC, the publication claims.

More specifically, we’re hearing that Apple is running Nuance software — and possibly some of their hardware — in this new data center. Why? A few reasons. First, Apple will be able to process this voice information for iOS users faster. Second, it will prevent this data from going through third-party servers. And third, by running it on their own stack, Apple can build on top of the technology, and improve upon it as they see fit.

Nuance is behind Dragon Dictation, a free iOS app enabling advanced voice recognition on iOS devices. The app is powered by the company’s NaturallySpeaking technology which turns spoken word into text via the cloud. It supports numerous global languages and is advertised as being five times faster than typing on a virtual keyboard.

Apple’s 500,000 square feet datacenter in North Carolina

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May 9, 2011

Steve Wozniak photo: Bob Pearce

Relax, he was referring to synthetic organisms with human-like looks and demeanor rather than Google’s software for handsets. Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder and the creator of the original Apple I and II computers from the mid-1970s, yesterday held an engaging commencement speech in front of the audience of Michigan State University graduates, as previously promised.

The beloved geek, the Woz gave the address alongside TIAA-CREF president and CEO Roger Ferguson Jr. Both men have received an honorary degree from the university. It was a typical commencement speech until the end, when the Apple employee #1 warned the machines are taking over. “We’ve created a new species, no question”, he said of computers and then quipped:

Every time we invent a computer to do something else, it’s doing our work for us, making ourselves less relevant. The cyborgs are winning! The androids are winning!

Check out a video clip of Woz’s speech after the break.

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May 7, 2011

In a strange slip up last November, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak said that Apple had purchased Nuance Communications for its Speech recognition technology.  Apple, of course hadn’t, but the reason it was such big news was because the deal, on many levels, did make sense.

Nuance is the recognized global leader in speech recognition technology (and patents) and importantly provides the speech recognition capabilities behind the Siri Artificial Intelligence application that Apple purchased last year (which likely accounts the confusion in Woz’s statements).  Siri is expected to be a huge part of Apple’s iOS 5 which is due to be previewed at WWDC next month.  One significant current advantage of Google’s competing AndroidOS over Apple’s iOS is its OS-level integration of speech technologies and the resulting Voice Actions features.

Apple’s acquisition of Siri is seen as a way to not only match Google’s speech recognition but then leapfrog Google with Siri’s Artificial Intelligence (shown below):

The problem is that Apple doesn’t own the underlying speech technology and if you’ve followed Apple, you know that it likes to own and control the important technology it uses.  We discovered in December (just a month after the Woz slip up) that Apple was hiring all kinds of speech recognition scientists.  But is Apple building its own Speech recognition engine from scratch to take on the likes of Google and Nuance (who has been at this for decades)?  Probably not.

According to TechCrunch, Apple is significant negotiations with Nuance to either licence the software or even an acquisition of the company.

Apple has been negotiating a deal with Nuance in recent months, we’ve heard from multiple sources. What does that mean? Well, it could mean an acquisition, but that is looking fairly unlikely at this point, we hear. More likely, it means a partnership that will be vital to both companies and could shape the future of iOS.

At the time of the Woz slip up, the company was valued at $5B (though shares went a little nuts that day, sorry).  Today, Nuance is worth $6B and an acquisition would likely be much more costly.  Apple however, has been building up a cash horde for just such an occasion and now has ten times more than Nuance’s value in the bank.

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May 3, 2011

An interesting one from el Reg this evening.  At today’s ESC conference, Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak dug into Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen who he chided for stifling innovation.  Allen of course bought a patent engineering firm and is suing every technology out there for supposed patent violations.

“The other night Paul Allen was speaking at the Computer History Museum and I had four tickets. And I decided at the last minute not to go, because I remembered he’s suing all these companies like Apple and Google – but he’s not suing Microsoft – because he bought all these patents.”

From Wozniak’s point of view, Allen’s lawsuit will not help anyone except Allen and his lawyers. “Well heck,” he said, “Paul Allen should be out there investing in companies that are doing something, making products, actually making a new future for the world, and not ‘I’m … going to sue people, and get in bed with the lawyers to make my money.’ That’s not the right way.”

“It’s not really special what they come up with,.” he said, referring to patent-seeking teams of engineers. “But since you were a rich company, you can investigate [a technique] years before it’s going to be affordable for products. You could investigate it … and patent it, patent it, patent it.”

Woz then recalled that Apple had to pay RCA $5 or so for every one of the original Apple IIs for one such silly patent.

On the bigger picture, it is interesting how two number 2s could have turned out so diametrically opposed.  expand full story

April 8, 2011

Steve Wozniak, the beloved geek and gadget lover, would consider a return to Apple, the company he co-founded 35 years ago with Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne, in an active role, if asked. He praised Apple’s string of smash hit products and opined that the company would benefit from being more open. He told Reuters this past Friday:

There’s just an awful lot I know about Apple products and competing products that has some relevance, some meaning. They’re my own feelings, though.

Another quote from the 60-year-old engineer who created the original Apple computers, about why Apple should be more open, right after the break…
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April 7, 2011

Steve Wozniak photo by dnelems21

Steve Wozniak, everbody’s number one geek, is scheduled to give a commencement address alongside TIAA-CREF president and CEO Roger Ferguson Jr., reports Detroit Free Press. The two will speak at the Michigan State University’s convocation on May 6 at 1pm and receive an honorary degree. Plus, both Ferguson and Wozniak will also speak at the University’s advanced degree ceremony at 7pm the same day.

We’re looking forward to Woz’s speech. Besides being an engaging speaker and the uber-geek, Woz often drops previously unknown tidbits about Apple. We wonder if he’ll go down the retrospection route like the other Steve did during the 2005 Stanford University commencement speech. Remember that one, about life and death and following your heart because it “already knows what you want to become”? Refresh your memory with that inspiring video right below the fold…

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April 5, 2011

Image credit: Tsevis

Here’s an interesting quote from the outspoken Apple co-founder and a “Dancing With The Stars” contestant Steve Wozniak. His take on tablets? They’re for Joe Schmuks, not us geeks, he conveniently told a group of enterprise storage engineers during a keynote session at Storage Networking World in Santa Clara, California. He said tablets are in this respect much like TVs:

The tablet is not necessarily for the people in this room. It’s for the normal people in the world.

He then added this on the subject of Android’s seemingly unstoppable growth:

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