Steve Jobs, and now Tim Cook, might be the biggest personas in Apple, but Steve “Woz” Wozniak isn’t that far behind. Co-founder and former Apple employee, Wozniak left the company twice in the 80s, not out of spite as some drama might paint, but in an attempt to live a “normal” life, as normal as forming startups can be. Although long out of the big tech picture, some have come to see Wozniak as some calmer voice close to Apple that, as shown in his Reddit AMA, isn’t that shy from sharing what he thinks Apple might be doing wrong.
Given the controversy that Apple is embroiled in right now, it isn’t surprising that the biggest most popular question Wozniak was asked was about his stance on the Apple vs. FBI debacle. The Apple co-founder already made it known before whose side he was on and, while he gave a roundabout answer, it was clear he opposed the Justice Department’s attempts to force Apple to create a backdoor to iOS. He likened it to his early days when he twice wrote what today would be considered computer viruses. The very idea of creating something so dangerous frightened the young Wozniak, who promptly deleted all source code for those. Echoing what Apple has been saying from day one, he says that if some code will let some people in, it is very likely that bad people will be able to find their way in as well.
Wozniak remembers the days when people just created things and didn’t have to worry about security. Actually, he follows up that even today, security is most often an afterthought. The difference between then and now, however, is that computers in the past were more like isolated islands. They weren’t or were barely connected to a network. These days, however, computing has mostly been offloaded to remote servers, whose security levels we barely know about.
Steve Wozniak left Apple for good in 1985 under amicable conditions. He simply didn’t want to get wrapped up in all the wealth and lifestyle that a successful company would eventually produce. He was content to live normally and be involved in kickstarting dreams, in other words, a startup. Even until now, he keeps friendly ties with his company. That said, he isn’t shy about patronizing other companies’ products, especially when they tickle his fancy. He is pretty much impressed with the Amazon Echo, both its affordability and simplicity. He is also mighty curious about Google’s self-driving cars. Underlying both is a fascination with artificial intelligence, something that Wozniak says he has been impressed with ever since Apple’s Newton message pad.
Wozniak also isn’t reluctant to speak his mind about Apple’s flaws. He loves his Apple Watch, he claims. But he is also worried about the direction Apple is heading with it. In particular, the path it seems to be taking towards a jewelry market where prices range from $500 to $1,100. He concedes that the company does need to follow the market, but it is far from being the Apple that changed the world. So far, however, that’s the only criticism that he offers of the company or its products.
Wozniak paints himself as a man more interested in getting involved in the nitty gritty of imagining and then creating products, which is probably why the startup culture has appealed to him greatly. He isn’t, however, interested in the sensationalism that those startups usually get involved. Case in point: the much dramatized Garage. Yes, that is still a myth and isn’t going to change, no matter how many times you ask Woz.