Steve Wozniak's frustrations with iPhone, Apple TV and MacBook Air


i heart mac
Apr 15, 2002
The creative founder of Apple cuts through the reality distortion field...

apcmag said:
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says he wishes Apple hadn't released a 2G version of the iPhone; that the Apple TV is frustrating to use, and that the MacBook Air won't be a hit.

Wozniak was in Sydney this morning to deliver the keynote speech at a conference focused on Australian broadband. But his commentary during a press Q&A session ranged far beyond the topics of broadband and telecommunications, with Woz lobbing numerous constructive critiques about Apple's latest products back over the pond to Cupertino.

What do you think about the Apple TV?

The Apple TV is a really good indication of the future of the world. But I don't think it's taking off yet. I don't think the new technology is going to get recognised in the same way the Macintosh did... now every computer in the world is a Macintosh. [laughter]

The AppleTV has problems... the 24 hour limit once I start watching, I have to finish in 24 hours. My life is way too mobile and unpredictable for that. I don't want to have to pay again to watch the rest the next night.

There's a lot of issues coming out -- what the models are going to be, how we're going to sell this product once everyone has the bandwidth. Pretty much Apple likes to lead on with the future. We drop legacy connectors much quicker than Apple does. But I don't like to be given control of something by remote control, then have restrictions put up against me about how I can use it. That interferes with my feeling of humanness.

Are you looking forward to the introduction of the 3G iPhone? And can you give us any hints on when that will be?

Well, to tell you the truth, I was really disappointed when the iPhone was introduced. I was in the audience, and half the phones that AT&T sold at that time were all 3G phones.

I had 3G phones and non-3G phones and I knew the difference, so I was shocked because Apple was bringing full internet with full webpages, and I was surprised that it would not be 3G, and I knew that that would be a speed detriment.

I suffice with it in a lot of cases, and whenever it gets to the point where things are loading too slowly, I'll look at it later on my laptop. So, I can't give you any clues as to when it's coming, but it's sorta been known since day one that it would be here. I was surprised, because Apple normally is into the future technologies... looking where the world is going and trying to be one jump ahead. 3G phones still work at the slower speeds, if the network isn't established enough.

It was a battery issues wasn't it?

I never heard that. I never heard it was a battery issue - I don't understand why it would be a battery issue. I get as much life on my 3G phones as I do on my non-3G phones.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm not paying close enough attention. But I don't think that's it though. Sure... the more you use it, the more bits you use, the more power it uses. That might make sense. I'm not privy to that.

The Macbook Air ... what your thoughts were on it given Apple computers have always been very feature rich, and the MacBook Air has made many, many compromises for the sake of being slim?

Occasionally, I like products when they are smaller, nicer, good styling... it's sort of like a little way to show something off. Like, you're a geek, and you can be in the first place... in the top category.

The MacBook Air... actually I like it. At first, I thought, it's so feature-missing, and I use... I burn DVDs a lot to pass files to other people. I watch movies on airplanes. I need one that will go an entire flight and switch batteries, when there's sometimes no power on the plane.

So, a lot of its missing features bothered me, but when I got it, for some reason, the way its keyboard is, I can type faster, it's a more comfortable, positive experience. I love the whiter-whites of the LED backlighting, which I don't have in my laptop yet (until I get home... because Apple's just bought out a 17" model with LED...)

So I'm trying to figure out a way to make the Air part of my life, because I'm a one-laptop-only person. I've got to now change my approach and have a desktop tower computer at home, keeping all my big data, which I don't have enough diskspace on the Air for, and I can finally take my Air around with me and use it. But I kind of want to.

I don't think it's a benefit if you have to carry around a DVD player with you, a couple of extra dongles to connect to Ethernet and things, and maybe an extra hard disk to carry your music on... but still, it's the appearance. I really like it.

I don't think it's going to be a hit, I know some people love it and it works great, they have a computer at work, and they use their Air to give presentations, but I don't see a mass swing over to them.

Woz's frustrations with inflight internet...

When we were in the air, we had a system in the United States on United Airlines flights... they had an analogue telephone jack that you could connect your laptop into and connect at a slow speed - 2400 baud - and I could do my email on it. But it was a hundredth the speed you were used to.

I always made it a point in my life to get my cellphone onto the internet, and it was a lot of work, and that's what it's like when you're a pioneer. Experimenting constantly, updating settings as technology went from analogue to digital.

I carry multiple phones with me, some for one purpose, some for another purpose. I have normal slower phones, and I have 3G phones. And I find that when it comes to having a question like, "What year was Gerrie-Lee Lewis born", before I hit enter on the Google search on a slower phone, I realise I'll get the answer quicker on my 3G Razr.

Speed of mobile internet is so important to me. Now, United has cut its phone service out, so you have no more ability to connect to the internet in the air. I had to do other things like read books!

The same month, these other airlines like SAS dropped their satellite connections. The one time in my life I had satellite broadband on the plane, boy was that speedy and fast. Then they dropped it. But I hope it will be back - I hear Qantas is doing something.

What's it like living your life as a world renowned technologist?

Technologists... are they strange people? Well, sort of. Sometimes! Say you are an executive in a company and you have a problem with your network equipment. You call in the technologists and they speak all this geeky stuff that you cannot possibly understand, and you kinda have to leave them alone. The decisions they make kinda go through and have to get approved.

When you grow up in technology and become a real genius at it, you sort of become a social outsider. People go, "oh, he's some kinda electronics geek or something." So once you're a social outsider, technology becomes a kind of refuge. A place to hide... a place to exemplify how you can do it even better.

Well, people don't understand technology and don't know what you're doing. And when you grow up with laughter in your life, you can make it kinda funny. We always used to put ticking metronomes in lockers at schools so they sounded like a bomb in the locker, but we would be extra creative and put a transistor in there so that when you opened the locker, it would start ticking faster. The laughter drove us along.

When you have all these technologists working to find the last little bug, and you finally find it at three in the morning, you need relief from that - the ability to joke with friends about tech.

With the exception of the iPod, Apple has always been a challenger to "the great monopolist". In Australia, we have a situation where Telstra is "a great monopolist" and other telcos struggle to deal with them. What advice can you give companies trying to break past monopolies that try to control the market?

Well, strangely enough, monopolists aren't necessarily bad. Be a monopolist, fine. But abuse your power to subsume other markets and not open them up to true competition, and innovation, that's the problem that Microsoft has been accused of.

In a sense, Apple is partly a monopolist too, in the sense that almost everyone knows they're either in the Macintosh camp or the PC camp. You kind of know what computer you're going to go into the store and buy. You don't go to a store and compare the two equally - you already have an idea of what you're going to get, for reasons of what your company requires you to have, or your profession requires you to have.

So, Apple has a lot more freedom, because they don't have a huge world market share. They're more of a specialty brand, that basically allows Apple to do a lot of good things for us. It's kind of like if you have a good emperor... we have a good emperor. You can do a lot of great things.

We're able to provide the entire experience of computing, whereas other companies that have built the hardware and we've built the software... there are too many unknowns and complexities to do as many great things.Apple has total freedom in its decisions - and it usually results in a good solution. It helps.

Steve, you've said you're aware of the Australian Government's broadband plans, but should we be biting the bullet and building fibre to the home straight away?

Fortunately, it's a decision that can be put off in time. In my country, one of the big phone companies, Verizon, is building fibre-to-the-home, and one of the other ones, AT&T, is building fibre-to-the-node or neighbourhood. Each one has its own considerations. I think the people are going to be starting off with a bump in bandwidth that they're seeing, and after a while, when they want to do video in every room simultaneously, they'll start to feel pinched.

So I think fibre to the home might eventually be necessary in those cases. If you build a useful network today, you can expand it over time - you don't have to redo the actual infrastructure.


i heart mac
Apr 15, 2002

Steve, you made some interesting comments about the freedom of wireless. But we're at a broadband conference here, where a lot of people are thinking about landline. Should we be thinking of expanding the use of wireless?

Well, I'm thinking of wireless in terms of wireless broadband - 4G. Look at how many people got a cellphone and just got rid of their home wired phones. I think the same thing would happen with internet if high speed broadband could be delivered to your cellphone and everybody did what I do - I use my cellphone to connect the internet to my computer.

It's an extreme lifesaver - the number of hotels I go to (and I go to 100 every year), the internet isn't working. Ethernet isn't working, wireless isn't working, or it's working and it drops out, and I just get sick and tired of that. I just plug in my cellphone card, use my own cellphone, and it gives me a more comfortable experience.

So do you think the Government should be putting more money into wireless infrastructure than wired?

I don't know... I don't look at what the government should or shouldn't do. I think wired comes first, with the guarantee that everyone can get it. More or less to guarantee a minimal level, not to guarantee that everything's for free. I think that's a thing for private enterprise to deliver broadband wireless in concentrated areas.There are a lot of good proposals for that.

We had one in our San Francisco Bay area, ten years ago, called Metracon. We had thousands of these little things up on poles all over the area. Everywhere you went it worked, you had to plug a card into your computer. It was higher than modem speed bandwidth and it was a very pleasant experience. Not like a lot of the other ones that have tried free internet in the cities - it hasn't gone over that well. In theory it should work well, because then you don't have any billing restrictions, but I don't know.

I don't know what the government's role should be. I think to guarantee that nobody's left out is one thing, but to guarantee the ultimate experience is another thing.

How do content providers continue to make money when it's so easy to distribute everything for free on the internet? Especially with piracy, is that the only model that will work - free?

You know, I feel sorry... I know a lot of artists and musicians, and one artist's nine year old son said, "any artist should have the right to give their music away free."

Sure - but a lot of people just took it for free. A lot of people think that when you can get away with something you should, but that hurts the artists. I the artists have got to be compensed.The recording industry is selling less CDs and it is starting to approach the state that the dotcom industry was in before it blew up in our Silicon Valley area.

Suddenly, a lot of people didn't have jobs, and that kind of thing is happening in the Nashville area. A lot of people in the music industry are without jobs. A lot of people in middle management especially. A lot of people are starting to see that that's not the place they want to be. So that's already begun. But any new technology has to do that. When cars were invented, we didn't expect rails to carry as much... or ships.

I don't know if you saw the latest Wired, with Chris Anderson's big essay about everything being free online?

I didn't read it, but I don't think there's any feasible way to make everything free. Advertising is one way to go... but I don't mind the small price.

What bothered me the most was when there were things I wanted to get and I couldn't get them even though I was prepared to pay. If there's a reasonable, easy way to purchase things at a reasonable price, like from the Apple iTunes Store, well, good.

It comes restricted and I don't want to take the time and hassle to free everything up. I don't agree that everything in the end will wind up being free.

Apple Computer is a company that is famous for trying to control communication about its products as much as is humanly possible. You're quite renowned for being prepared to constructively critique Apple products. How does that affect your relationship with Steve Jobs?

Very seldom. He calls me and he says he doesn't like something that I was reputed to have said. But he gets it out of context. A reporter's seized on a comment and strung along with that. I'm very positive on Apple, but I'll also point out things that could be better, or aren't the way I'd like them to be.

But we're very good friends. We've never argued over these things... but occasionally he'll ring me and say "thanks a lot!"But I'll say, "Steve, think about it! I'm saying the same thing as you!"

I got ganged up on recently at a conference... Apple lowered the price on the iPhone and I got asked what I thought. I said, "well, it was kinda overpriced, and they dropped the price too much, too fast." Well, Apple had already said that. They apologised, gave a hundred bucks back, and I was saying the same thing as Apple. I got accused of trashing Apple! All I was doing was plagiarising Apple!

You're very in favour of the youth and giving them more opportunities to evolve the world. What would you suggest for kids who want to push themselves into technology and are interested about it?

Well, the thing to do is to find instructional kits, and start to put them together. The ways to learn it are just to do it. If you want to, you'll find the way - you don't need me to tell you how to do it or what to do.

You should believe that what you're doing is really the way we all started - that you may someday be the one that revolutionises things with a new great piece of software. Your own Google. Pursue it. You should feel you are respected. A lot of kids follow the athletes at school, or feel that celebrities are more respected. But, well, I hope that changes.

I've worked with some groups in the United States to get more respect for technologists. Engineers have to make logical decisions. I wish we could make logical decisions about all the other problems in the world, but there's usually not a formula that works. At least with technology, you build it and either it works or it doesn't. Being an engineer is a really tough experience.

You don't get paid much either - you really have to want to do it. But you know inside you.

And by the way, engineers are not necessarily inventors. A lot of times inventors have to have engineering skills, but they don't necessarily build things that they've been taught to build. They build things that pop into their head when they're falling asleep... if you have the ability to run into your room at home, hook some parts together, write a little code for some chips, you have the ability to come up with something new that no-one's ever seen before.