Apple must set standards or lose cool: Wozniak

Bloomberg

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 - Page 15

Apple Inc has kept its power to determine the course of consumer electronics even as it faces tougher competition in mobile phones and tablets, said Steve Wozniak, who co-founded the company with Steve Jobs in 1976.

Companies such as Amazon.com Inc and Google Inc “all have great ideas, but sometimes you need a critical mass of loyal users that will instantly buy and go this direction,” Wozniak said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Berlin office this week. “Apple is really good at setting a standard with a new device. Apple still has its halo in that regard.”

Following Jobs’ death in 2011, Apple has delivered upgrades and variations of devices, including its iPad and iPhone, while coming under increasing pressure from rivals including Samsung Electronics Co.

Apple should consider opening up its ecosystem, for instance by allowing buyers of mobile devices running Microsoft Corp or Google Android operating systems to use the iTunes media-management software, Wozniak said.

Without features to outclass competing devices, California-based Apple is having to rely more on its appeal as a premium brand, he said.

“We used to have these ads, I’m a Mac and I’m a PC, and the Mac was always the cool guy,” he said. “And ouch, it’s painful, because we kind of are losing that.”

Wozniak, 62, designed the first Apple computers, but left the company in 1985, according to his Web site. Wozniak is currently chief scientist at Fusion-io Inc, a maker of data-storage computers.

Apple has a team of about 100 product designers working on a wristwatch-like device that may perform some of the tasks now handled by the iPhone and iPad, people familiar with the plans said last week.

Wozniak, who said he has been wearing an iPod Nano player on his wrist for the past few years, said he would welcome such an innovation, especially if Apple improves the voice-recognition function of its Siri software.

“Apple can keep engineers working so intently toward the right product, you don’t have to rush something out ahead of time,” he said.

Google has been working on eyeglass-embedded computers and plans to introduce them in 2014.

Wozniak, who has a black and a white iPhone 5, using Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc, respectively, said he expects Microsoft’s Windows Phone software to gain “enough critical mass to keep going with their tablets and phones” as the company is present in more markets than Apple.

BlackBerry will ultimately have to switch to the Android operating system, he said, adding that the company’s “good reputation as a hardware builder” and its brand should provide enough differentiation for the company’s products.