updated 10:30 am EDT, Wed October 31, 2007
Wozniak on Mac OS, iPhone
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak differs in several respects with the company's current direction, according to a new interview. He notes that while he is still getting Mac OS X Leopard, despite knowing little about it, he does not like the direction the Mac OS has taken. "Early on with the first Apples," says Wozniak, "we had these dreams that the computer would let you know what you wanted to do. The idea was that little icons or words would suggest what you wanted to do, but now I have to find my way around to odd little icons that aren't positioned in the prominent places. When conducting a common task, I have to go searching around in folders or the bottom of the screen.
"I don't think any of it will be solved with Leopard," he goes on, "because I don't think there is incentive to. They want to make things easy, and if it seems easy and it can be demonstrated quickly then it's okay. The real dreams of how it will work for someone who knows nothing about the computer have been lost and don't get addressed anymore."
Wozniak in fact dismisses the importance of operating systems including Leopard and Linux, saying that upgrades are done "to keep your loyal people happy. Learning an entirely new operating system is something no one wants to do. You get stuck on a platform, and you don't want to start learning a whole new computer system."
He suggests that computing may be moving beyond the operating system and relocating to different spaces. "Apple has already taken its way into the living room and entertainment system," he comments. "They have a huge advantage in this space. They have the OS, the hardware, the applications, and the online services, and they get them to all work together. A company like Hewlett-Packard, on the other hand, can make a computer and have great ideas, but it boils down to the software element, and they're restricted by what Microsoft provides as an operating system."
Regarding the iPhone, Wozniak argues that it should be treated like a computer, and criticizes the approach Apple has taken to date, locking out third-party programs. "From a business point of view," he says, "Apple owns what they have done. They have a right to lock it. But I am really for the unlockers, the rebels trying to make it free. I'd really like it to be open to new applications. I'd like to install some nice games. Why in the world can I not install a ringtone that I've made? How would that hurt AT&T's network? Here is Steve Jobs sending letters to the record companies saying [they] should provide music that's unprotected, but here he is taking the opposite approach with the iPhone. I don't know to what extent AT&T is involved in the thinking and direction."
The iPhone may be a guide to future interfaces, though. "I don't think anything revolutionary is close on the horizon, but I guess you never know. I didn't think the iPhone would be as pleasing. I was really surprised. Eventually, I would love a little computer with a camera that recognizes me, and I can throw a lot of little gestures at it, and it responds to what I say and do. It will be very hard to create a computer that can understand our voice and our rhythm."