Apple founder, Woz, speaks up. I recently had the good fortune to speak Steve Wozniak. Steve—affectionately known as “The Woz”—is best known as the co-founder of Apple. He was the brains behind the designs of the company’s original line of computer products, the Apple I and II
He left full-time employment at Apple in the late 1980s. Since then, he’s been involved with number of technology startups and charitable activities. In 2009, he became the chief scientist a Fusion-io, a NetApp partner that offers technology to accelerate storage performance. I talked to Woz about his personal experiences and what he learned from his days at Apple. Other topics we discussed included innovation, the cloud, how that’s impacting business, the next evolution of computing, flash storage, and his role at Fusion-io.
Woz On Being Open To Good Ideas From Anywhere Within Your Company:
“The technical talent people have inside of them has the ability to solve problems. Whereas management will often hold back and take very few risks because they aren’t really sure that it can be solved or it might be too expensive. “Maybe it’s one person down at your company—one really great engineer that has this idea. So you’ve got to be open to those. And the way to be open to them is like our original HP values, when I worked at Hewlett-Packard: good communication from top to bottom. “Don’t make it a rule that you can only talk to your boss, who will talk to his boss, who will talk to his boss. The people at the top should just be totally open to talking with anybody—up and down the organization.“Engineers at the bottom are sometimes very important. They’re the heads that have the ideas that might drive your company with a great product for the next ten years.”
Woz Was Lucky:
“Fusion-io had a first mover advantage, but now it’s going to boil down to the sharp brains that thought out the different way that Fusion-io came up with. Are those sharp brains still going to be the leaders in shaping the future? I would predict that they are. “In the early days of Apple we had almost no risk. It’s a growing market, growing out of absolutely nothing. So when you’re starting out in a brand new field and you have a first mover advantage, everything you touch is gold.”
Woz Defines The Cloud:
“The cloud’s a vague term even to me. It can mean different things to different people. “You don’t know where it is. Cloud computing is a specific hardware organization where resources can be assigned remotely and switched around easily and used more effectively. It saves a lot of physical labor, moving things around and lets people change their minds easily.
“Nobody should oppose the cloud. In the end the customer’s really going to make a decision in the long term—not the short term—based upon financial cost. And cloud computing has shown a lot of ways that it lowers cost, in terms of total resources that have to be applied to guarantee all the jobs will get done.”
“I would be looking at the cloud as a way that I can quickly assign computing abilities to the members of my company and be more responsive and keep my users in my company just happier about being able to get what they want.“I would also try to simplify the process of people being assigned equipment that’s in the cloud and maybe get rid of some of the standard bureaucratic overhead. I would try to look at it as an overall cost center but not try to pin it down to individual projects so much. “You know, don’t complicate things and you have some savings just in direct labor right there.”
Woz On His Chief Scientist Title:
“I made it up as really kind of a general category, because my life has become extremely busy since Steve Jobs passed away, with an awful lot more travel, speaking, and opportunities to meet different people. Fusion-io has been flexible with my travel and getting to meet lots of people around the world. “When I joined Fusion-io I didn’t have as much travel going on, so I attended a lot more meetings. I went on sales calls because it’s important to know the customer. I sat in other general staff meetings and I would propose ideas of how we might get better performance out of our chips, and some engineering ideas. But then what happened was my life got so busy. “I love this company so much. I speak about them everywhere I go—any chance I get. But I don’t really have time to be working on the planning of the future right now and I really want to. We’re working on ways to bring me in more fully in the near future.”
Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a two-part interview with Woz. Check out Part 2, where Woz discusses topics such as flash and telecommuting.