Apple Creator Wozniak Forms Mobile Start-up


Steve Wozniak, who helped usher in the personal computer era when he co-founded Apple Computer Inc., emerged from semiretirement Wednesday with plans to create new wireless devices to help "everday people track everyday things."

Wozniak, who in 1976 created the first Apple computers with high school friend Steve Jobs, said he has formed a new company called Wheels of Zeus, or wOz, a play on his nickname.

The computer industry's most famous garage tinkerer said he believes the time is right to develop a new class of consumer electronics to take advantage of advances in satellite tracking, wireless networks and more powerful computer chips.

"Recent advances in global positioning software (GPS) systems and antenna technology coupled with the declining cost of processing power and two-way networking make the possibilities for new devices and services really exciting," Wozniak said in a statement.

A report in the New York Times Wednesday said Wozniak would not immediately announce what products he is developing. A spokesman for the company was not immediately available to comment further.

The wOz statement suggested more details on the company would be found at www.woz.com. But visitors to the site were redirected to Wozniak's personal site at www.woz.org, where no details on wOz were available.

Wozniak said wOz had secured $6 million in initial funding from well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalists Mobius Venture Capital -- the former Softbank Venture Capital -- along with Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Palo Alto Investors.

The Silicon Valley icon, who has shied from public attention in recent years, helped shape the computing industry with his design of Apple's first line of products, including the Apple I and II, and influenced the popular Macintosh.

Wozniak left Apple Computer in the early 1980s to organize rock festivals and several eccentric "citizen detente" ventures between the United States and the former Soviet Union. For the past decade his public activities have been mainly as a philanthropist backing art and science institutions and local Silicon Valley schools.

Tim Draper, founder and managing director of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, will be chairman of the company's newly formed advisory board, which will include undisclosed "top executives and industry innovators." Draper's firm was the original backer of Hotmail, the popular free email service now owned by Microsoft Corp.

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