QA: Wozniak Slams Apple For iPhone Price Drop Snafu

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, the driving force behind the original Apple I and Apple II computers, spoke about the iPhone price drop snafu, the innovative offerings coming from Google and other issues on Saturday in a question and answer session with reporters after a keynote address at the ConnectWise Partner Summit in Tampa, Fla. Below are excerpts from the Q and A.

Do you have the iPhone? What do you think of it?

I have the iPhone. I stayed up all night long to get it. I was the first in line in San Jose. I brought a bunch of my friends. I thought it was worth a party.

I even played some stunts to be first in line. It was like waiting up all night in college for Rolling Stones tickets. Thank God I did in 1973. Thank God I did for the show I was. Well this was more fun. I actually had figured out I had been running on two hours sleep a night and I wasn't going to be able to stay up all night. So I finally figured out I could get there at 4 a.m. but some people had stayed up all night. I didn't want to be in line and have 20, 50 people cut in front of me. I might not get an iPhone. So I came up with this great idea of making numbers for the line the way they do with rock concerts. And I made T-shirts and I got approval from the Apple store guy the day before. So I came at 4 am and I accidentally snuck into an open door in the Mall. But nobody sleeping out there even saw me. I got in with my friends and we got our Segways inside and the guard was told who I was and he let us be inside. So we were inside the Mall and everyone else was outside the Mall.

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At 5 am we went four people on Segways looking like security. We opened up the door and out there sleeping on the ground were all the people and I took control. I said I am here, we are going to pass out t-shirts and numbers and we passed around numbers each one signed by me. But the first number I passed out was nine. I took one through eight. I did tell the girls who were first in line they could go in the store ahead of me. And then we went back in the Mall. They were still outside. We were in the Mall on Segways. We raced around an empty Mall. We took videos.

So what did you think of the iPhone?

I fell in love with the iPhone. I did not like it at first. But I wasn't prejudging it. I don't like to prejudge Apple products. The iPod I didn't prejudge it took me about a half day (to love it). The iPhone took me about two weeks, maybe longer. Pretty much it took me a month. I fell in love with it everytime I use it for browsing on the fly. I never thought I'd use it for email on the fly because I get so much email. But sometimes it really saves me. I have used every Smart Phone there is just about.

I love the Blackberry Pearl because it is such a small size. The iPhone is bigger but it is more fun even when it is slower at dialing phone calls it is more fun. But I haven't switched my voice phone to it yet. I don't have to take that leap. I carry two phones on me sometimes three or four.

Why didn't you switch your voice phone to the iPhone?

The voice quality. Being able to hear it. How it works with my Bluetooth that I like. The iPhone doesn't work with my Bluetooth.

I am very hands free and with the iPhone you can't be hands free. Whenever I am on Bluetooth in my car or with my Bluetooth sun glasses I don't always have a hand free to push a button in the car or on my Bluetooth. I play Segway Polo on a Segway and I take phone calls. I don't have a hand free. One time I took an hour long call while playing a game of Segway (Polo). It was with the Commerce Department, the National Medal of Technology Subcommittee I was on. And I was chairman of the whole Committee too. I took the call and they just kept saying, Can you get that radio and move it away from you?

I love to be hands free and my voice dial (capability) is not built into the iPhone yet. I expect that soon. And turbodial has been around for 20 years. You know push one button call your assistant, call your best friend, your wife. There is a few people you dial one button for and I love that approach. So I haven't totally switched to the iPhone. But even when the iPhone takes me longer at least I enjoy it. It is a fun experience even to call someone on it.

NEXT: Woz Calls Out Apple For The iPhone Price Drop Snafu

Is there anyway Apple could have avoided the refund situation with the iPhone?

Nobody expects a product to drop that much in price in such a short time. Steve Jobs and everyone expects technology to drop in price. The first adopters always pay a premium. I am one of them. I am used to that. But that one was too soon, too harsh. It is not even complete. For example I have bought some iPhones that I am savings as gifts for people and I can't get a refund on them. When I give them as a gift that person can get the refund if they get an account or some people have bought iPhones and had user support without getting an account through third parties. They don't get any refund.

I bought some for friends and they get the discount and not me or if I bought it and gave it as a gift they get the discount. So why don't you just take my receipt and give me the money back? And of course it always comes back in Apple store credit. So instead of getting $100 back you get $50 back in a sense. It is very optimal for the company. I feel badly about the situation for everybody. I don't think Apple should have even done it. Maybe a very much more gradual price reduction: $50 at first or find ways to bundle it into a savings on your account.

What did you think of the initial Apple iPhone price point for what you got?

I thought the price point was okay at $600. A lot of people at stores, retailers, before it came out said it was just too expensive. But I mean for the best you would expect to pay more.

How many iPhones did you buy?

I might have gotten as many as 20. I haven't gotten a single refund back on my own but some of those people have gotten their refund back. I haven't had time to is all. I will. I only have one iPhone I am using. I figured at first I would use three for myself. But one is enough.

What do you think will be the next revolution in platforms?

The iPhone I think signifies what most of those will be. Think about the iPhone being improved to where it can handle things on web pages like flash. But I like the human approach. If a Web page looks the same as on my computer I don't have to learn a whole new familiarity. Every smart phone I used before the iPhone if I used it for web browsing I just got sick. I almost wanted to throw up. It was so miserable an experience. Sometimes I couldn't even find the field I wanted. It was horrible to navigate and I said I am not going to use this! Every one of them I put down. I said I am not going to switch to a Smart Phone so ridiculously inhuman. I think the iPhone has really got a lot of the right formulas: make the web page look the same. Why didn't anyone ever do that before?

The iPhone operates the way you think it should operate. Why didn't anyone do that before?

The human gesturing just to scroll through lists or whatever is very very comfortable and it feels good. As far as the browser why didn't anyone make it look like a real web page before (I don't know). That was the biggest thing that really attracted me to the iPhone at first. Now I just love it!

I think if someone else had thought about it and put some plus and minus zoom controls on the screen and let you zoom in it would have been a miserable experience. So I think it was a combination of factors that made it work.

How do you stay on top of what is the latest and greatest technology?

I pay attention to consumer gadgets. A lot of them are coming from Apple now so it's very easy. I keep up by buying them. I go through almost every significant cell phone or smart phone that comes out to try to get my own opinion. I can't judge it just based on what I read. Sometimes you have to really use it to see what works and what doesn't, what is cumbersome for people and what is not.

A lot of these IT services I rely on other people now. Because I was in the early days because once I have done something and fought with it and typed in all the programming commands for the routers and the different protocols and setting up your networks I get burned out on that and just don't want to do it for the rest of my life. I have done my fair share. So now I'm more just like the normal consumer.

NEXT: The Woz On Who Is More Innovative: Apple or Google?

Who do you consider the most innovative company out there right now when you look at the range of companies?

You are comparing Apples and Oranges but the two I would say are Apple and Google.

I would say Apple is still number one based on the fact that they are taking themselves into such new businesses so well. A lot of people from Apple, even a lot of people that worked on the Apple Lisa and Macintosh computers in the beginning now work at Google. The thinking over at Google is very much like early Apple days. The fact that they give ample time off to work on their own ideas exactly matches some of the things that made Apple great. I wish Apple did that.

So you think Apple is still number one?

In my mind I have to think Apple is number one. Google hasn't gotten me to change over to everything. But boy if I was to tell somebody new and tell them what they should do for email GMail would be my first suggestion. So far Google has been very good to its users. You almost wonder how they can be that good like they are giving and still make money.

What Google products are you using?

Primarily calendaring. I have GMail accounts that I check but I don't really use yet. I wanted to nail down my name: Steve.Wozniak, SteveWoz, all my favorite versions of my name. So I got them all. Because other people try to jump in. Sometimes a service will start up and somebody else will have SteveWoz and they'll have Woz and I'm all pissed. This has happened on AOL and other services. One of them was actually came out with its .Mac the name Woz was not available and I was all pissed. Steve Jobs had actually saved it for me.

What don't you like about Apple when you look at it now?

I don't like that a lot of the dreams of our early Macintosh era they really came from the Lisa group that kicked Steve Jobs out more. But a lot of those dreams of the computer being so humanized, making a person feel like a real human being, feel important, feel empowered. A lot of those get dissolved. You know it is more important to have the application than to have it nice and usable and sometimes now like in (Apple's) Garage Band (application) it will be the dinkiest little icon at the bottom of the page brings up the important choices you need to make right now. You can't even find it. A lot of this intuitiveness really went away. Sure once you get used to a program and you know where everything is and it seems intuitive then. But it's got to be intuitive for the newcomer. It is like signs in a city. Signs in a city don't help somebody who drives everyday and knows where they are. It is for the person who is out of their own place and doesn't know where they are. Are the signs good or bad? That is when you notice whether they are good or bad. Usually they are bad, missing or misdirecting.

A lot of small little obnoxious things in programs from Apple and other companies. It applies equally to all companies really. And some things that are absolute bugs are wrong or missing some features or just doesn't work. Sometimes they never get repaired. They don't seem to get the attention that doing the next new thing that you can advertise.

I know Steve Jobs doesn't like me criticizing Apple stuff but you know a lot of times it doesn't live up to what I'd like.

What do you tell solution providers to keep that innovative edge?

Almost everytime you come up with a solution for someone don't be in a rush to say I am finished. Take a look at it and say how could I have made it better. You don't have to go forever, but try to do a little better job that the other guy, the other supplier would have done. That is where excellence comes from. And I really think that excellence in all aspects is what makes companies great.

A lot of these solution providers are trying to run their businesses, how can they keep that bohemian edge about technology?

It is very easy to stumble into situations where you make a purchase decision maybe that entraps you for the future. And you maybe didn't realize you are going to have a lot of other expenses that are too great to really do something that was sold to you. I am thinking something like getting talked into Cisco phones, think this is the price and then get told by the way if you are a small company it's $30,000 bucks just too set it up. You know that wasn't sold to me.

Where do you see the next big technology breakthroughs?

I have been a hardware guy my whole life and a lot of the breakthroughs right now are software. I am hoping that we get involved in a lot of artificial intelligence research, something that really mimmicks the brain or even neural networks further than they are today so they can do some of the best learning jobs the way a human learns. As far as hardware I think as new nanotechnology encroaches getting closer down to greater resolution in both RAMs and magnetic storage, so disk and memory. Also increasing the speed of chips boils down to heat. But if you go to light switches on silicon it can operate much faster without the heat. That is the limitation to how fast our chips can go today. But if a chip could go 100,000 times faster you'd never have a delay on your computer because of the chip speed. And you could take on these huge tasks like compressing huge databases into artificial intelligence.

What advice do you have for budding technology entrepreneurs that want to start companies?,

Well make sure you are passionate about what you are trying to do. That you care about it for more reasons than just it is an idea that you came by to start a company. Something you thought about maybe for a long time in your life that should be better.

Hiring is the next thing. Hire people who are really good at building new things, who have experience at building new things out of nothing. The best things we ever did at Apple came from 1. lack of resources. We had to find the better way because we had very few resources. And 2. from never having done them before but being very skilled, very smart. In other words we were able to figure out how to do something that was needed even though we hadn't done that thing before. And we generally did it better than other people in the world were doing it. So the way that would translate is: don't act like you've got all the money in the world from the start. Try to restrict even keep the salaries a little on the low side and don't hire a ton of people right away, hiring somebody for this and somebody for that. Try to find the person that can do the most tasks possible. In other words somebody who covers a lot of the disciplines involved and can do a lot of it.