An Interview with Legendary Apple Co-Founder, Steve Wozniak about Wearables and The Internet of Things
By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)
How does one even start the blog post in which he interviews the legendary Steve Wozniak? I mean, we are all guilty of using phrases like “revolutionize this industry”, “make the world a better place”, and “make a dent in the universe”, but how many of us really do it? Not that many. I think we can all agree that the number of people who have influenced the world of technology on the level that Woz has, can be counted on one hand.
But Woz’s influence on technology and the devices we use and carry around was not enough for him. He also had to go out and be an awesome dude! No, seriously, ask anyone who the nicest guy in tech is. Go ahead. Anyone who has met this man will tell you without blinking an eye that it is indeed Woz who has claimed that crown.
As Robert Scoble so elegantly puts it, “Woz is not just the nice founder of Apple but its technical soul too.” Scoble added “We studied together in 1989 and Woz gave me $40,000 worth of computers for our journalism department. All huge things in my career.”
Well, hearing over the years, “Woz said this”, “Woz did that”, didn’t really have any meaning to me. Until one day, when that all changed. What happened? I dreamed big. Very very big. I tried to connect with Woz personally. The fact that that was even an option is worth mentioning and acknowledging how much the social web has changed everything. It is also an indication of how special of a guy he is since he makes himself so approachable.
On a side note, in case being the founder of Apple and an all around exceptionally awesome individual wasn’t enough, Woz and Jobs were also quite the pranksters. I wrote about their craziest pranks here.
So, irony aside, I did what anyone would do when trying to connect with someone personally. I added Woz on Facebook. Yes, really. Like I said, I was dreaming big. Obviously that was not my end game, my end game was to actually get to know him a bit. And I did. Oh yea, did I mention he accepted?
Over the years if I am not mistaken (I may have dreamed it. I may be dreaming this too), Woz “Liked” a few of my statuses/ Facebook posts, but I had bigger plans. Woz accepted my FB friend request on September 26th, 2011, but then things got complicated. Just a few days later, on October 5th, 2011, my chances of connecting with Woz anytime in the near future decreased significantly. That was the date on which Woz’s best friend and Apple Co-founder Steve Jobs died.
Well, I put my ambitions aside, sent him a message with my condolences and prepared myself to wait a long while before pitching my crazy idea of picking Woz’s brain in a blog interview.
Well, a while later, I started reading the Jobs book, which totally blew me away. I wrote my thoughts and lessons from the book here. Let’s just say, if I was in awe of Woz before the book, this book put me over the edge and it was no longer a question, I was going to connect with this man, one way or another.
Fast forward a few months. I was going in for the pitch! I sent him the following message on Facebook:
“Hi Steve, sorry to bother you, but I’ve been reading the Jobs bio and am truly blown away by your story. Any chance I can ask you ten questions for a blog interview? Here are some people I have interviewed before http://technmarketing.com/2011/06/a-list-of-interviews-with-superstars-made-possible-by-twitter/ Would mean the world to me!!“
He responded immediately to my utter surprise. His response, however, did not surprise me.
“I’m so exhausted right now from too much, including things like this, that I have to turn you down for now.”
I don’t do rejection well!
I am going to spare you the exact messages I sent Woz over the years but I was not about to give up. If you want to see them, let me know and I will send them to you privately. The response was always pretty much the same…
“I’m so busy (including several hours of email every day) that I have a list of about 100 such requests…can’t give favoritism…isn’t going to happen…I’m only home one day in May and June may go that way too.”
I was polite but equally persistent. He was going to have to tell me straight out “Dude, aint gonna happen. Move on.” for me to give up. He came close a few times but never said it.
Then yesterday, after letting him rest for a year, I sent him the following message: “How do I convince you to reconsider a short 5 question interview? Would mean the world to me!” He responded almost instantly and said ok, he would do the interview! I may or may not have screeched like a little girl…
And so, I asked Woz the following questions.
Before I jump in, let me say that I kept the interview super short deliberately. This is Woz we are talking about. Wasn’t going to ask him 20 questions and force him to commit an hour of his time. I also wasn’t going to change the questions or add new ones when he didn’t have an answer for two of the questions. I mean specifically questions 1 and 3.
Here we go:
1: Coolest tech you’ve seen this year?
Hard to say. I don’t keep a list. Would need a list to choose from. Sorry.
2: Wearables: you a believer? What do you have on you on most days? Where is it headed?
I have wanted a smart watch for years, since wearing my iPod nano. But more recently I decided that little bluetooth intermediaries have too small a screen to be useful replacements for a smart phone. We need a breakthrough where almost everyone decides that a better solution has arrived. Good ideas are not easy to implement.
I like Google Glass but things we wear on our head go away, like bluetooth headsets. I do like the information but I’m not sure it’s a useful enough simplification over the smartphone for the price.
3: One story you never told about Jobs?
Everyone want one untold story so they have all been told.
4: iPad sales have slowed down, what is next for tablets? Is there a sustainable place for them?
Computers have moved to the data centers. What we have in our hands are more like viewports. Once you have a viewport, the technology changes are more on the internet and in the computers, which are elsewhere. It’s hard to sell upgrades without major changes in how they look, physically.
5: What is the next big thing in consumer tech?
More home appliances at lower costs that are in communication with your smart phone. Right now we have security cameras, Air conditioning, smoke detectors, autos, etc. that we can run apps to control or set. For example, I can look up a destination on my computer or smartphone and send it to my car for its internal navigation system. In the future these consumer appliances will multiply and someday they will be talking with each other.
Improvements in speech recognition to overlook stuttering and follow changes (“5, not 6”) and have a better understanding of what human words mean. This is more AI and closer to machines being conscious with feelings and intuition. This will progress slowly over time and we’ll stumble on what really makes a machine a brain by accident.
Oh, and One More Thing…
Throughout this process, Woz also communicated to me a few times how frustrated he is with email overload. For example, I asked him if he wanted to see this post before I publish it and he replied “No need. So much email!” Just some food for thought that the founder of Apple who is on top of all the newest and greatest toys, both hardware and software, is still trying to figure out a way to cope with modern digital communication. I find that to be ironic and seriously interesting.
Thank you, Woz for taking the time to answer these questions, and please, keep being you!