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Wozniak Calls For Open Apple 330

Posted by samzenpus
from the open-up dept.
aesoteric writes "Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has voiced a renewed desire to see the company open its architecture to the masses, allowing savvy users to expand and add to their products at will. However, Wozniak qualified his desire for a more open Apple by arguing that openness should not impinge on the quality of the products themselves. He also sees any change of heart on openness as a challenge when Apple continues to rake in huge cash with its current model."
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Wozniak Calls For Open Apple

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Monday May 14, 2012 @11:05AM (#39994887)

    Unfortunately, part of the effect of the Steve Jobs reality distortion field was to basically write Woz out of Apple history almost completely. If you listen to many
    Apple employees and fans, you would think that Jobs created Apple single-handedly, perhaps with divine powers. There is very little respect (or even acknowledgement) at Apple for Woz or his contributions in the early days. In fact, very little respect is afforded there to the engineering of Apple products in general, versus their design and marketing. So, though it would be nice to think that Woz's voice might have some impact on Apple, he's probably even less likely to be listened to at Apple HQ than some random man-on-the-street.

    Woz's story makes a lot of Apple die-hards very uncomfortable (particularly the bits about Jobs screwing him over). And the standard response seems to be just pretending that he doesn't exist, and ignoring him. It's sad and unfair. But that's the way it is.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Bigby (659157)

      There are far fewer people like Steve Woz out there than there are Steve Jobs. Therefore Woz > Jobs.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday May 14, 2012 @11:23AM (#39995163) Journal
      While Woz was certainly not the recipient of terribly fair treatment, I suspect that there is a second reason why he was removed from the picture comparatively early:

      The success of the early Apple designs (the II particularly) rested in no small part on assorted deep-hack chip count and cost reduction measures, the sort of thing that Woz is reputed to be very good indeed at. It did lead to somewhat arcane and tightly interlinked designs; but this was back when reducing the chip count in your floppy drive was still Serious Savings or having Woz go up the mountain and descend bearing the design for ADB made your peripheral interconnects genuinely better than the other guy's. In Apple's later models, they just kept moving closer and closer to commodity circuits wrapped in nice industrial design and a friendly software layer.

      Obviously, somebody still has to design their logic boards; but that hasn't really been Apple's competitive edge in ages. Jobs occupied a larger-than-life seat on the pantheon; but the members immediately behind him in public awareness and clout were the industrial design guru and the supply chain/manufacturing guy. Board-level engineering elegance appears to have been swamped by volume savings on commodity silicon some time ago.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Apple really spawned twice. The first incarnation had Woz's help and indeed he helped to establish the brand.
        The second incarnation was all Jobs.
        But to say engineering is not their competitive edge ignores that, like that famous political cry, "It's the system, stupid" that makes Apple soar. Ergonomic design is pushing the envelope, hardware design is constantly improving, and software is written to be easily accessible and controllable, and the Apple now controls the supply chain rather than the other

      • The plane crash (Score:5, Informative)

        by SgtChaireBourne (457691) on Monday May 14, 2012 @01:29PM (#39996793) Homepage
        A third reason is that he had a plane crash in 1981 which caused him to take a leave of absence. From what I read, it left some lasting, bad damage including memory loss [pcmag.com]. Between all that and being set for life, economically, he didn't have to go back.
    • by iluvcapra (782887) on Monday May 14, 2012 @11:23AM (#39995173)

      Wow, I've read many accounts of Apple's founding and Woz is always prominent, we've all read fanboys but I've never seen one claim Woz didn't contribute, I've never seen anyone minimize his contribution and I've never read any equivocation on his treatment at the hands of Jobs. You sir have erected a straw man; I think you'd be challenged to find a single link or quote from Jobs himself along these lines.

      There is the simple fact that he left, and that he, by his own admission, had no idea how to make money off his inventions, and would have been happy working the day shift at HP and make a little money running Apple as a mail-order schematic business. To say that he was an engineers genius and critical to Apple's first success is true, but it's also true he had no idea of the potential for the business, he was by all accounts an awful salesman, and at the time he really didn't have any ambition beyond building a slightly cooler IMSAI clone.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by macraig (621737)

      Indeed. Job's contribution to Apple was a corporate mindset, marketing, and ultimately the selfish controlling "closed" nature of every product it brought to market. The difference between the two men can be distilled down to one crucial personality trait: respect. Wozniak has respect for Apple's customers that Jobs never did. Jobs treated Apple customers like cattle, to be guided through narrow constricting chutes and confined in little cages, all while milking them of every last ounce.

      • by sjbe (173966) on Monday May 14, 2012 @12:49PM (#39996261)

        Jobs treated Apple customers like cattle, to be guided through narrow constricting chutes and confined in little cages, all while milking them of every last ounce.

        I think it's hysterical that you think no one who uses Apple products is bright enough to make an informed decision about them. Do you really think there are no Apple users who aren't acutely aware of the alternative products available to them? Seriously? You think no one has heard of Windows or Linux or Kindle or Android? No one is trapped by Apple.

        People use Apple products because they want to, not because they have to. Almost no one actually requires a Mac and the majority of computers sold are made by other vendors. You can do virtually all the same tasks perfectly well on a Windows and/or Linux machine. There are respectable quality competing products for the iPod, iPhone and iPad, widely available to anyone who wants them, often at lower price points and sometimes with features missing from Apple products or with compelling design features of their own. And yet millions still buy Apple products and have for many years now. This does not happen by accident or by marketing and Apple certainly does not (even today) have the market power to force people into buying their products.

        (And before anyone starts, Apple customers are not mostly status seeking hipsters either. Nobody sells that many units over that many years on image alone. If the products sucked they wouldn't sell for long no matter how good a salesman Steve Jobs was.)

        • by macraig (621737)

          I think it's hysterical that you so completely misinterpreted my last sentence and then ran off on a long-winded rant about your distortion. You're quite correct that Apple doesn't force anyone to BUY its products. The force is applied before and after the sale, beforehand in deliberately limiting design and implementation, and afterward in lawsuits and other threats to enforce those limitations. My comments suggested psychology behind "open" versus "closed" and how the attitudes of Wozniak and Jobs refl

    • I was with you right up until you got to 'all they think about is marketing and design to the detriment of engineering.'
    • by Anonymous Coward

      If it weren't for Jobs then Woz would still be working at HP

    • I think that happens a lot. It happened to me. I co-founded an imaging company back in 1983 based on my idea for connecting a high speed CCD camera to an advanced workstation - bleeding edge stuff at the time. A few months later the company was already doing well, and my associate (a sales guy) and I brought in a new CEO who brought some VC money with him. I left in frustration three years later as the CEO was mismanaging the place horribly, although he did mange to keep bringing new investment money into the company. The history of the company as of a year or two after that was how the CEO had taken an interesting project by a couple of engineers and single-handedly created a company to bring it to fruition - literally our efforts merited part of a single sentence in a ten page history.

      The last laugh was that after I left (I had been VP of R&D), in the next two years they went through seven VPs of R&D (I guess I wasn't doing such a bad job!), and spent most of the 1990s fighting a series of battles against financial types who were trying to force them into bankruptcy - people that the CEO had originally brought in to invest in the company. The financial shenanigans were rather distressing to me. In a short conversation about 1999, the CEO of the then-defunct company agreed that the three major things I had recommended, and he had rejected finally triggering me to quit, were all correct - but as he said, "I hadn't been forceful enough to convince him!" - sigh. And he spent ten years fighting in court instead of doing other fun things.

      I still feel there was a good legacy. My track record in managing the engineering side was that we were technically successful on every project, usually under budget, and had excellent morale. I'm still friends with folks that I originally hired there. And we did some really great work in vectorizing, OCR and entity recognition for large format maps and drawings. We even did some work on constructing 3D models from sets of 2D drawings. We could generate terrain models from USGS maps. I got to tour the Space Shuttle External Tank manufacturing facility, and we built image processors that were two orders of magnitude faster than anything else out there, using chips from the cruise missile program (credit where credit is due - that hardware and a lot of the original code behind the OCR and other recognition capability was done by the Visual Understanding Lab of Bob Thibadeau, research professor at Carnegie Mellon). Of course, all that can now be done by any common desktop in software.

    • Problem is that Apple floundered under Sculley and his successors before Jobs returned to the company. And they did try opening up the Power Mac architecture along w/ IBM, and you had companies like Power Computing, Motorola and Umax take a stab at making macs. Only problem is that by this was that by this time, the RISC challenges to Wintel that were supposed to happen had all sputtered - NT on RISC was going nowhere, IBM failed to come up w/ Workplace OS or OS/2 for PPC, Pink - the OS from that Apple su

  • by jcburns (639377) on Monday May 14, 2012 @11:08AM (#39994937) Homepage Journal
    ....let's just go back to that Open Apple key instead. That's what Woz said, right?
  • by rullywowr (1831632) on Monday May 14, 2012 @11:12AM (#39995003)
    I suppose the notion of Apple becoming more open to modifiers, tinkerers, hardware/software enthusiasts, and lowly programmers would be akin to Gillette giving away the plans and patents to its razor cartridges.
    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      It is hard to tell the guy backing up the dump trucks full of cash into his drive way that he's doing it wrong. If you're ideas are better, why aren't you backing the dump trucks of cash up into your driveway.

      • by idontgno (624372) on Monday May 14, 2012 @12:50PM (#39996279) Journal

        That begs the question that "balance sheets are the best scorecards".

        I understand that is the conventional wisdom; anyone who questions that is generally viewed as some kind of heretic, hippy, or anarchist.

        Question the premise and you allow points of view like Woz's, or Stallman's, or anyone who argues for more social responsibility and ecological awareness. But demand that every answer results in "MAKE MOAR MONEYS" and we wind up with shiny traps, tragically-abused commons, and proprietary ownership of almost anything that was once public domain.

        So, yeah, society definitely needs to outgrow the "Wealth is proof of correctness" mindset.

    • by Gilmoure (18428)

      Or we all switch back to double edge safety razors.

  • "However, Wozniak qualified his desire for a more open Apple by arguing that openness should not impinge on the quality of the products themselves"

    The moment it is opened to others it will turn into the same mess that Windows has. Keeping the hardware closed makes development & support manageable. There's a reason nobody listens. This idea is dumb.
    • Opening the hardware is one thing, but Woz was also talking about software. Allowing more third-party access to Apple's "calendar world, their contact world" would hardly increase support complexity, but it would sure make it harder to leave the Apple ecosystem.

    • Yeah, it's great that Apple's tight lock and key has given it 90% marketshare over the last decade or two while Microsoft caters to a 10-15% niche because of their crappy mess... oh, wait...

      • by Aggrav8d (683620)
        Your sarcasm (like most sarcasm) is confusing. Apple market share IS enormous and they're doing great. What are you trying to say?
    • by Microlith (54737)

      Except that you're under the assumption that he means to put iOS on other hardware. I suspect he means "stop being assholes about people who want to put arbitrary software on their devices" instead.

      • by Aggrav8d (683620)
        No, I meant "don't let people be assholes and install whatever they want or modify their hardware however they like." Or maybe "Let them, but instantly void their warranty. Don't put up with that shit." Apple has no interest in adding iOS to other devices unless they design said devices. Goes right back to the manageable support issue.
    • Apple's lock down lost any claim to credibility when they started censoring political cartoons. This is about control and ultimately cash flow, not quality.
      • by Aggrav8d (683620)
        How is quality not a cash flow issue? Good products sell better.
        Credibility with who? You? So what?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by khipu (2511498)

      The moment it is opened to others it will turn into the same mess that Windows has.

      The Windows mess has little to do with hardware variability, and everything with poor design and poor implementation. And that's a result of how Microsoft is a bunch of competing internal fiefdoms, all of which are looking out for their own best interest, rather than a great user experience (a Microsoft breakup would have been the best thing that could have happened to them).

      Technically, Apple could easily release OS X for P

      • Apple could easily release OS X for PCs, and simply require PC makers to make compatible hardware

        Apple is NOT a software company! Apple tried this once before and nearly destroyed themselves.
        Personally I believe one of the main reasons that Apple stuff (mostly) works as advertized is because they don't have to deal with 1000 different video cards, 50 different sound cards, 100 different motherboards... Etc.

    • by kebes (861706)
      I disagree. Yes, there are tensions between openness/hackability/configurability/variability and stability/manageability/simplicity. However, the existence of certain tradeoffs doesn't mean that Apple couldn't make a more open product in some ways without hampering their much-vaunted quality.

      One way to think about this question to analyze whether a given open/non-open decision is motivated by quality or by money. A great many of the design decisions that are being made are not in the pursuit of a perfect
  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday May 14, 2012 @11:17AM (#39995069)

    Did they already try this in the 90s by selling the Apple Mac form factor, standards to other manufacturers? It didn't really work out well for them.

    • Re:Apple clones? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by phillymjs (234426) <slashdot AT stango DOT org> on Monday May 14, 2012 @11:30AM (#39995275) Homepage Journal

      It didn't work out well then because the Mac was Apple's primary source of revenue. Not so anymore.

      Specifically, what happened back then was that the cloners were supposed to take the low end of the market that Apple didn't want. Instead, at least one of them went balls-to-the-wall and made some machines that were faster than Apple's fastest. They began to hit Apple right in the bottom line, which is why almost immediately upon his return Jobs used a contract loophole to kill the clone program.

      Personally, I would love to see Apple open up for at least some things. I can understand to a degree that they don't want consumers running OS X on non-Apple hardware, but since they don't sell enterprise-class servers anymore I think they should officially allow, certify, and fully support installation and virtualization of OS X Server on at least a limited selection of non-Apple hardware.

      • I think this will happen, further down the line. I think they will eventually release a 'server only' OSX that doesn't come with iLife and costs in the medium hundreds, so that there's little advantage to buying a third party machine for personal and small business use (because of the cost of the software) whilst encouraging medium-size audio, photography and video businesses to stick with Apple/OSX/iOS as a platform.
    • Re:Apple clones? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday May 14, 2012 @11:34AM (#39995317)
      They do not need to go that far. They can just drop the "only software we approved" system, end the censorship, and let people control their computers.
      • by jedidiah (1196)

        People get confused with the various ways that you can define "open".

        Apple has lowered everyone's expectations so you're no longer talking about open access to source code. Now the problem is that you can't even install the binaries of your own choosing.

        This is much more restrictive than any other general computing platform ever. It's more restrictive than Microsoft and it's more restrictive than the old Apple.

        Something like Plex becomes "rogue software".

      • Why should they?

        There are already other options to do that.

        They make more money than anyone else - revenues and profits.

        They control their destiny rather than relying on someone else.

        • It is a matter of what is best for the rest of society. Computers are basically the most important communication tool in industrialized nations, and we have every right to expect that our computers will do what we want them to do -- without first having to ask permission from the person who made the computer. Apple has already shown that they are willing to use their power over the app store to engage in political censorship. How can we have a free society if our ability to communicate can be hampered?
  • by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Monday May 14, 2012 @11:19AM (#39995101)
    Steve Wozniak is now open for employment.
    • by sideslash (1865434) on Monday May 14, 2012 @11:25AM (#39995205)
      I'm sure he's always open to another round of Segway polo, or buying a new cell phone to add to his collection, or hanging out with school kids and doing his best attempt at an inspiring lecture (he's not great at it, but everybody loves him anyway because he is a permanent duke of geekdom), or maybe just going home and rolling around in a big pile of cash.

      He's definitely not looking for employment.
  • He also sees any change of heart on openness as a challenge when Apple continues to rake in huge cash with its current model.

    This....this is why it won't be happening for the foreseeable future.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday May 14, 2012 @11:47AM (#39995503)

    And that's pretty much the problem. As much as I hate it and as much as I think it's terribly, terribly wrong, what made Apple big is marketing, not engineering. And that's not trying to bash Apple, it's what you can easily see when you follow Apple's history. It was a niche product while they relied on engineering. It was a great product, well engineered, with a lot of technical innovations. As soon as they moved towards design and gadgets, in other words, as soon as they went for flashy and gimmicky instead of technical innovation, people started flocking to them.

    Woz, as much as I agree with you, I'd sad to say that this would be a bad move for Apple. It would certainly endear Apple again to engineers, but financially it would not be beneficial.

    • by uglyduckling (103926) on Monday May 14, 2012 @12:12PM (#39995863) Homepage
      I disagree. The original iPod was an engineering feat. I know all the technology was already available, but that's the point of engineering - to do something clever and slick that works really, really well, by seeing and understanding what other people have missed. Same for the original iMac - it was a design and engineering triumph, totally iconic. The marketing was there too, but both are needed. See the Commodore Amiga for an example of great engineering and crummy marketing - and also the desire to maintain backwards compatibility holding back what could have been an amazing line of computers.
    • by Brannon (221550) on Monday May 14, 2012 @01:01PM (#39996435)

      The slashdot crowd doesn't understand that and thus they don't understand why Apple is so successful. The "marketing" crap is your best attempt to rationalize Apple's success without having to expand your tiny little world.

      Meanwhile, Apple is on their way to being the first $1 trillion company because nearly everyone else in the world understands something that you don't: "The ONLY point of technology is to make life easier for humans"--by that definition, Apple cranks out the best technology using the best engineering. Deal with it.

      • by Jonner (189691)

        The slashdot crowd doesn't understand that and thus they don't understand why Apple is so successful. The "marketing" crap is your best attempt to rationalize Apple's success without having to expand your tiny little world.

        Meanwhile, Apple is on their way to being the first $1 trillion company because nearly everyone else in the world understands something that you don't: "The ONLY point of technology is to make life easier for humans"--by that definition, Apple cranks out the best technology using the best engineering. Deal with it.

        Your expert analysis fails to account for the continued existence of Microsoft, Android and pretty much every non-Apple technology. Could it be that you think "nearly everyone else in the world" means "everyone who agrees with me"?

    • Unix is an operating system, made by engineers for engineers. It came about before Apple, and rose to great heights without Apple, and now Apple has adopted it as their platform. I firmly believe it will be around long after Apple.

      You need a marketing genius to make a wildly successful business. You need a remarkable group of engineers to create enduring technology. I know which one I value more, do you?

      (Unix has its faults, it's not perfect. But I think we can agree that it has proven to be a pretty useful

  • and forego the billions of dollars it makes by having closed systems. I'm not a fan of apple, but as a business, keeping your products so tightly intertwined is the best thing you can do to continually sell products and accessories.

    If you go to an open architecture, the only way you make money is from licensing, and manufactures in china will completely ignore this and screw you over.

    There is a company that does that has been doing this very well for decades, Microsoft any one?

  • Woz is pretty much a failure as a business owner. Yes, he's an engineering titan, a legend even, but why he should be taken seriously in a domain where he has an awful track record is beyond me.

    Kinda like the Greek government asking Mario Batalli for financial advice...

    • Because it'd be an amazing feat of engineering.

      If they can prove that Google's really wrong about open and the tradeoffs you have to make with open with regards to security and ecosystem, it'd be so damned cool.

      Of course warp drives are cool too, but I don't see that happening either.

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