Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has expressed his worries about the struggle for start-up technology businesses caused by the amount of patents owned by big companies.
“I care so much about the young person that has some technical knowledge and wants to start their own business,” said Wozniak in an interview with
The Australian Financial Review.
“Companies like Apple, Facebook, Twitter and Yahoo! all started by new thinkers with new ideas. Now, with this big patent situation, there are certain categories that are heavily blocked off because the big companies make sure they own it all.”
Wozniak has been a victim of such patent wars when he designed the 1977 Apple II. Despite being unused, the design of the system, which translated letters into dots that could be put on a screen, was already patented by RCA.
“We actually wound up paying them two bucks for every computer we shipped just for that simple idea… That sort of thing is going to crop up over and over – very simple ideas that the big companies with big money are going to own, and the small guy who starts up is going to have to pay.”
Even though Apple is one of the aforementioned big companies and owns many patents, Wozniak is defensive of the company he started up with Steve Jobs in 1976.
“Apple is the good guy on the block of all of them. It is creating so much and is so successful and it is not just following the formulas of other companies – [Apple is] totally establishing new markets that didn’t exist,” explained Wozniak.
“The retail process is owned by Apple, the application is owned by Apple, the operating system is owned by Apple and the hardware is Apple’s,” Wozniak said. “Apple has managed to create this entire world that all the products fit in to … there is no other company in the world that has these benefits.” Apple is in complete control of its products, unlike many other companies.
For example, Wozniak went on to say, HP is “a big, successful company with so many different departments making servers, PCs and printers, but they are stuck with an operating system that isn’t under their control. For HP to build up the entire structure that Apple has would take them so long that Apple has a huge lead on everybody.”
When asked about Apple’s future without Steve Jobs, Wozniak remained confident that the company will continue to be successful, but has yet to be convinced by the new CEO, Tim Cook’s ability to make the company progress further.
“It is hard to judge yet because Apple products still look like they did under Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs has stamped his mark on products that are three years in the queue,” said Wozniak. “I want to see the special touches [under Cook], not just an iteration to the iPad 3.”
Despite Apple’s move towards the post-PC era, where desktop computers will be replaced by mobile devices such as the iPad, Wozniak believes that there is still a stable and sure future for PCs. “Although we are moving towards a very mobile world, I think there is going to be room for PCs for quite a long time still. For some work like audio or visual editing you need the complete machine and [a] larger screen. The mobile device is great for most of the things we do with our computer – but not everything.”
Steve Wozniak was
spotted queuing for a new iPad on the day of its launch in Los Angeles, and has
confessed that he believes Android-based handsets have many advantages over the iPhone. He also
conceded that the Macintosh was a failure in December 2011.