Research The Other Steve

Fool Analyst John Del Vecchio (TMF Fuz) Interviews Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak
February 24, 2000

Apple Computer (Nasdaq: AAPL) iCEO Steve Jobs may be the best-known of the company's two founders. But whatever happened to Apple's other Steve, co-founder Steve Wozniak? The Motley Fool recently zipped over a few questions to Wozniak (he prefers to be called "Woz") to get his take on Apple's current progress and what he's up to today.

TMF: In 1996, you wrote an article titled, "How We Failed Apple." Has Apple's turnaround surprised you, and what is your take on the reorganization, new product line (OS X, iMac, etc.), and the company's resurgent performance?

Woz: Apple's profit picture doesn't surprise me. I relate to the loyal following, being [part] of it. A certain number of Macintosh sales are assured as long as a few key items are in place. All that's needed is to price the computers to make a profit. That means controlling the expenses so that they don't exceed your plans. The reorganization was for this purpose. Good controls are now in place. It does make some items, like spare parts and even new products, tighter than we customers would like. It also stretches out repairs sometimes and makes it harder to get support, especially for free.

TMF: As an Apple shareholder, you stuck with the company through thick and thin. Was it for sentimental reasons, or have you always been bullish on the company's prospects?

Woz: Some of both. Sometimes for one reason, sometimes the other. My holdings have gone up and down over time. I had a long period where it was the only stock that I owned, but I was into no stocks at the time and didn't have a lot. I look at Apple principally as an investment and have so for a long time, but I'm not as critical as with other stocks.

TMF: Do you think Steve Jobs is more Foolish the second time around and better prepared to lead Apple into the new millennium than he was 20 years ago?

Woz: No. I think he's about as Foolish as in the early days in some ways, but he's more experienced in business and in recognizing what will sell and what is needed to run [it] successfully.

TMF: With the prevalence of the Internet, how do you foresee the future of computer manufacturers, and what steps must they take to transition themselves in the Net economy? How do you view the future for Apple?

Woz: I was disappointed in Apple when the signs of the prominence of the Internet first appeared. Apple used words to indicate that they were going to be the big company in this area, but did little in reality. Right now, the course of Apple is well aligned with the complete transformation to an Internet-based life in the future. This comes from Steve and the top management. Apps and PC OS choice become less important in this future. Good hardware and a reliable OS become more important.

TMF: How do you occupy your time today, and what interests do you have?

Woz: I'm totally consumed with e-mail (10 hours a day answering ones like this, I'd estimate), family, schools, activities, homes, tons of computers to maintain, new software to install, friends to help, speeches, awards, etc. I rarely get time for large projects, like learning new things. I'm looking for an escape from it. I did cut my staff in an effort to save time (it works) but I have to cut out things like my office-home so that I only have to stay home every day. I try to keep up with what's going on in computers. Mostly I have good friends to hear from. I rarely have time to just plain browse. I do manage to read the newspaper every morning, as well as the chess column and word puzzles. That's one of my big entertainment activities. I have lots of people who want to just meet and chat. Sometimes it's to make a pitch, sometimes for no purpose. I generally schedule these for lunches, as I have to eat and can do two things at once. I could have a professional PR staff and be free from all this but I can't really justify that expense. I'm dreaming of the day when I can move away and take it easy.

TMF: Thanks.

To learn more about Woz, visit Woz's website at www.Woz.org. (And be sure to check out the WozCam to find out what Woz is up to right now!)