The superior businessman: Jobs or Woz?

December 26th, 2011 10:56 AM
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Filed under History, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak;
2 comments.

The current state of the economy presents unique challenges, but also unique opportunities. As larger companies fold under the weight of their own bulk, new enterprises are small, nimble, and innovate enough to fill new niches and needs. What what better innovator and businessman to inspire budding entrepreneurs than Apple's greatest Steve?

Jobs? No — Wozniak.

So says Trevor Owen, founder of the Lean Startup Machine. In his essay, "Why Founders Should Emulate Wozniak, Not Jobs" he makes several arguments:

  • • Steve Jobs played a minor role in Apple’s early success with the Apple II
  • • When Steve Jobs created the breakthrough Macintosh he had immense resources & clout
  • • The Macintosh underperformed against the Apple II, essentially was a flop
  • • NeXT Computers released a series of product flops
  • • Jobs’s later success (as a CEO) is due to his failures

It's not unusual to question Steve Jobs' role in the design and success of Apple's products, but this is the first time I've seen his business acumen also fall under scrutiny. Unsurprisingly, not everyone is convinced. Over at Forbes, E.D. Kain has some objections:

… if Wozniak had been in charge, it’s doubtful Apple would have been much of a company at all. Wozniak wanted to open the whole project up to all-comers. His enormous skill was in making things tick – not in building a company from the ground up…

… it really helps to couple visionary businessmen with brilliant engineers. So what if Jobs got ahead of himself in the early years? Start-ups today shouldn’t just look at the early careers of tech businessmen; they should pay attention to the entire package.

What do you think? Could Woz have built the Apple empire without Jobs? Could Jobs, without Woz?

Garry Kasparov: Apple II was last technological revolution

November 4th, 2010 10:31 AM
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Filed under Mainstream coverage;
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In fewer than 70 years, the twentieth century went from debuting the horseless carriage to putting a man on the moon. Such rapid development was made possible by many new technologies that were not so much refinements on previous inventions but were wholly new creations.

In the decades since then, we have continued to refine those technologies, making them smaller, faster, and cheaper. In doing so, have we lost the ability to create and innovate?

One chess grandmaster thinks so. Garry Kasparov, who held the title of World Chess Champion from 1985 to 1993, recently pointed to the Apple II as the last technological revolution, marking our country's technological developments since then as indicative of a "culture of optimization." Wrote Oliver Chiang of Forbes:

… humans are still using many of the same fundamental technologies invented in the past couple of centuries, like the internal combustion engine or the airplane. "Call it lack of courage or complacency, but to a certain degree we lost this passion for the sweeping changes," Kasparov said.

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I agree with Mr. Kasparov. In 1977, the Apple II was a machine heretofore inaccessible to the average consumer. It was not only a new medium in which to perform existing tasks, such as painting and accounting; the personal computer represented a new way of working and playing. Since then, the function of the personal computer has greatly expanded in scope, thanks in no small part to both the Internet and multimedia capabilities, which have revolutionized such concepts as communications and filmmaking. But the computer itself has not changed much in the last thirty years. Computers have gotten smaller, from mainframes to desktops to laptops to netbooks to smartphones — but they're still counting in ones and zeroes, just more of them than before. When are we going to stop working within the limitation of bits and start tapping the potential of quantum computers and qubits?

Maybe these developments aren't just in the future; perhaps we already had the right idea but got sidetracked. Is it a coincidence that Mr. Kasparov's reign ended the same year the last Apple II rolled off the production line?