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Fusion-io: Wozniak gets involved

Drive vendor gains added Apple co-founder cred

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Comment Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is to become chief scientist for PCIe-connected solid state drive vendor Fusion-io and help devise a strategy to penetrate global corporate customers. His track record in this, unlike his Apple engineering record, is sadly unimpressive.

Wozniak serves on an advisory board for Fusion where his work is described as counselling "the company on market trends, product road maps and other strategic activities". It is a non-executive role, kind of like inputting into a think tank. That work will continue.

There are two sides to the chief scientist role. Woz will be a technical advisor to Fusion-io's R&D group and will work with CEO Don Basile's exec team on developing a strategy to accelerate the growth of global accounts.

Woz was the one-man R&D operation for Apple in its early days and that engineering nous is what he is known for, with the Apple 1 and then the Apple II, which became the best-selling PC of the 1970s and into the 1980s.

He left Apple in 1987 and played around with technology, introducing a universal remote control that same year. He also got involved in teaching and contributing to technology museums. Wheels of Zeus (WOZ - geddit?) was founded in 2001 to move into wireless GPS technology but it closed down in 2006. There were other ventures too.

He was deluged with honours, such as becoming a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame and being awarded honorary degrees.

Fusion's statement has Woz saying this about his new gig: "The technology marketplace has not seen such capacity for innovation and radical transformation since the mainframe computer was replaced by the home computer. Fusion-io's technology is extremely useful to many different applications and almost all of the world's servers."

If that is a demonstration of his thinking, I'll eat my chinos. It sounds much more like an eager PR flack's attempt to link Fusion's SSD product to Apple taking on the mainframe. That did not work, of course.

In the business world it was Windows PCs that built on the personal computing revolution that Apple helped start and replaced green screens attached to mainframes and mini-computers across swathes of office desktops. Apple tried that but got nowhere and went into graphical computing, introduced the Mac and the rest is history.

Poor Woz is a sort of multi-millionaire side-cast, not an outcast, as he walked away from active involvement with Apple. He was a great, visionary - legendary even - engineer in his days starting Apple and then leaving the firm and becoming a rich guy, playing the technology game with electronic gizmos no more important, really, than remote controllers for household electronic junk and wireless GPS stuff.

For Woz, Apple was an amazing, incredible, astronomical lucky strike. The man and the hour came together and the result was sheer brilliance. It took Jobs and another kind of brilliance altogether to drive, pummel, terrorise, inspire, encourage and demand that Apple got to where it is today. Jobs is a piece of work, Woz is not.

We cannot - not even at our kindest - realistically think Woz has any sort of expertise, given that track record, of a capability for devising a strategy to penetrate global corporate customers. I mean, in the nicest possible way, that is surely grade one, solid gold BS. Fusion-io's SVP for sales and corporate development, Dixon Doll, cannot be basing his future sales strategy on such input, can he?

Woz is no empty technology shell but neither is he a visionary, driving engineer any more. What he does have is the stuff of dreams still. This guy is real. He is the closest thing to a technology saint that America has got and now Don Basile's Fusion is hoping that some of the Wozniak glamour will burnish the brightness of its SSD offerings and, hey, if you are a prospective global account, you might get to have Woz speak directly to you and be able to talk to a living legend, an actual living, breathing hero of the computer revolution.

Can any other SSD supplier beat that? Eat your heart out TMS. Retune your strings Violin. Re-code your controllers STEC. Fusion has got Apple cred now. ®

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