Feeds

Woz warns that patent palaver will stifle startups

Still unsure about Tim Cook's reign

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Apple cofounder and number-one fanboi Steve Wozniak has warned that the current land rush for patents is going to stifle innovation and could cripple the next generation of startups.

"I care so much about the young person that has some technical knowledge and wants to start their own business," Wozniak told 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."

Woz recounted how when it developed the Apple II, Apple had been forced to pay a $2 per computer licensing fee to RCA for the right to translate letters into pixels that could be displayed onscreen. Only a big firm with a large research budget could have examined this and filed the patent on it, but having to pay rankled Woz – and that was back when patents weren't the disruptive force they are today.

Apple is perfectly willing to play the patent game itself, as recent history has shown. But Woz gave his old company a pass on this, saying it was better than most. "Apple is the good guy on the block of all of them," he opined. "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."

One could argue that mobile phone operating systems were doing just fine before Apple came along, and the current patent spat over Android has nothing to do with innovation, and everything to do with trying to hamstring a successful rival. Arguing in court that a rival company's tablets shouldn't look like, well, a tablet, is also hardly being the "good guy on the block" for encouraging innovation.

Apple was in a unique position, he said, because it owned the entire stack, from operating system down to its own retail arm. A company such as HP, to use his example, was making similar sorts of products as Apple, but couldn't tie them together because it doesn't own the operating system.

As for the replacement for his friend Steve Jobs, Woz said the jury was still out. It was too soon after Jobs' departure to see if Tim Cook would put his mark on the company, Woz ventured.

"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," Wozniak says. "I want to see the special touches [under Cook], not just an iteration to the iPad 3." [Editor's correction "The new iPad"]. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.