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Woz: Microsoft's innovation lead 'worries me greatly'

Apple slipping since Steve Jobs' exit – though he was a 'real rugged bastard'

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Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak worries that Microsoft may now be more innovative than the product developers at his former company. He also has a few harsh words for the management style of his fellow Cupertinian cofounder, Steve Jobs.

Asked about Microsoft's innovation after he spoke at this week's TedX Brussels conference, Wozniak told TechCrunch, "I've seen more of the type of innovation where you see something: 'Whoa! They really changed things drastically. Whoa! They aren't even going in the same direction as everyone else'."

Microsoft is focusing on innovation while Apple is in a rut, Wozniak believes. "I fear that Microsoft might have been sitting in their labs, trying to innovate, with a formula: 'How do we come up with new ideas? Let's not keep doing the same things as before, just the newer versions of them'," he said. "They might have been doing that for three years, while Apple was just used to cranking out the newest iPhone and falling a little behind. And that worries me greatly."

Apple suffered in the past because of a lack of innovation, Wozniak believes, citing the years between Steve Jobs' exit and return, when the company focused on simply improving products rather that creating anything new.

"Improving is not stark, Apple-style innovation," he said. "It's not like you're creating something astounding, that you're just gasping because it's so unexpected. Until Steve Jobs came back, that's what we were doing. We just had a formula for making money, and we kept running it, making the same machines."

When asked about the recent management changes at Apple, and the reports that iOS headman Scott Forstall was shown the door because of his abrasive personality, Wozniak demurred, saying that he had no first-hand knowledge of the man and his management methods.

He did, however, comment on hard-nosed leadership in product development – namely Steve Jobs' penchant for being not only hard-nosed, but hard-assed. "I don't believe Steve had to be as much of a real rugged bastard, put people down, make them feel demeaned," he said. "I don't think that was necessary for Apple to have the great products and the great world that it has to this day."

Wozniak's vision is of a kinder, gentler Apple. "I hope Apple is on a trend towards being a lot more charitable, open, and really getting good ideas, but not so much by having to force good ideas out of the teams that are developing them." ®

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You may doubt Wozniak's expertise concerning Microsoft's innovation and Jobs' management techniques, but there's no doubting his confidence. When TechCrunch asked if there was anything he might have done differently when he "invented the personal computer," he said he had no regrets.

"Where my head was at the time was so astute and so good at making the right decisions with the input that I had, and with the knowledge and the data and my choices that I made," he said. "Every one of them, I look back, and I know my reasons for doing it were good and right, even if they weren't what other people might have thought was the right way."

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