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Wozniak denies making iPod spinoff comments

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Wozniak denies making iPod spinoff comments

Boston (MA) – In a posting to an industry mailing list, Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak flatly denied making comments to a Toronto Globe and Mail reporter in Auckland, New Zealand, last Thursday, suggesting that Apple should spin off its iPod division and focus on its roots as a computer company.

In his posting, Wozniak stated that the reporter was leading him on with a series of questions, which the reporter then spliced together to come up with something that sounded like he was complaining that iPods were distracting Apple from its core focus on computing.

“As for ‘spinning off iPod’ I heartily deny saying this,” Wozniak wrote. “The reporter asked some such question and I laughed it off as ludicrous. Why would Apple spin off something so successful. Then the reporter suggested that it could be like a separate division. Well, organizationally, it must be so already and I acknowledged the question I was asked in that way. Then the reporter asked if it made sense to have the iPod division somewhere else and I gave a mixed response, a logical response. I likened it to HP divisions when I worked at HP. There is a nice environmental effect in separate divisions. But then I mentioned that the HP divisions were making very different product lines, whereas the strength of the iPod came from treating a music device as a ‘satellite’ to a computer, and the intertwining of iTunes and the iPod made this possible. I did NOT say that the iPod division should be spun off and I feel used in that regard.”

Here’s how The Globe and Mail interpreted Wozniak’s comments:

Mr. Wozniak has mixed feelings about the iPod as well. The success of the devices has been fantastic for Apple, diversifying a company previously dependent on one product. But iPods are also distracting Apple from its focus on computing, he said, and the company might be better served by spinning off the business. Since iPods have their own operating systems, software and processor, “there’s a different group working on it anyway,” he said.

“We’re a computer company, and we really think computers. Spinning off a separate division makes a whole lot of sense.”

Mr. Wozniak didn’t suggest specifically how the business could be spun out, but did say that when Apple had two successful computers in the eighties – the Apple II and the Macintosh – the two units were in separate buildings and didn’t interact much.

Wozniak did not exactly deny, however, comments regarding his ambivalence toward embracing Intel architecture as easily as his friend Steve Jobs. The Globe and Mail quotes him thus:

“It’s like consorting with the enemy. We’ve had this long history of saying the enemy is the big black-hatted guys, and they kind of represent evil. We are different, and by being different we’re better,” he says. “All of a sudden we’re the same in this hardware regard, so it’s a little hard to swallow your words from the past.”

In his mailing list posting, Wozniak wrote, “As for Intel, I have consistently backed that decision. But virtually every issue ever is not black or white. In this case the only thing I’ve ever said slightly negative, myself, is that I’d hoped for a new low power silicon technology that would extend for future generations, a la IBM’s copper technology back a ways. I said that I had hoped for more than just a good design to keep as much of the chip inactive as possible. The reporter again pushed me to say I was negative on the transition. That’s a laugh, as anyone who is close to me can tell you, but I did acknowledge that some might be against it because of our ‘big enemy’ stance and so much of our Macintosh history riding on being different than the masses. That statement must have been stretched into being one about my own thinking.”

The legendary co-architect of the Apple I and Apple II computers concluded his comment by urging people everywhere to spread his words around, so that his denial of complaints attributed to him could be made known as fast as possible. Already, the Globe and Mail story has been cited by numerous other press sources, including TG Daily, with headlines such as “Wozniak Slams Apple.” Woz believes he simply wasn’t able to digest his comments down into the more simplified, controversial form the reporter was looking for. “The problem with thinking is that if you think out a 30 second explanation,” he closed his posting, “it passes over the 5 second sound-Byte crowd.”