"Well, we already know," said Ellison, referring to the period when Jobs was fired and John Sculley, a non-technologist, took over. Apple lost its spark and the board eventually did a reversal, getting rid of Scully.
“We saw — we conducted the experiment. I mean, it's been done. We saw Apple with Steve Jobs," Ellison says as he raises his hand high. "We saw Apple without Steve Jobs," he says while lowering his hand. "We saw Apple with Steve Jobs," Ellison raises his hand high. "Now, we're gonna see Apple without Steve Jobs," Ellison concluded.
At TMC’s ITEXPO (News - Alert) in Las Vegas, we had a chance to pick the Woz’s brain after his keynote address. And the top thing on this reporter’s mind was just what the Woz thought about Ellison’s comments? After all, Wozniak knows Apple as well as just about anyone and was the creator of the machine, the Apple II, that drove Apple revenues for a decade, long after the Lisa and Macintosh made it to market.
So let Woz take a whack at this. Woz starts off obviously irritated by Ellison’s comments. “Larry Ellison has a large ego and likes to speak very dramatically, like, ‘I’m in charge of the knowledge.’”
Being the kind soul he is, the Woz stops short of totally lambasting Ellison. “His statements were a little bit exaggerated about the future demise of Apple without Steve Jobs, [that] Apple doesn’t have a chance. He was expressing a concept that could be valid, and that he could believe in, but you can’t take that for reality – Apple going out of business. Apple is such a huge company with so many platforms of revenue.”
The Woz tries to give Larry the benefit of the doubt. “Even if totally went into demise and had no great new products for a long time, it would get so many chances at restarts, reorganizations, new people, and new hires. Apple is not going to go away. Not only that, as long as there is an earth, the early meaning of Apple – building good products to help people in their life – helps them become masters, that stuff is not going to be forgotten,” Wozniak said.
There is a shift in the market and a change in Apple, the Woz admits. “Larry Ellison’s comments have some validity because there are no new exciting product categories coming out of Apple, totally done a different way and better than anyone had done before. That’s sort of stopped.
That situation doesn’t worry the Apple co-founder. “You go into plateaus of development. I notice this among all the smart phones. There are an awful lot that are in that category I call good now, and useable, but they all of have a little feature here, a little feature there, and have leveled off. We don’t have some of brand new introduction to the science of the smartphone right now. Apple is at sort of a level playing field.”
The Ongoing Strength of Apple
Steve Jobs may be gone, by Apple execs and employees seem to run the company in his image, maintaining a similar culture and adhering to principles of simplicity and polish.
If it continues to do so, it should keep its loyal base. “Apple has one great thing – its reputation brought it a lot of love from users. They have not been let down and are satisfied with their product,” Wozniak said.
Woz counts himself among the fan boys. “When I see a gold iPhone (News - Alert) 5 coming, if that’s for real, I have to have it. It’s not going to change my phone life one bit, but that is one thing the brand has brought it – it’s not a measure of cost and profit from features. It is largely profit from trust in the brand. That would be a sad thing if that went away.”
So was Woz about to let Ellison off the hook? Not really. “It’s way too early and it’s way too dramatic a call. At first I just thought this is something you just ignore, it’s Larry Ellison talking off the top. Once in a while someone could be right too,” Woz cracked.