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Steve Wozniak: Watchful of Apple's Future

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Apple co-founder expressed some serious concerns about the direction of the company during his keynote at Promat 2015, but says he remains hopeful for new innovations on the horizon.
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak provided his signature meandering overview of today's leading technologies, the life and death of Steve Jobs, and some of Apple's biggest hits in his keynote panel discussion at the 2015 Promat conference in Chicago Wednesday.

Mixed into that discussion of 3-D printing, artificial intelligence, and self-driving cars, however, Wozniak also provided a pretty clear view of the state of Apple and its progress under Tim Cook's leadership.

It began with the discussion of Apple's latest game-changing moonshot: the Apple Watch.

While expressing some concerns about smartwatches in general – "every one of them so far just seem to be between me and the better screen that I really want to see on my cell phone" – he said he is still interested in checking out Apple's latest gadget.

"I'm a watch person," he said. "And I'm open to the idea of watches with technology in them, so I'm going to buy the Apple Watch."

"But," he added, "I'm going to buy the absolute cheapest one, the cheapest model possible."

This comment generated a lot of laughs from the crowd, but Wozniak was quite serious on the point. To Wozniak, the high-end version of the device -- priced just under $20,000 – seems to signal some kind of fundamental shift in the direction of the company.

"I don't know why, but this doesn't seem like the company we started," he said. "When I look at a $10,000 watch and a $17,000 watch and the only difference for $7,000 is the band? That doesn't seem where we started—to move the world forward. "

Despite that concern, he cut himself short of critiquing Tim Cook's leadership.

"People always ask me if Apple has lost its innovation now because Steve Jobs has died," he said. "They try to get me to demean Tim Cook."

But, he said, he doesn't see justification for that yet.

"When Steve Jobs died, the products he had been involved with were already in the pipeline," he explained. "Give it a couple of years, wait at least two years and then you'll see new ideas coming from the people running the company."

So far, he said, he has seen some pretty positive signs of progress.

"[Tim Cook] is not a Steve Jobs. I never once would ever dare to say that," he said. "But we've been seeing a lot of really good things from him."

For this, he pointed to the larger screen-size of the iPhone 6 Plus, which finally overcame what he called the "dogma" of small screens on iPhones and helped put the platform back on top.

"That's not to say that everything I would say about Tim Cook is 100% positive," he added. "But as far as running the company, he's doing a good job." 

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