Of all the comments being made about Microsoft’s future this week, here’s one you probably didn’t see coming. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, interviewed by TechCrunch at an event in Brussels, had this to say on the subject of Microsoft vs. Apple.
“I’ve seen more of the type of innovation where you see something and, woah, they really changed things drastically. Woah, they really aren’t going in the same direction as everyone else, meaning the iPhone and Android operating systems. A couple days ago I read an article where Microsoft has a machine, you speak into it in English and it comes out in Mandarin. If they’re making strides in this valuable voice-recognition area, 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 just keep doing the same things as before, just the newer versions of them. 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. It worries me because I love Apple so much.”
Windows Phone is definitely different than iPhone and Android, and I agree that it’s better in a lot of ways, particularly when you look at the start screen in Windows Phone 8, and the ability to truly make it your own. I think there’s lots of merit to Wozniak’s comments on that front.
I’m not as convinced when it comes to the voice recognition example. That was a Microsoft Research demo (we reported on it last week) and as longtime Microsoft observers know, there’s a big difference between one of those and a shipping product.
As a counterpoint, I’ve actually been underwhelmed by the voice interface (or lack thereof) on my Surface tablet. Despite Microsoft’s investments and work in this area over the years, there’s no obvious way to activate voice commands in the new Windows RT interface, beyond what’s built into the traditional Windows desktop side. (If anyone has any advice or additional experience to share on this front, let me know.)
But overall, Wozniak does make an interesting point, at least when it comes to Microsoft doing something different with its new interface on phones and PCs. The question over the long run, particularly on phones, is whether Microsoft can convince consumers that it’s significantly better.