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.”

First off, this actually shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Woz has spoken favorably about Microsoft’s design and Windows Phone in particular in the past.

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.

Like what you're reading? Subscribe to GeekWire's free newsletters to catch every headline


  • jvc

    Wozniak was a talented engineer in the past. Now he is a blowhard looking for an audience. The pervasive anti-Apple gloom is so overblown. Apple continues to have record sales and profits. The Mac OS is superior to windows in so many ways. Windows 8 will not be adopted in the enterprise and will be a disappointment in the consumer market. The iphone is still the best smartphone on the market and the Apple ecosystem is still the best for consumers. When was the last time Mr. Wozniak createed a job, a successful new product , or a creative new idea people want to invest in?

    • james911

      Ha! A fanboi speaks! When was the last time Macs run on more than 90
      percent of computers sold worldwide that you can say superior in many
      ways. Mac is great only in multimedia, suited for home environment and
      rarely seen in corporate settings. Corporate customers need a sound
      Database System where MS has SQL Server and Apple has none. They want
      Office Applications for automation (Office, Sharepoint, Lync, etc.).
      Apple has none. Now that Wozniak is right sensing that MS is innovating
      pulling different branches, products or services together into a unified
      one, that must be scary when Windows ecosystem is evolving into one. Go play
      with your iPad and your best so-called ecosystem because real people can
      have both worlds in the future of Windows.

      • guest
      • jvc

        Apple has ceded the corporate market to Windows Microsquish fanlad. That is yesterday’s news and while still a profitable business, the future is mobile. Microsoft has been sucking air in mobile and their latest offerings ain’t gonna change that. Outside of the Redmond distortion field, few buy into your view of the greatness of Windows. Th firing of Sinofsky is telling that Ballmer realizes Microsoft just laid a turd.

    • ninjacut

      What? Android is killing iPhone, it is also eating into iPad and the last time I saw Desktop is still owned by Windows.
      Apple is profitable for sure, but does not mean rest of the companies are dying or standing still in one place.

      • guest

        The Desktop is still owned by Windows, but it’s a business that has peaked. And rather than slow the decline, it’s looking like Win8 may hasten it.

        • Nathan O

          Nope, you may be right that many businesses won’t adopt Win8 but guess what, many businesses didn’t adopt Win7 and are still on a version of XP. Not jumping on board for the new operating system and jumping ship to apple are two very different things. I don’t suspect many business taking that plunge yet

          • guest

            If businesses don’t adopt it, some number of existing business PCs running 7/Vista/XP continue to be retired in favor of iPads, and it results in even more consumer defection away from Windows (which has been going on for a decade, but has picked up considerably in just the past three years), the net result is yes.

    • Nathan O

      You say that but almost daily I run into someone I know who is giving up their iPhone for the new nexus, galaxy S3, or a Nokia Lumia. Apples magic is gone and now it’s their turn to innovate. I hope they do because competition brings me the coolest gadgets

    • guest

      “Now he is a blowhard looking for an audience”
      Pot, meet kettle.

  • Guest

    After more than a decade of complacency and failed investments, MS is facing irrelevance and decline. That has finally caused them to take more risks lately, even if most are far too late to change the company’s ultimate fate. After a decade of one success after another, Apple is the dominant and most valuable company in technology. So naturally they have focused more on tweaking things rather than radical change. At some point we’ll see what else Apple has been working on. Given that they have successfully reinvented their main revenue and profit drivers 3 times over the last decade compared to MS’s 0, it’s unlikely the answer is nothing.

    In the voice area specifically, I’d say MS’s progress has been abysmal. They began making heavy investments in this area in the mid part of the last decade. Then they bought TellMe, who at the time was considered the leader. Meanwhile Apple bought Siri a few years back for a very modest amount and within a year became the category leader. More recently, Google seems to have caught up and perhaps even surpassed Siri on the technology side. MS? Well, they have Rashid demoing alpha level lab breakthroughs from a few years ago. Apple and Google don’t have much to worry about, at least from MS. Their main competition is each other.

    • Guest

      Apple’s dead. The stock market knows it, customers know it, and the innovative cofounder knows it. The company died last year and is in year two of a 13-year decomposition.

      • guest

        Well, at least it’s not in year 13 of that like MS.

        • Guest

          They call Tim Cook “The Steve Ballmer of Cupertino” for a reason.

          • guest

            Sorry, there are no shortcuts to earning that distinction. If Tim wants to be the “Steve Ballmer” of Cupertino, he’s gong to have to earn it the hard way through a decade of successive high profile failures which leave everyone writing his company’s obituary, just as Steve has.

          • Guest

            Nine more years is a long time to be in denial. I certainly hope you didn’t buy any Apple stock at $700 a share, like my idiot friend told me to. (She said it was going to $1,000!)

    • http://www.facebook.com/jasondouglasfarris Jason Farris


      • guest

        I realize the truth hurts. Deal with it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasondouglasfarris Jason Farris

    Surface doesn’t have obvious voice commands because it’s only recorded on the device and then munched in the cloud. Surface only has Wi-Fi, so it would be a feature that only worked when tethered, and that would be confusing for initiates to the brand. Voice command will be front and center once there is consumer maturity and / or ubiquitous connectivity, whichever comes first.

    • http://www.techmansworld.com/ Michael Hazell

      There could however be a surface with some type of 3G eventually. It depends on how fast this first launch goes.

    • guest

      By then users will already be hooked on Google Voice or Siri via their smartphones. They already are. And Google will make sure that’s available on W8 for sure, and WinRT if it gets any volume. You can’t lead from the back.

Job Listings on GeekWork