But what he said about the product reveals a breathtaking lack of insight into what makes Apple a great company, or why its other co-founder had the kind of genius that comes along once in a generation.
Here's Woz's comment:
I worry a little bit about -- I mean I love my Apple Watch, but -- it's taken us into a jewelry market where you're going to buy a watch between $500 or $1100 based on how important you think you are as a person. The only difference is the band in all those watches. Twenty watches from $500 to $1100. The band's the only difference? Well this isn't the company that Apple was originally, or the company that really changed the world a lot.
I love Woz. It's impossible to not love someone who thinks teaching grade school is more important than running a hot technology startup. But I've always wondered if he truly understands what makes Apple so great. And now I know for sure--he doesn't.
Here's what he's missing.
1. It's not just about the technology.
Woz is an uber-geek, and there's a common mistake most geeks make: They think technological capability is all that matters. They don't care about design, usability, or marketing--three areas where Steve Jobs's genius really shone through. (My husband--another geek--and I argued about this all the time till we finally wound up writing a book about it.) The fact is, if technological function were all that mattered, Apple would have been swept away by Microsoft in the personal computer market, and by Google in the mobile market, long ago.
2. Design matters. A lot.
It mattered a lot to Steve Jobs. So much that he lived in a house with very little furniture because he could find few pieces that met his exacting standards. So much so that when he and his wife decided to replace their clothes washer, they spent weeks researching washers from all over the world and discussing their designs before buying one from the German company Miele. It used less water, less soap, made clothes feel softer, and helped them last longer than American washers, he explained.
He brought that same exacting sense of design to everything he made. On occasion, as with his insistence on building a perfectly cube-shaped computer at NeXT, that worked against him. Much more often, it worked for him, as when he designed the case of the Apple II to be a complete, integrated computer, with monitor and keyboard at the ready--unheard of at the time. (Meantime, Wozniak created the newfangled technology that went inside that newfangled case.)
3. People care about beauty.
Woz got his facts slightly wrong--it's not only the watchbands that differ from a less expensive to more expensive Apple Watch, it's also the case itself. In the more expensive editions, it's made of 18-karat gold. I'm guessing that, like most geeks, Woz doesn't spend a lot of time in jewelry stores. Otherwise he'd be well aware that the difference between aluminum, stainless steel, and solid 18-karat gold is indeed a difference people are willing to pay for. Gold is beautiful in a way other metals are not.
In this respect, the Apple Watch is completely consistent with the company Steve Jobs created (Woz left the company after its first five years). Beauty was always top-of-mind for him. From the iMac to the MacBook Air, through every generation of iPod, iPhone, and iPad, Apple products are, first and foremost, beautiful objects. That was the genius of Jobs: A functional piece of technical equipment could also be a pleasure to use and lovely to look at. No one made that connection before him, and no one since has done it better. Even for a non-Apple user like myself, it's difficult to look at these items and not want one.
The Apple Watch, even the expensive solid gold version, doesn't do that. There are plenty of other smartwatches on the market that are just as beautiful, and just as usable, with longer battery life.
That's the true problem with this product--whatever Woz may think about paying too much for a watchband or case. If it were as eye-catching as Apple's earlier designs, it would be flying off the shelves.