Tim Wu conjures up a major difference between Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak which is reflected in their respective computers. On the Apple I (Slate):
The original Apple had a hood, and as with a car, the owner could open it up and get at the guts of the machine. Although it was a fully assembled device, not a kit like earlier PC products, Apple owners were encouraged to tinker with the innards of Wozniak’s machine—to soup it up, make it faster, add features. There were slots to accommodate all sorts of peripheral devices, and it was built to run a variety of software. Wozniak’s ethic of openness also extended to disclosing design specifications.
Wozniak’s idea of a computer would be an open book, a hood to the innards of computing.
While a computer you can modify might not sound so profound, Wozniak contemplated a nearly spiritual relationship between man and his machine. He held, simply, that machines should be open to their owners and that all power should reside in the user. That notion mattered most to geeks, but it expressed deeper ideas, too: a distrust of centralized power and a belief, embedded in silicon, that computers should be tools of freedom.
Only an open computer is a tool of freedom. A closed computer—the Mac, iPad, iPhone—is centralized control. Big Brother was born.
The Mac represented an unconditional surrender of Wozniak’s openness, as was obvious from the first glance: There was no hood. You could no longer easily open the computer and get at its innards. And only Apple stuff, or stuff that Apple approved, could run on it (as software) or plug into it (as peripherals). Apple thus became the final arbiter over what the Macintosh was and was not, rather in the way that AT&T at one time had sole discretion over what could and could not connect to the telephone network.
What of Apple’s more modern appliances, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad?
Now in 2010, the iPad takes the same ideas to their logical extreme. It is a beautiful and nearly perfect machine. It is also Jobs’ final triumph, the final step in Apple’s evolution away from Wozniak and toward a closed model. The main, and most important, concession to openness is the App Store, a creation that shows Jobs learned something from Apple’s bitter defeat by Microsoft in the 1990s. You cannot run software Apple does not distribute itself. You cannot access the file system unless you hack the machine. You cannot open the hood; indeed, the machine lacks any screws.
Does this diversion from Apple’s early roots matter to customers?
But this may not matter for many people, for the iPad is handy tool for getting well-produced content from the industries that make it. And even if it doesn’t do everything a computer does, it still does most things. Still, it is meant for consumers not users, and as such has far more in common with the television than the personal computer. It is not meant for the Homebrew Computer Club—for tinkerers, hobbyists, or for that matter, creators.
How does Wozniak feel about the changes at Apple?
Yet somewhere, deep inside, Wozniak must realize what the release of the iPad signifies: The company he once built now, officially, no longer exists.
Steve Wozniak left Apple in the 1980s, long after the Mac became Apple’s central product, after Steve Jobs was forced out of the company. According to Wu, the evolution of Apple from the 1970s to the 21st century became Steve Jobs’ victory over Steve Wozniak.
I don’t buy it.