The co-founder of Apple talks about his latest project, the second annual Silicon Valley Comic Con show.
Steve Wozniak, the tech enthusiast best known for co-founding Apple, has a lot of thoughts about tech — just don’t ask him to predict the future.
Wozniak, commonly known as “Woz,” sat down with CNET a week before the second annual Silicon Valley Comic Con to talk about the geek conference he helped start in San Jose, California; what superhero he’d like to be; what features he’d like to see in the next iPhone; and why he’s excited to get his Galaxy S8.
Even though California already has a Comic Con — the massive event in San Diego — Wozniak said there’s plenty of room for more. “We’re going to have a big announcement at the end of this one,” he said. “We’re different and better, and we don’t want to be linked in with just being another.”
Last year marked the first time Silicon Valley hosted its own Comic Con, and this year it expands into areas like virtual reality and a science fair. The show kicks off Friday and ends Sunday.
“We’ll have the popular culture side of Comic Con, but we’ll mix in a lot of the science and technology that’s local here in Silicon Valley,” he said. “It seems like [tech and geek culture are] made for each other in a lot of ways.”
Even though this year’s Silicon Valley Comic Con touts the theme, “The Future of Humanity: Where Will We Be in 2075?”, Wozniak said he hates to think even two to five years ahead “because an engineer likes to think … what is possible [today].”
“The future is going to be filled with who knows what,” Woz said. “This is how technology always goes — trying to make people into the superheroes that are in the comics.”
Here’s what else we learned from Wozniak (edited for clarity):
On which superhero he’d want to be
“I’m very afraid to answer — DC versus Marvel … I’ll go and maybe say Superman. Early, early [Superman]. It’s an incredible story, a guy goes flying into a payphone booth and switches his clothes and then [he] can save the world and then come back in, your shy, humble person that nobody would ever expect. I kinda like the comedy of that. But, they all have comedic characteristics, so I will not pick a favorite. I’m too smart to get into that battle.”
On which superpower he’d want to have
“I know which superpower is the best. Stan Lee [the comic book legend and co-founder of Silicon Valley Comic Con] said it on our stage last year. Luck. If they shoot a bullet at you, that misses because of luck … And if you’re playing blackjack it would be good if you could see through the cards … But if you’re lucky, you don’t even have to.”
On electric cars
“I believe in the electric vehicle future so much. I have a Tesla Model S and a Chevy Bolt … I think it’s a good idea to make them more affordable for more average people. I always design things to try to make them the lowest cost possible to get the job done. So, I like the lower cost of the Tesla Model 3. But look at the final configuration that you really want, what does it cost? Is it really going to be a $35,000 Model 3 or is it going to be a $60,000 Model 3?”
On whether VR will go mainstream or stay a niche for gamers
“I don’t call gamers necessarily a niche thing, because the hottest, largest chips, most powerful chips in the world we have, are made for video games. And then we in personal computers can benefit from them … So, video gamers can totally make a market successful.
I mean even when Apple had only maybe 5 percent or [so of the] market for computers, everything they would [make would] instantly sell because there was such a popular demand for it. So, I think the fun of games is a big driver [for VR], and I don’t call it a niche market. I think it’s a really good place for virtual reality’s start. I love virtual reality every time I’ve used it, and I’m sure that anyone who has used it says they love it.”
On where he’d like to see VR go in the future
“VR is going to be popular to everyone that tries it. And the only factors that keep you away from it are size and cost. It can eventually come down to be very convenient. We’ll improve chips and technology, and we’ll get enough processing for a realistic video display in two eyes. We’ll get that done, where it can be done on batteries, low-weight batteries, and it won’t be a big heavy thing you have to wear.”
On what he’d like to see in the 10th anniversary iPhone
“Right now, all the phones are pretty good, all the smartphones, they’re pretty good, and it’s so hard to come up with what’s a new idea that nobody else has thought of. You might come up with some dinky feature. I like the fact that, OK, on a Samsung phone you can say, ‘Smile,’ click, it takes a picture from your voice. That’s cute, but it’s cheesy.
That’s not the sort of thing that makes a whole new product. I think keeping the market with good products only, keeping everyone satisfied knowing that there’s so much attention being put into their experience, is all I can really think of. I don’t think we’re going to get down to everything you do on a phone’s going to be on a watch.”
On why he loves his Apple Watch
“It does so much beneficial stuff for me. A lot of people talk about, ‘I don’t really need a watch, it doesn’t really give me anything more than I have with my phone.’ This thing saves my life so many times. A phone call comes in that I don’t want. It’s just a number, nobody I know. Hang it up right here on the watch. Notifications come, buzz me, I know what’s happening.
I ask a question of the world, I can get the weather. I can even navigate with the watch on its own. It actually talks to you and it buzzes your arm to tell you when to turn. I use Apple Pay, the most convenient payment system I’ve ever found, right on the watch. I don’t have to pull anything out of my pocket, not a wallet, not cash, not a phone … I tell you, once it gets into your life, you find out it’s as versatile as a computer.”
On what gives him security and privacy concerns
“Everything. We’ve totally lost it.”
On the Amazon Echo
“I love it so much. We’re just lying in bed and talk to it and it works.”
On Samsung’s Note 7 — and why he’s still buying the Galaxy S8
“I have various Android phones at all times. I had the Note 7 and loved how it unlocked with my irises. Then I went to China, and oh my gosh, this battery thing is not from overcharging, it’s from inside the battery. So I put it on a plate on the stove in case it caught fire. Then they replaced it. Then the replacement had a problem. But I liked the phone very much, and I’ve got a Samsung Galaxy S8 on order — just the regular one, I didn’t go for the Plus.
I love the curved edges. I had the [Galaxy S]6 Edge. My favorite phones though have been the straight Google stuff, the Nexus phones and the Google Pixel … I love using the finger on the back to turn it on.
But the Galaxy S8 is going to make a big change. What did the iPhone do? It said your whole phone can be a screen except for a couple buttons. Here comes the Galaxy S8 and it doesn’t even have a home button. It is all screen.”