Wozniak to Apple: Consider building an Android phone

Apple's co-founder laments BlackBerry's fall and has harsh words for Microsoft and the NSA

Though Apple sells its own wildly popular iPhone smartphone, the company might want to consider offering a phone based on the rival Google Android platform, too, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak suggested on Wednesday. "There's nothing to keep Apple out of the Android market as a secondary phone market," he said.

An Android offering could supplement Apple's own iOS platform, Wozniak suggested while speaking at the Apps World conference in San Francisco. He acknowledged the rivalry between Android and iOS, even referring to Android as the "anti-iPhone" alternative to Apple. Wozniak made the suggestion of an Apple Android device when responding to a question about the fate of the faltering BlackBerry platform in which he said BlackBerry should have built an Android phone; he then said Apple could do so, too. "BlackBerry's very sad for me," Wozniak lamented. "I think it's probably too late now" for an Android-based BlackBerry phone.

Apple, he said, has had some lucky victories in the marketplace in the past decade, such as the iPhone and the iPad. "A whole new category of product doesn't happen very often." The company is very deliberate and silent when it comes to product development, Wozniak explained. "Apple takes a long time to get [its] products so good."

Wozniak reserved judgment on Apple CEO Tim Cook, who took over the reins of the company shortly before Steve Jobs' death in October 2011. Apple under Cook needs more time, he said. He also questioned Microsoft's claims of innovation, arguing unsurprisingly that Apple has bested Microsoft in that area. "Microsoft sat there for decades, saying, 'We're the company of innovation, innovation, innovation.' And I never saw anything compared to what Apple was doing."

Wozniak also had harsh words for the National Security Agency's monitoring of private citizens, which he said violates the Constitution. Wozniak said he grew up thinking his phone could be tapped only if he was doing something wrong, in which case a court-issued warrant would be required. "Now, they're saying anybody can be tapped." He warned that the United States risks becoming a police state if prosecutors and government agencies are allowed to proceed unchecked, and he stressed that there should be protections for law-abiding individuals.

Wozniak also commented on the controversial issue of patents, saying that the patent system has been abused a lot but is still important. "Sometimes, patents seem so ridiculous," with minor innovations becoming patentable, he said. But if someone devises a way of doing something in a way that is has not been done before, patent protection is deserved. "I just like it better when companies say, 'Rather than fight patents in court, why don't we just agree we'll cross-license?'"

Wozniak also doubted the ability to make computers that are conscious of what is going on around them, akin to human brain capabilities. "We don't understand the brain. How do we make a conscious computer?" Still, in an interview with InfoWorld about how to successfully innovate, Wozniak described the notion of companion computers that would be able to assist people in everyday activities. They may not be conscious, but they'd be more contextual and human than today.

This story, "Wozniak to Apple: Consider building an Android phone," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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