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Steve Wozniak says he didn’t mean Apple should be broken up — but it shouldn’t be a castle

Steve Wozniak says he didn’t mean Apple should be broken up — but it shouldn’t be a castle


He still appreciates Apple, though

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Science Channel’s “Silicon Valley: The Untold Story” Screening
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images for Discovery

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is wildly outspoken, and he’s never been shy to criticize the company he helped build. This week, he told Bloomberg that Apple should have been split up a long time ago.

But he's not talking about government regulators stepping in the way Elizabeth Warren wants. Rather, he’s talking about letting Apple spread its divisions across the country and giving them the independence to work on their own ideas rather than concentrating them in centralized, castle-like campuses, he tells The Verge (in our own comments section, no less).

Here’s the full quote from Bloomberg, which we (and others) initially misinterpreted: “I wish Apple on its own has split off a long time ago and spun off independent divisions to far away places and let them work independently, like Hewlett-Packard did when I was there.”

Apple seems to be doing pretty well as a monolithic entity

You might note that HP was the company that turned down Wozniak when he wanted to make a personal computer — five times, according to Woz — and that HP as a company isn’t anywhere near the wildly successful juggernaut that Apple is today.

But Woz has also praised HP in the past for letting him work freely — “Engineers could go in at night and have access to all the parts they needed and tools to work on their own designs,” he recalled in 2011 — and in our comments, he clarifies that he’s referring to another lesson he thinks Apple could learn from the ‘70s-era HP:

For decades I have said that I would have preferred Apple to relocate divisions off to other locations, as HP did when I worked there. HP had divisions all over the country that acted more independently than in a single campus, and I saw the effects of living in nice environments, like Colorado, and having more independence as a group to come up with great products. In the case of Apple this would have meant things like relocating the computer division to one place and the iPhone division to another, etc. I also have pointed out for decades that I was the only Apple executive I ever heard express these sentiments. The campus (castle) idea is more popular.

In general, though, Woz does seem to believe something should be done about big tech companies. “I think big tech has gotten too big, it’s too powerful a force in our life, and it’s taken our choices away. It’s hard to escape,” Woz told Bloomberg, but added that he thinks Apple is “the best of the companies” because it’s mostly making money selling products rather than tracking people.  

He thinks that when it comes to Facebook and Google, competition should be enforced — but in the meanwhile, he has an ask: “Give me a choice to pay for almost no tracking.”

Update, August 29th at 10:09AM ET: While it was fairly clear from Woz’s initial comments that he wasn’t advocating splitting up Apple for antitrust reasons, we initially suggested it might be along the lines of his previous comments about how HP offered engineers more freedom. He’s since clarified he’s actually talking about independence in a more traditional sense.