Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, and the long road to the iPad.

Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, and the long road to the iPad.

Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, and the long road to the iPad.

Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
April 6 2010 1:27 PM

The Apple Two

The iPad is Steve Jobs' final victory over the company's co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Also in Slate, Farhad Manjoo says you don't need an iPad—but once you try one, it's hard to resist. 

(Continued from Page 1)

"Oh," said Wozniak. "That was Steve. He wanted it that way."

Apple's origins were pure Steve Wozniak, but the Mac, the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad are the products of the company's other founder. Steve Jobs' ideas have always been in tension with Wozniak's brand of idealism and the founding principles of Apple. Jobs maintained the early, countercultural image that he and Wozniak created, but beginning with the Macintosh in the 1980s, and accelerating through the iPhone and climaxing with the iPad's release this month, he has taken Apple on a fundamentally different track, one that is, in fact, nearly the opposite of the Wozniak vision.

Jobs believes in perfection, not muddling through. He would seem as much at home in Victorian England as behind the counter of a sushi bar: a man who believes in a single best way of performing any task and presenting the results. As one might expect, his ideas embody an aesthetic philosophy as much as a sense of functionality, which is why Apple's products look so good while working so well. But those ideas have also long been at odds with the principles of the early computing industry, of the Apple II, and of the Internet. The ideology of the perfect machine and open computing are contradictory. They cannot coexist.

As Wozniak told me in 2006, it was the Macintosh, launched in 1984, that marked the first departure from many of his ideas as realized in the Apple II.To be sure, the Macintosh was a radical innovation in its own right, being the first mass-produced computer to feature a "mouse" and a "desktop," ideas born in the mind of Douglas Engelbart in the 1960s and that had persisted without fructifying in computer science labs ever since. Nevertheless 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.


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. I compared my iPad to various appliances around the home—coffee machines, toaster, cameras—and the only thing comparably sealed was, well, an iPod. The iPad has no slots; its only interface is an Apple-specific plug. Oddly enough, this all means that the iPad is not a machine that Apple's founders, in the 1970s, would have ever considered buying.

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.

Steve Wozniak has said that he pre-ordered three iPads, two for himself and one for a friend. This is a testament to his incredible good nature and his loyalty both to the firm that marginalized him in the 1980s and to a friend, Jobs, who refused to write a foreword for his memoirs. Yet somewhere, deep inside, Wozniak must realize what the release of the iPad signifies: The company he once built now, officially, no longer exists.

Become a fan of  Slate on Facebook. Follow us on  Twitter.