Steve Wozniak is a legendary figure around Apple, mostly for designing the Apple I and Apple II. Along with co-founder Steve Jobs, Wozniak is one of the most prominent people in the development of personal computers, and was integral in the very early days of what would eventually become the world’s most valuable company.
Despite the fact that the average iPhone user likely has no idea who ‘Woz’ is, he will forever be associated with one of Silicon Valley’s most important origin stories. While Wozniak left Apple in 1985, and sold most of his stock, he reportedly still receives a $50 a month honorary salary.
This week, however, Wozniak had harsh words to say about the company he helped start. Specifically, he takes issue with Apple’s position on ‘right-to-repair,’ the idea that consumers should have the ability to access information and parts to repair their devices. Currently, Apple is one of the strongest opponents to the movement.
Wozniak’s primary argument is that “we would not have had Apple had I not grown up in a very open technology world.” That’s true. As Woz describes in a video posted on Cameo, it was the fact that he was able to take things apart, see how they worked, and fix them when they broke, that led to his ability to build computers in the first place.
“Back then, when you bought electronic things like TVs and radios, every bit of the circuits and designs were included on paper. Total open source,” he said.
In fact, he argues that the openness of Apple’s early products was one of their selling features. “It was not … successful on pure luck,” he said. “There were a lot of good things about that being so open that everyone could join the party.”
In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that you could buy a PowerBook and upgrade the RAM or replace the hard drive on your own. I’ve personally done both, and have replaced more than a few iPhone displays. Now, however, most of Apple’s devices contain no user-serviceable parts.
That doesn’t mean they are impossible to repair, but many are far too difficult without special tools. Even if you’re successful, you’ve almost certainly voided the warranty, meaning Apple won’t support future repairs on your device.
The video was in response to a question from Louis Rossmann, a YouTube personality and a right-to-repair advocate, and Wozniak doesn’t hold back from sharing exactly what he thinks about Apple’s position.
“Companies inhibit (right-to-repair) because it gives the companies power, control, over everything,” Wozniak said. “It’s time to start doing the right things.” That’s a pretty common criticism of Apple–that it exerts too much control.
Wozniak’s rebuke comes the same week as President Biden signed an Executive Order directing the FTC to introduce rules preventing companies from restricting how consumers are able to repair the devices they buy. The FTC has already called out Apple, calling its restrictions on third-party and DIY repairs “anti-competitive.”
Still, it has to sting a little more coming from someone who founded the company, even if he hasn’t been a part of it for more than 30 years.