10 Minutes With: Steve Wozniak
Issue: June 1, 2012

10 Minutes With: Steve Wozniak

LAS VEGAS — At NAB 2012, Post’s editing team, Randi Altman and Marc Loftus, along with the magazine’s owner, William Rittwage, had the opportunity to chat with Steve Wozniak of Apple fame just after he participated in a panel, and just before he was to catch a flight.

This legend among the technical minded is chief scientist at Salt Lake City’s Fusion-io (www.fusionio.com), makers of a storage memory platform — ioMemory — that improves (big-time improves) the processing capabilities within a data center. It does this by moving process-critical, or active data, closer to the CPU where it is processed.

Pixomondo benefitted from ioMemory while creating the Oscar-winning VFX work for Hugo. The newly introduced Fusion ioFX helps bridge the performance gap between workstations and digital content creation apps, like the newly introduced Adobe After Effects — the 420GB Fusion ioFX connects via the PCI Express bus to provide low-latency data performance tuned for manipulating digital content on the fly.

POST: You have been on the management team of Fusion-io since 2009. How did the relationship begin?
STEVE WOZNIAK: “They approached me and told me what they had, and I understood it so well. I asked them some devil’s advocate questions and for real-life benchmark comparisons against other technologies. During that first meeting, I was sold and felt this company was going to go a long way, because the amount of data information I saw is on that exponential curve going up. There is huge room for the product they have now — it leapfrogs what they had before. The way they thought to come up with a product was the right way instead of just the simple, expectable way. It was risky and it paid off.
“I also appreciated their minds. They are smart people. When they asked me to join, it was a total shock; I just didn’t expect that. I would never have said yes to almost any company in the world. I have three companies that are dear to my heart — Hewlett-Packard, Apple, of course, and Fusion-io.”

POST: They just introduced this new product, so what will your input be going forward?
WOZNIAK: “When I first started with the company, I had a very light year in terms of my own schedule, and I started to participate on a lot of ideas for the increase of endurance of chips and things like that. Then my personal schedule, which includes speaking dates around the world, just shot off the map and now I am only home about one day a month. So right now I am not having a huge direct impact, although I am thinking a lot, and when it makes sense I share my science ideas — I have some specific ideas, some of which are chip technology, parts of it are architectures to adapt to this new medium of NAND flash. 
“I think those new opportunities are coming up because we don’t have new operating system ideas or computer language ideas that deal with this product that speeds things up so much. They still have to fit into the style of programming that was designed for the old days, the hard disks. I go to sleep many nights thinking, ‘How can I come up with ideas for Fusion-io products or a place that I’d like to research that would really make the products even faster, better, cheaper and last longer.’”

POST: Who do you see changing the world in terms of technology?
WOZNIAK: “Well, I think Fusion-io changed the world. Everybody’s using it. So much information on the Web is actually coming off our boards now. You don’t see that on your laptop computer because Fusion-io doesn’t make a board for your laptop. We are at the other end of the Internet. Everything you do on your laptop is pretty much on the Internet these days, and that means there is another end — a server and a datacenter, and that is where we are. We are in the enterprise market, and what I like about this part is that it appeals to the young, creative-thinking guys, like the kids in high school who are good at music and good at video and want to make their own videos and talk their dad into buying something that is a lot less expensive than a used car and that could really enhance their future. So this is a device you can use on a personal level or you can use it right in your studio and plug it into a server.”

POST: Where do you see things going in terms of mobile computing?
WOZNIAK: “Well I think the ioFX could be interesting here. The reason I haven’t been a Creative Suite kind of guy lately is that it would just get swallowed up by not having enough space for everything on my laptop. Creative Suite is powerful, so it takes up a huge amount of space. Solid-state disks are common in the laptops nowadays, but it can still be slow when going through the old disk interface, rather than how it works when you implement these kinds of chips right on a motherboard. Laptops nowadays don’t need as much memory as they did before. Look how iPad is taking over the world, and it’s all solid-state disk. The Apple Air is only solid-state disk. I have the MacBook Pro, the high-end one, with only solid-state disks.”

POST: You said in your presentation you are always interested in new things. What are you into now?
WOZNIAK: “Right now mobile technology is the hottest thing in the gadget world, so I buy one of each gadget, try them out and compare them. I find all the best features —one little user interface thing here, one little hardware operation there. It varies. Never is all the good stuff on one product. So following gadgets is a big part of my life.”

POST: If you were 19, 20 years old now, what do you think you’d be creating in a friend’s garage?
WOZNIAK: “I’d probably be writing apps for smartphones. That would be number one. I’d love to say video editing, but I was never sort of that artistic person to go out there and do that.”