April 10, 2011

The Woz Returneth?

With Steve Jobs on an indefinite leave of absence, Apple's future success under his stewardship is debatable just as the company enjoys a string of wildly successful product launches. Jobs was sighted (Radar Online) leaving a California cancer treatment facility a few weeks after his leave began, leaving a hanging, malodorous assumption. I've heard more than one commentator simply avoid discussion of Jobs' health since. The concern is both personal, for the visionary leader of the consumer computing industry, and economic for the company he co-founded.

Now comes word that Steve Wozniak, Apple's co-founder with Jobs, would return to the company as a full-time employee, if asked. From Reuters:

Steve Wozniak would consider returning to an active role at Apple (AAPL.O), the company he co-founded, and believes the consumer electronics giant could afford to be more open than it is, he told Reuters. "I'd consider it, yeah," the 60-year-old computer engineer said in an interview, when asked whether he would play a more active role if asked.

This is good, on a couple of levels. Wozniak has continued to work in product engineering over the years, most recently as Chief Scientist with storage company Fusion-io. The curiosity he brought to Apple's early years would continue to serve that company well today. As importantly, Woz is a giant in the consumer computing field, alongside Jobs, Gates and Allen. The contribution his return would bring to Apple would be as much a moral re-grounding as technical leadership.

The best outcome for Apple is, of course, a return to health and work for Steve Jobs. Barring that, the return of the Woz is a close second. No current Apple manager brings his geek cred and engineering enthusiasm to the company.