Steve Wozniak arrived first at an Apple Store in California
Fans, along with the Apple co-founder, are waiting to buy an iPhone 4S
Wozniak has lined up for previous Apple product launches
A line began to form at the Apple Store here on the eve of the iPhone 4S release, as is often the case around the world during the company’s product launches.
At the front of this particular line Thursday, Steve Wozniak sits in a Pico armchair, sipping Diet Dr Pepper and scanning e-mails from his white iPad.
The Apple co-founder, who gets a paycheck of “a couple hundred dollars every two weeks” and still maintains his status as employee No. 1 in company records, hasn’t been able to stay put for long. Crowds of Apple fans, family friends and people who have seen him riding his Segway around the neighborhood stop to say hi, take pictures and ask for his autograph.
“I’ll be taking a thousand pictures,” Wozniak whispered with a smile. “I’m going to sit down and see if I can get a little e-mail done, because there’s no way I’m going to get it all done today.”
Seconds later, an enthusiastic man in a yellow polo shirt positioned his two kids near the computer legend and pleaded for him to pose. Wozniak immediately sprang to his feet with a grin on his face.
People brought iPhones, iPods and iPads for Wozniak to sign with a marker. “Now your phone is not going to be worth as much when you sell it,” Wozniak said to one woman before signing her iPhone 4.
Fans gave Wozniak their condolences over the late Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder who died last week. Flowers, partially eaten apples and notes were laid in front of Apple Stores around the world, including this one, where the memorial was set just a few feet from Wozniak’s spot in line.
Wozniak explained that sending flowers or onetime celebrations are the kinds of traditions he and Jobs agreed were unnecessary. However, he talked openly about how much he misses his high-school pal, with whom he built a technology empire.
Wozniak acknowledged that he could have easily made one phone call to Apple and gotten the phone he’s waiting in line for, but he didn’t. He has yet to play with an iPhone 4S or its Siri voice-controlled assistant. He has said previously that he does not ask colleagues about products in development because he does not want to ruin the surprise for himself.
“I want to get mine along with the millions of other fans,” Wozniak said. “I just want to be able to talk to my phone.”
Analysts have expressed disappointment in the iPhone 4S, but Wozniak, who looks forward to every new Apple device, is especially animated when discussing it. Over the past year, he has not been shy about his anticipation for voice-assist technology, like the new 4S tool called Siri.
People who say they have waited in lines behind Wozniak during past Apple releases have written spiteful messages online claiming he had used his celebrity to cut in line just before the stores opened. Wozniak said that he is usually further back in line at these events but that fans in front of him insist that he get his devices first.
On Thursday, there is no dispute about Wozniak’s place in line. His Segway, which he rode from his nearby home, is parked in a corner near the store’s entrance. Wozniak arrived about noon, and he plans to stay overnight in order to get the new iPhone first, he said.
Fifteen minutes after Wozniak arrived, Parth Dhebar, 17, showed up. He first met Wozniak last year in line at a nearby store during the launch of the original iPad. Wozniak and the high school student kept in touch by e-mail and Facebook, and they were third and fourth in line to buy the iPhone 4.
At the iPad launch, Wozniak taught Dhebar how to ride a Segway.
“Mall security was like, ‘You shouldn’t be Segwaying in here,’ but nobody is going to say no to Woz, obviously,” said Dhebar, who develops iPhone applications. “He does it because he wants to, not for publicity reasons.”
Reporters and cameramen were among the people approaching Wozniak on Thursday. By 7 p.m. Pacific, about a dozen people had set up chairs behind Wozniak, and his wife, Janet Hill, joined. Wozniak said he had already ordered two iPhones to be delivered to his home; he’s in line to buy one for his wife.
Before then, a policeman asked Wozniak quietly whether he would need anything and whether the celebrity planned to stay all night. Wozniak said that he was but that he might take a jog around the block at 3 a.m.
“The line is doing nicely,” Wozniak said after surveying the area.
Some in the queue came out solely because Wozniak was here, which they learned from updates on his Twitter and Foursquare profiles. Joe Hewitt, a prominent Silicon Valley software developer, also tweeted this afternoon when he spotted Wozniak in line.
Mohamad Jawad, a graduate student at Santa Clara University, took the bus after seeing Wozniak’s tweet. David Gandy, a furniture designer who is looking to change jobs, said he came to soak up some inspiration from Wozniak.
“I came out here just so I can hang out with Woz for 18 hours,” said Gandy, who lives in the nearby city of Campbell. “I’ve been watching him get harassed all day.”
Wozniak designed the original Apple computers, his major triumph, but he is recognized by many people nowadays for his short-lived appearance in 2009 on the ABC show “Dancing with the Stars.”
“You were awesome on ‘Dancing with the Stars!’ ” said one fan, who had her picture taken with Wozniak. “So good! I voted for you.”
Wozniak quipped, “It’s the one show I like on TV.” He doesn’t watch television, he adds. He spends a great deal of time responding to fan mail.