Doubting Apple's iPhone wisdom

Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki isn't wowed by the iPhone 5 and reckons Apple is now more interested in building handsets than computers.

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki doesn't rule out a third stint at Apple, but he's not expecting a call from CEO Tim Cook any time soon.

"You're either inside the tent or outside, and I'm not inside the tent," the 58-year-old Kawasaki joked on his trip to Sydney this week.

"Never say never, but I think the probability of Apple wanting me to come back is roughly equal to me playing in the professional hockey league NHL."

Kawasaki was twice Apple's chief evangelist, for four years in the mid '80s and again in 1995 but leaving within a few days of founder, the late Steve Jobs, return in '97. Jobs died on October 5 last year.

In those days, during Jobs' time in the wilderness founding Pixar and NeXT, Kawasaki was the smiling face and lively voice of the company on stage to the dwindling hard core of Apple faithful. It was among the darkest days the company endured, he acknowledges, when it saw its computer business slide and lose market share to IBM PCs and their compatibles running the Microsoft operating systems.

"When I was there, Apple was perceived as a losing company; towards the end, when I was leaving in ’87, it was. Apple is much more diverse now - it’s not just a computer company, I’d say it’s more a phone company, a handset company, than a computer company."

And while some question if Apple has peaked, Kawasaki says that the "momentum is definitely with Apple"

"Their stock is still peaking," he says.

These days the serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist, author and social media maven lines up at the Apple Store and pays retail prices like everyone else but he acknowledges that, like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, he probably gets to the front of any queue: "I don't have to book a Genius Bar appointment, I can just walk in most of the time".

As if to demonstrate, Kawasaki's first touch of the iPhone 5 came on his Vodafone-sponsored trip to Australia this week, to judge the mobile telco's AppAid challenge, a competition to give charities seed money for worthy mobile apps.

And while he was impressed by the quality of Australian startups who pitched their ideas to him, he's underwhelmed by what has become of the platform for which they will develop.

"I tell it like it is; some of the things (Apple) have done with the (iPhone) 5, I scratch my head, I don’t know," Kawasaki says.

"I'm not overwhelmed by the iPhone 5 – I think the connector story is ridiculous; changing SIM size, that's all we need is another [standard], everybody taking their phone to the Apple Store, AT&T store, to change SIMs. I don’t know.

"But, millions of people are standing in line to get it, right?"

Charities build apps

Vodafone Foundation granted prizes of $10,000 and $30,000 to not-for-profit groups, OzHarvest and St John Ambulance, respectively, for mobile apps that allowed chefs to donate leftover food to the needy at the end of each night, and to call for emergency assistance.

Software developers spent two days with the charities to write apps servicing their constituencies.

Kawasaki was impressed with the charities' solutions although he doesn't "really travel in that circle".

"I voted for OzHarvest (but) I was in complete agreement at the top two.

"You just gotta love that OzHarvest can go and collect food like that with a smartphone and GPS – I just love that, and the fact that somebody’s having alcohol poisoning and the responder will get it, from St John’s – I like that."

Guy's 3 top tips for startup pitching

Entrepreneurs need coaching to tackle the high-pressure pitch, Kawasaki says. He likens it to the difference between US dating websites: "In Hot or Not, you look at the picture, it's either hot or not and in these kinds of competitions it's much closer to Hot or Not than eHarmony".

1. It's more important you show the app than the team;

2. Cut back on PowerPoint, spend most of your time engaging the audience with a demo of the app;

3. If you have to prove the market exists, you're pitching to the wrong audience.

He says that as a venture capitalist, "most of the time you've made your decision in the first two minutes, so the next 58 minutes you're either bored stiff or you're trying to convince yourself you weren't wrong".

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