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Tuesday, 08 July 2008 12:41

Designer Segways over to Apple

Segway's chief technology officer is reportedly leaving to join Apple. What would Apple want with a vehicle designer?

Doug Field has led the Segway engineering team since the company was formed, but will be joining Apple as a vice president of product design.

The news was revealed in a blog posting by John Grohol, "Wise Segway Elder" and former web architect at the company.

The appointment - assuming the report is accurate - is curious. According to the book Code Name Ginger by Steve Lemper (as excerpted by Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge), Apple CEO Steve Jobs was not impressed by the Segway's design.

Segway investor John Doerr asked Jobs what he thought of the design at a secret meeting in San Francisco. His reply? "I think it sucks!"

According to Lemper, Field - who was not present at the meeting - "would have felt the wound".

"Its shape is not innovative, it's not elegant, it doesn't feel anthropomorphic," Jobs added, recommending that Segway turn over the task to a design firm.

Has Jobs mellowed over the intervening years? Does he think Field's design skills have improved? Who knows!

And perhaps more to the point, on what sort of product design will Apple set Field to work?

Apart from Segway, he has worked on the Independence iBot mobility system at DEKA. Other firms on his resume include Johnson & Johnson, and Ford.

The two-wheeled, self-stabilising Segway 'scooter' first appeared in 2001. Although it was designed to be acceptable on public footpaths, such use has been held to be illegal in many jurisdictions, and this is one of the main reasons why it failed to become anything other than a novelty and a gadget for enthusiasts.

That said, Segway owners have clocked up an estimated 1,000,000 miles. This milestone was announced in June 2008.

One of the most famous Segway exponents is Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. The device has been adopted by a small number of police forces and security firms for patrol use.


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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.



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