Steve Wozniak, chief scientist and partner at Primary Data, and cofounder of Apple, was the keynote speaker at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ ReCon conference, which bowed Monday in Las Vegas. “Every cio [chief information officer] of every retailer must be interested in that,” he said. “Primary Data finally makes it possible to have the right data on the right storage system at the right time.”

Wozniak, a self-described nerd, who spent the early part of his career as an engineer at Hewlett-Packard, was “way too geeky to have a girlfriend or wife. I came home and watched ‘Star Trek’ and ate a TV dinner. I loved technology and what it could do for us in our lives. I wanted to be a part of change. So I started doing projects on the outside.”

Every time he did something for fun, the job would turn into a little bit of money, he said, adding, “Every time you did a project, your mind advanced. HP did turn me down five times for the personal computer.”

Asked if he thought about the commercialization of his PC, Wozniak said, “Never once. We had a club of people, Stanford [University] people, and Berkley [University] professors. I went and built a computer with parts I never had before. A bunch of people were talking about building small, portable computers and I was five years ahead of them.”

Wozniak said he loved being an engineer and inventing things and tweaking them so that no one would even know how he did it, only that his innovations worked more smoothly, ran more quickly and performed more efficiently.

Of his partner, Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, Wozniak said, “He said, ‘We should start a company.’ The Apple Two design was the first computer I designed from the ground up. It was just getting to the point where there was a market for it,” Wozniak deadpanned, “Steve Jobs was a good salesman.”

Wozniak said he approaches everything from a shopper’s perspective. “I think of my experience in the stores as a customer,” he said, describing what his company does in laymen’s terms. “We all have an awful lot of data in our heads. Sometimes we want to think of the name of a singer but we’re not able to access the information.

“We look at the conundrum of unleashing data. Right now, some big data is archived in slow disc drives,” he continued. “Some of these systems are huge, legacy systems. We’re looking at how should the industry be thinking about efficiency. For some, the technology is bogging us down.”

Wozniak said his company can get around the bottlenecks that come up unexpectedly with virtual storage, “which means it can be out in the cloud. That’s what we’re about.”

The technology innovator explained that he approaches shopping organically. “When I go to a store, am I seeing what I want to see,” he said. “Technology is changing things so fast. We can get so many improvements in profits. This is a huge industry. But big companies and big industries tend to move slowly. It often boils down to people.”

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