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Steve Wozniak Unveils Wireless Device Firm

It may be a questionable market to start up a new venture, but when you're Steve Wozniak, perhaps you can have a go at it. The Apple Computer Inc. co-founder Wednesday drew the curtain on a new firm geared to make wireless consumer electronics products.

On the strength of $6 million in first-round funding from Mobius Venture Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Palo Alto Investors, comes Wheels of Zeus (wOz), whose devices will be made to "help everyday people track everyday things." This means the firm will emphasize global positioning system (GPS) technology.

Further information is not yet available about exactly what type of products will be offered, but the public should know some time next year. Formerly a military-driven technology, GPS has applications beyond navigation and location determination. It can be used for cartography, forestry, mineral exploration, wildlife habitation management and monitoring movement.

"wOz is designing new consumer electronics wireless products that will have universal appeal among consumers and corporations alike," said Wozniak in a public statement. "Recent advances in global positioning software (GPS) systems and antenna technology coupled with the declining cost of processing power and two-way networking make the possibilities for new devices and services really exciting."

Few people familiar with industry trends would argue with this, it seems. Research firm Strategis Group said in a December 2001 report that more than 483 million devices will be sold to end-users globally, and one third of the world's population will own a wireless device by 2008.

And consumers will want some services with those devices no doubt. Market research firm IDC said that by the end of 2001, 10 million access lines were displaced by wireless, mostly by consumers choosing a wireless service over installing an additional access line at home. Moreover, the firm said displacement of wireline services is expected to accelerate even more in 2002, resulting in an additional 10 million access lines replaced by wireless by 2005.

Greg Galanos, managing director at Mobius Venture Capital and a leading investor in wireless start-ups, will join Wozniak on the wOz board. He has led Mobius investments in Bergana Communications, Danger and PocketThis!. Tim Draper, founder and managing director at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, will serve as chairman of the company's newly formed advisory board, which will include high-profile executives to be named later.

Both Galanos and Draper were ecstatic to work with the man known as Woz, who despite being quiet startup-wise for the last decade, is unquestionably a founding father of the Silicon Valley tech scene. Wozniak is best known for forging Apple's first line of products, including the Apple I and II, along with fellow co-founder and current CEO Steve Jobs.

"Steve's quintessential character and visionary passion bootstrapped the personal computer revolution," said Galanos in a public statement. "Expanding on his thought leadership that computing should be accessible to all, Steve's new vision will help converge wireless networks, the Internet and other emerging technologies through the design of new devices and services accessible to everyone."

Devoted to the adoption of technology in grade school classes, Wozniak "adopted" the Los Gatos School District, providing students and teachers with hands-on teaching, as well as donations of technology equipment.