After four weeks on Dancing with the Stars, Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak was booted from the show last night, one of two celebrities to get the hook.
His departure will be a blow to Apple Inc., which has reaped benefits from Wozniak's prime-time turn on television, a New York marketing executive warned.
Wozniak and his professional partner, Karina Smirnoff, were two of the three couples with the lowest combined scores from Monday's program, and were therefore slated for possible elimination on Tuesday's episode. Former Playboy cover model Holly Madison was the other celebrity contestant dropped, while Jackass star Steve-O survived for at least one more week.
The decision didn't seem to take Wozniak by surprise. "This is a great show, a great voting system even, and the right thing happens," said Wozniak after being told he was done with the program.
Ironically, Wozniak has been very vocal about how the Dancing with the Stars judges score routines and about the fan voting system; at one point, he had said the judges were out of sync with the public taste and that the voting was rigged.
Before the elimination show aired Tuesday, Wozniak took another shot at the judges' scores from the night before, when he and Smirnoff were given a total of 12 out of a possible 30 points. "I think after watching our dance that we deserved a score around 20," Wozniak said in a message posted to Facebook. "I feel that the judges have turned up the contrast and award either 9's or 4's and there's not much middle ground."
Wozniak praised his partner Tuesday. "Karina ... forever, man. I want to dance more with you!" he said.
His elimination will put an end not just to his dancing career, but also to the goodwill that Apple was getting from his time on TV, said the head of a digital marketing firm. "He's been a distraction from [CEO] Steve Jobs' health issues," said Kathy Sharpe, the chief executive of Manhattan-based Sharpe Partners. "Woz is kind of a clown and good counterpoint to Jobs' condition. You don't take him seriously."
Apple's chief executive has been on medical leave since January, when he announced that his health issues, which he had dismissed just a week before as simply a hormonal imbalance, were "more complex" than originally thought. Jobs will remain on leave until the end of June.
Jobs' health has been of concern to investors since June 2008, when he appeared gaunt at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference. In 2004, Jobs announced that he had had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his pancreas, and the fear by some was that the cancer had returned.
"I don't think that Woz's appearance [on Dancing with the Stars] was happenstance," Sharpe said. "I think there are challenges when such a strong visionary leaves a company that's tied as tightly to his vision as is Apple." This was one way to counteract Jobs' absence, she said.
Apple also benefited another way from Wozniak's dancing. "Apple takes itself too seriously at times," she said, and Wozniak's repeated message that he was enjoying himself worked to the company's advantage. "The Mac aficionados are much deeper in the brand, and they know who Woz is and the part he played in the first years of Apple.
"Any geek had to look at him, and say, 'There but for the grace of God go I,'" Sharpe said. "They were just happy that he didn't fall down."
Dancing with the Stars resumes sans Wozniak next Monday at 8 p.m. Eastern time, 7 p.m. Central, on ABC.