Segway chief technology officer Doug Field, who has led the engineering team behind the company's upright, self-balancing electric scooter, has joined Apple as VP of product design.
Segway made the disclosure on a July 4 post on the company's chat forum. Field has headed the engineering team at the company since its beginning.
"Doug has been the driving force in making the Segway what it is today and will be sorely missed at the company," the post said. "However, with every change comes good and bad. So while it's bad the rich history and experience of Doug is leaving, it's good in that perhaps the team will get a fresh perspective into possible engineering solutions for future versions of the Segway, or Segway-like applications."
In joining Apple, Field will work with Jonathan Ive, senior VP of industrial design and the main designer of the iMac, iPod and iPhone. Apple is one of the top innovators in the computer industry in terms of hardware design, which is praised for style, form and function.
But while Segway's namesake scooter has gotten high marks for innovative technology, it's never earned the "cool" factor associated with Apple products. According to author Steve Kemper in the book, "Code Name Ginger: The Story Behind Segway and Dean Kamen's Quest To Invent A New World," Apple chief executive Steve Jobs was less than thrilled about the Segway in a 2001 meeting with inventor Kamen.
"I think it sucks," Jobs said. While praising the technology, the Apple CEO said, "Its shape is not innovative, it's not elegant, it doesn't feel anthropomorphic."
The Segway's portrayal as a dorky scooter for geeks, along with its $5,000 price tag, has been the reasons often cited for lackluster sales. However, as gasoline prices soar, people are taking a fresh look at the machine.
Jim Norrod, chief executive of Segway, told The Wall Street Journal that he expected sales in the second quarter of this year at the closely held company to increase by 50% from the same period a year ago, versus a 25% year-to-year increase in the first quarter.
While Segway doesn't release sales details, the company revealed in September 2006 that about 23,500 of the scooters had been sold. The number was released as part of a recall due to a software glitch.