Tim Cook and company, as expected today, announced a bunch of stuff they already announced for about 30-minutes (iPhone 6, Yosemite, iCloud, iOS 8 updates, Apple Watch, etc.), and then announced a number of products for which features were already leaked. This Apple Event included:
- iPad Air 2
- iPad Mini 3
- iMac with Retina Display
- Updated Mac Mini
I’m am not sure what we waited so long for in this line-up. I was hoping Apple was going to go with a nostalgic announcement that it had really kept secret, something like a 128GB solid-state iPod Classic, iMacs with color bezels or perhaps an Apple stylus for the iPad. But no.
Ironically, and I think I am using that term correctly, Apple’s Craig Federighi had a discussion with Stephen Colbert who is now their celebrity ‘Chief of Secrecy’ Colbert suggested that he needed a bigger title than that, something like: Intergalactic Chancellor of Secrecy or Supreme Ally Commander of Super Secrecy.
Here’s the irony. The various leaks around the Internet already pre-announced everything Apple put forth today. They didn’t have a “just one more thing” moment, and they didn’t announce anything anywhere that was secret. The only secret they kept today was how many orders they actually took for iPhones globally (and China specifically). That we are left to guess.
So in some ways, using Colbert only served to reinforce Apple’s humorous stance on secrecy. At least that is what I got out of it.
If they had made a joke and then surprised us with one more thing no one saw coming, the joke would have been really good. But while their product announcements did keep Apple ahead of all other PC, tablet and phone makers, the Colbert bit only served to highlight a part of Apple culture that now seems, itself, to invoke nostalgia.
In the age of the Internet and manufacturing in countries with weak intellectual property protections, perhaps Apple can do nothing more than make light of the leaks and go on to tell us pretty much what we expected to hear.
I would love it, however, if Apple still had some super secret projects in the basement of their soon-to-launch corporate spaceship that will, someday, surprise us again.
So we waited through a very long announcement event that never delivered any announcement we had waited for. Marketing messages that meet expectations may also be a thing of the past.
A note on innovation
Although I am clearly chiding Apple for mostly wasting my time this morning, I will emphatically stat that Apple remains innovative. Innovative is different than disruptive. Too many people don’t make that distinction.
If every Apple product release completely screwed with their ecosystem, UI parameters, connectors and other features, they would never gain momentum. Although constant disruption can be innovative, in business, innovation is about turning ideas into something that the market will buy. The market will, for instance, buy the new iMac with Retina display. That iMac may look just like the old iMac, but the screen and the timing screen controller (or TCON) are way cool for anybody who watches screens and video controllers (and there are other internal innovations here). At $2499 for a base model it isn’t out of reach for most of Apple’s customer base, and its “innovation” is worthy of a price differential from say, the HP ENVY Recline – 27xt Touch All-in-One PC (latest HP computers at this link) with its 1920 x 1080 HD display and slower i5 processors (though the Envy does have a touch screen).
I think Apple has an opportunity for a couple of disruptive moves going forward. First, invent something that we haven’t guessed at.
Second, rethink software distribution. These ginormous releases of multi-gigabyte files is very old school. They cause Apple trouble of one kind or another with every release (most common on iOS is the inability to download the release into memory, forcing the disconnected among us to connect to iTunes to manage the update). I sit here on Yosemite release day at 2pm Pacific, no Yosemite in site yet.
I would love to see Apple think about a streaming, modular release plans that installed upgrades in incremental chunks (which is really what happens during the execution of an update anyway).By making the update more modular its could also be more leisurely perhaps, and even more secure, as features with less testing end up pushing out later. I am sure they will say that the way software rolls out has to do with the underlying expectations of the Unix roots (literally) that lie beneath OS X, but that is where the innovation needs to come in. Software update has been reinvented since images were moved from CD to the web, but all that did was change the install “media.”
And I think a more colorful Apple would be good. White and silver are cool. But I’ve been waiting for some color. Bring back the rainbow.