How do you follow an act like Steve Jobs, the best presenter in the business?
The answer is you can’t, and you shouldn’t even try.
Tim Cook should be given credit for that, even if his performance at the iPhone 4S launch today was subdued and low-key.
Cook speaks slowly and softly. He’s a courtly Southern gentleman. It can be a little soporific. He has none of the infectious enthusiasm that made Jobs’ keynotes so electrifying.
And he doesn’t have Jobs gift for outrageous hyperbole. Jobs would exaggerate to the point of absurdity, hyping even the most mundane feature. But it got the crowd really jazzed. You’d experience Jobs’ reality distortion field in full effect. You’d find yourself wildly clapping the ability to rotate photos in iPhoto, then afterwards, when the spell wore off, you’d wonder why you got so excited for so little.
Cook has none of this. Is he really excited about all the visitors to Apple’s new store in China? He said he was, but it didn’t come across.
There were complaints about the length of the keynote. But that always happens, even when Jobs is in charge. Everyone is impatient for the main event, the surprise ending.
Cook wasn’t helped by the substance of today’s announcement. Most Apple fans had worked themselves into a state of unrealistic expectation about the iPhone 5. Everyone wanted a brand new handset with a new design. Instead they got a console-capable chip and a camera to rival the best point-and-shoot. Pah — boring!
At least Cook didn’t try to emulate Jobs’ trademark “One More Thing.” If he’d tried to copy his old boss’s surprise ending, he’d have risked a huge flop and a harsh backlash.
Cook did it his own way: quiet, steady and a little bit dull. Never mind. Perhaps he will get more animated as time goes on. He’s shown on conference calls with Wall St. analysts that he has a quick brain and a sharp tongue. It would be great to see some of that in future keynotes.
Perhaps the biggest problem was turning over the presentation to a team of presenters. He was joined by Tim Forstall, Phil Schiller and Eddie Cue. But that has been Jobs’ practice for a while. And this is the new Apple. It’s a team effort now, not a one-man-show.