Apple’s product announcements used to be the most exciting events in technology. Nowadays they’re boring, awkward and cringeworthy.
Apple’s Event This Week: Tucked or Untucked?
Much of the social media chatter during Apple’s iPad announcement this week was about the fact that Apple executives on stage were going “untucked” with their shirts hanging out. Nothing new there, but the mind wanders in an excitement vacuum. Another topic was speculation about “what’s wrong?” — with CEO Tim Cook, Phil Schiller and Eddy Cue lacking energy and stumbling over their words. Craig Federighi was the only presenter with any life in him.
It’s hard to understand how far Apple announcements have sunk unless you revisit the old ones. Here’s Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone in 2007. There’s so much excitement in the room, it feels like the audience will explode. This week’s audience struggled to stay awake.
I believe the problem is that the Apple announcement format evolved into its present form as a showcase for Steve Jobs, the best introducer of products ever produced by American capitalism.
Apple doesn’t want its iconic announcement theater to make a sudden change because that would lead the public to believe that Apple is a radically different company without Steve Jobs.
However, the ugly truth is that the format doesn’t work with the personalities (or lack thereof) Apple is currently putting on stage.
Here are the 4 things Apple should do in order to maintain its reputation as the Gold Standard in product announcements.
1. Introduce new people
The format worked in part because Steve Jobs a major creative force behind the products being announced. Tim Cook is a good CEO, as far as I can tell, but he’s an organization guy with all the charisma of a piece of wood. His role as the main announcer needs to be scaled back. He should open the event, talk for couple of minutes about how excited he is and how successful Apple is, then hand it over with somebody with a personality.
Then, Apple needs to dig deeper into the organization and bring key people out on stage and introduce them to the world.
Every. Single. Announcement. Over-exposes Tim Cook, Craig Federighi, Phil Schiller and Eddy Cue, and plays the old standard video of Jony Ive in that white dungeon they apparently keep him locked in. I can barely look at poor Jony Ive anymore trying to muster enthusiasm to wax genius yet again, telling us over and over how every detail has been carefully considered and so on.
Apple needs to open the kimono. Show us Apple designers designing. Give us a video of the manufacturing process. Something new!
2. Be more playful
Apple execs spend all their energy trying not to screw up. You can smell the fear. That’s no fun.
If you look back at Steve Jobs’ iPhone unveiling, you’ll see that much of it was just Jobs trolling the audience. First he said Apple was announcing three devices, only later to point out they were all three the same, single device. They he said, “And here it is” only to show a gag photo showing an old iPod with a rotary dial.
He messed with the audience and had fun with the announcement. Nobody else can be Steve Jobs. But Apple can at least try to make it fun like Jobs did.
3. Cut the boring, repetitive ‘crappy stuff’
Steve Jobs once advised Nike’s CEO: “Nike makes some of the best products in the world. Products that you lust after. But you also make a lot of crap. Just get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”
That’s what Apple needs to do with its presentations. Droning on and on about products announced previously just kills the excitement. Apple announcements like this week’s should be done in 40 minutes, max.
4. Never even schedule an announcement unless you can surprise everyone
The biggest problem with this week’s announcement is that Apple didn’t surprise anyone in a good way.
We were surprised, yes. We were surprised that the iPad didn’t grow Touch ID. We were surprised that Apple would still sell the iPad 2. We were surprised that Apple’s invitation come-on of “we still have a lot to cover” referenced…. iPad covers? (“Wow, really?”)
Most of all, we were surprised by the near-total lack of surprises. What, no iWatch? No iTV? Not even a new Apple TV? Nothing?
Apple just had an announcement in June and another one last month. That makes three announcements in four months, which is 2.5 too many.
Apple should max out at two announcements per year. Scarcity makes it more interesting and exciting.
But most importantly, don’t even schedule an Apple event unless you plan to drop some jaws.
Apple’s product announcements have gone from Christmas to Columbus Day in terms of excitement. Sure, part of it is that Steve Jobs is gone and there’s no replacing him.
But instead of soldiering on with a format custom-tailored for Jobs, Apple needs to adapt and find a new way to excite the world with its product announcements.