Something felt a bit off about this week’s Apple event.
Part of it was the lack of surprises, which isn’t Apple’s fault. All of the product upgrades, while nice, were incremental and predictable. None of the pricing was a surprise. In fact, the only unexpected product announcement is the zombie iPad 2 sticking around for another year, shamelessly at the same price as last year.
The presenting executives seemed a bit off, too. Their energy was flat, as if Apple wasn’t particularly excited about these announcements either (with the notable exception of Craig Federighi, who was properly energized and most polished). Most of the jokes and digs at competitors were awkward. The lines were so tightly scripted that the presenters often stumbled off-script slightly, and rather than rolling with it naturally, they’d just jump back and awkwardly retry the line. Nothing about the speeches seemed natural — at best, the presentation felt uptight.
The product messaging was almost entirely just rehashing old talking points. We’ve seen the Dots video for months.1 We know Microsoft’s tablets suck, and the market leader doesn’t need to kick them while they’re this down. We know that effectively nobody browses the web on their Android tablets full of stretched-out phone apps. We know the iPad is number one in customer satisfaction. Hardware, software, services, technology, and liberal arts, right?
We know that people are using iPads in all sorts of different ways. Look, firefighters are launching space shuttles with an iPad! Farmers are building wind turbines and composing songs! And Apple can’t wait to see what we do with our iPads.
But they already know. Everyone knows what people do with iPads, because iPads have been heavily used in public for over three years. It looks like most people use iPads for basic web tasks (email, browsing, Facebook), reading, and, importantly, casual gaming. Going into the holiday season, in which tons of iOS devices are usually sold that will primarily be casual-gaming devices, Apple hardly even mentioned games.2 Is that because they don’t need to, since games are already a popular iPad use, or because they’re not in touch with one of the biggest reasons people buy iPads?
Suppose the event worked, and we’re all jazzed up to buy the new iPads. Well, too bad — you can’t even preorder either of them yet. The iPad Air will be released 10 days after the event with no preorders, and the one likely to be in much higher demand — the Retina Mini — doesn’t even have a release date yet, except “later in November”.3
Mavericks, iLife, iWork, and the incrementally updated Retina MacBook Pros look good, but I can’t help but feel like the event wasn’t up to Apple’s standards.
Is it just me, or has the premade-video time been steadily increasing in Apple events? One or two, fine. But this felt like too much. It’s a live event — nobody needed to travel out there to watch videos. Videos should support the presentation, not lead it.
Highly produced marketing videos don’t feel substantial or sincere. We want to hear more from the humans who are right there in the room! Let us continue to believe that these are relevant industry events rather than giant commercials. ↩
There’s also no new iPod Touch to address that market this year, although the iPad Mini probably somewhat reduced the demand for the Touch. ↩
Maybe they’ll release the Retina Mini on Black Friday. It would get a lot of people and attention to Apple stores on the biggest shopping day of the year. ↩