Excerpts from some of my favorites. Seen any I missed?
Jessica Lessin, The Information ($): The Apple Brand and Its Hidden Messages. What jumped out at me was the somewhat surprising way Apple leveraged social issues—specifically calls for greater diversity and inclusion—in its branding of them. And because this is Apple, which applies the same care to its sizzle reels as its iPhone bezels, no branding choice should go unnoticed… Is Apple doing it to take aim at its competitors? This theory makes some sense to me, particularly the language around ensuring “all stories” are told and finding “common ground.” YouTube and Facebook have shown themselves to be cesspools of polarization. Why not remind customers of that and point to a different way? … And thus these videos really do tell us more about the Apple of 2019 than meets the eye. Warm and fuzzy on the outside but a little cutthroat on the inside. That was a theme in Aaron’s story this week about how it deals with suppliers and the open Spotify complaint against it. This is nothing new and certainly has been accelerating with Tim Cook’s campaign to prove Apple cares more about user privacy than Facebook and Google. But it is worth remembering. It also confirms my earlier suspicions that we are set up for much more infighting between the tech giants than we realize.
Jason Snell, Six Colors ($): Us as a Service. I’m sympathetic to Tim Cook’s suggestion that Apple is now about a synthesis of not just hardware and software, but services. The mere existence of the Internet as a connecting factor means that Apple hasn’t been able to just focus on hardware and software for years now. Apple’s first attempt at Internet services were almost laughable, but it keeps getting better. And the App Store and Apple Pay have been pretty successful. If Apple can find a way to bring its entire ecosystem—hardware, software, and services—together to create great experiences, people will happily pay for them. But I am a bit concerned about what the growth of services does to the wallets of the people who use Apple’s products. I can put this all in the context of Wall Street demanding growth, which is true, but another way to view it is that Apple isn’t satisfied with you paying it every few years for a new Mac and a new iPhone—it wants your money every single month. So, by the way, do streaming services and cable companies and wireless companies and pretty much everyone else.
M.G. Seigler, Medium: A Billion Pockets, Y’all. I believe I’ve seen every single Apple event over the past decade-plus. Yesterday’s was without question the weirdest I’ve ever seen. So weird that I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Twitter is helping me a bit, but jotting some notes down before I read others’ thoughts will help me more. Here goes. First and foremost, I think the entire event was arranged in the wrong order. While it was stacked to build up to the Apple TV+ unveil with all the celebrity fade-ins, this was by far the least interesting thing Apple unveiled. Sure, if the shows are good, that’s nice. But who does all this pomp and circumstance for a fall lineup? Well, beyond the folks that are trying to sell advertising against said lineup, which Apple is not… Look, whatever. It was mildly pathetic, but not quite as bad as the finger touch. I hope the content is good because I like good content. But revolutionary, this was not. This is Apple using the biggest wallet of all to access great talent. Period. That doesn’t mean it will work, but it’s the gameplan. And they do seem to have the right people to execute it. But enlisting Oprah to use the stage at the end to basically give a pitch to other talent to sign up with Apple was… weird. Really fucking weird.
Daniel Eran Dilger, Roughly Drafted: WHY DID APPLE THROW A TIM COOK EVENT AT ITS STEVE JOBS THEATER? Apple’s event was described as “truly bizarre” and “the weirdest” by GV partner and former Tech Crunch pundit M.G. Siegler, who went on at length to disparage everything presented as “silly” to “mildly pathetic.” Among other things, he wondered aloud why Apple didn’t spend any time on stage talking about the old Newsstand—a jab which sort of tipped the whole piece off as not really meant as criticism but rather just mean cynicism. A long effort at “look at me, I’m punching up!”
A variety of other writers took similar populist swipes at Apple’s event, often belaboring the idea that Apple has changed and that it’s all for the worse. Why did Apple spend so much time perfecting a presentation outlining its vision for its future in Services, only to have its invited guests rip all over it and portray everything from its new credit card to video games to digital magazines and original TV programming as being some sort of unpleasant shift, or a high risk, dangerous move that’s not what we expect of the company, while also being derided as unlikely to make any real difference in a crowded market? The stridency of Apple’s critics is getting ever louder and more shrill, yet with no real or lasting effect.
John Gruber, Daring Fireball: Very Brief Thoughts and Observations on Today’s ‘Show Time’ Apple Event. APPLE CARD: Sounds good, but “low interest rate” is just words… APPLE NEWS PLUS: Are magazines still a thing?… APPLE ARCADE: This was the most cohesive announcement of the day… APPLE TV CHANNELS AND TV PLUS: This whole thing was… weird. I get what Channels is — the infamous “skinny bundle” that Eddy Cue has been trying to put together for years. Paying only for the channels you want is the right way to do this, but obviously a nightmare to negotiate with the actual networks and channels. It’s also coming to Roku and Amazon FireTV, which I understand but feels so strange.
Ben Thompson, Stratechery ($): Apple’s Services Event. [This is] the needle Apple appears to be trying to thread: the only way that Apple TV+ makes sense strategically is not as a new product with a new business model, but rather as another extension of Apple’s integration, i.e. a way to not simply sell new iPhones but also Apple’s TV app generally, including the commissions Apple will collect from Apple TV channels. In short, Apple may increasingly be a services company in terms of the recurring revenue it earns, but its strategy is still very much rooted in a product world where differentiation comes from vertical integration.
Ben Bajarin, Techpinions ($): Apple’s Hope to Build a Story Telling Platform. While Apple is embarking on its own journey of proprietary storytelling with AppleTV+, the broader perhaps more interesting theme is Apple trying to create a platform for storytelling. If you look at the focus of the games, they are bringing to Apple Arcade, and they are mostly indie game developers who create immersive and cinematic gameplay that also tell a story… Second, we have magazines. While I’m not a huge magazine fan, I do recognize they often tell stories in a much different way than news publications for example… Lastly, we have AppleTV+. This was perhaps the most obvious push toward stories of all the announcements. Mostly because many writers, producers, and actors/actresses, were there to promote the stories they wanted to tell. Apple happens to be the platform they choose, mostly because Apple gave them the most money, but I think part of Apple’s pitch was the overall engagement and type of customer that Apple acquires. While Apple can and will keep paying for this content, I do think part of them hopes that the impact or the results of these stories being told on Apple’s platform has great impact and perhaps brings more storytellers to their doorstep.
Neil Cybart, Above Avalon ($): The Apple Services Narrative. Apple’s services strategy continues to be misunderstood. While services are indeed very important for Apple, their value is not found with the reasons often cited in the press, such as to offset slowing revenue or profit from iPhone or to pivot Apple away from hardware. Both of those reasons are simply wrong, demonstrating a fundamental misunderstood of what is driving Apple management. In one of Apple’s initial slides, Tim Cook defined the word service as “the action of helping someone or doing work for someone.” The slide spoke volumes to me. Cook was clearly telling the world that Apple was not going to announce some kind of pivot on stage. Instead, Apple was going to unveil new ways of helping both customers and creators.
My take: Sometimes it’s easier to see the big picture when you’re not focused on next quarter’s results.