From Owen Thomas' "The impossible Apple blueprint" posted Monday on Protocol:
The introduction of Apple’s iMac in 1998 was an almost shockingly modest event... But Jobs’ showmanship worked: The iMac, developed in a level of secrecy that Apple’s recently reinstalled co-founder insisted on, impressed the audience. Wall Street took longer to win over, but sales soon proved brisk.
That launch set the template for the Apple event: Debut a new product on stage to an audience (preferably packed with loyal employees and friendly developers ready to cheer), then upend the industry overnight. And every startup wanted to be Apple. That meant locking partners up with NDAs, maintaining internal firewalls, and hunting down leakers, all in the name of delivering the big reveal.
The Apple virus spread quickly through Silicon Valley. Soon everyone wanted to do an Apple event.
- Microsoft, Google and even Cisco tried to bring Apple flare to their product launches. The problem: Their leaders weren’t showmen like Steve Jobs, and their products weren’t iPhones.
- Startups, too, got in on the act. Dropbox, Pinterest and Airbnb all attempted splashy unveilings. They had appealing founders, at least, but the problem was that document-editing features, online-checkout tools and pottery-class listings weren’t exactly suited to the stage, either.
- The most toxic version of the cult of Apple was probably Theranos. Strict launch timelines and a PR-first approach were a dangerously bad fit for the medical field, but if you’ve watched “The Dropout” or read “Bad Blood,” you know this. (And if you haven’t, well, you’ve got your homework assignment.)..
Even Apple isn’t doing Apple events, really. The pandemic forced it to change, but not before the format Jobs invented curdled into self-parody.
- Tim Cook has tried, really. And he’s gotten better. But it’s not the same. Let’s not pretend.
- By last October, Apple was “starting to seem like a dad joke” itself, wrote veteran keynote watcher Chris Taylor.
My take: Harsh verdicts from Thomas and Taylor, a pair of Apple skeptics who, as it happens, worked pretty closely with me at a couple of magazines, back in the day. Go figure.
BTW, I'm 10 hours into Tripp Mickle's 14-hour "After Steve" on Audible. The book covers well-trodden ground, but I've learned a lot from Mickle's reporting. I have a better feel now for what made Cook Cook and Ives Ives. Talk about oil and water!