Apple’s event today highlighted a pair of trends I’ve notice since Steve’s passing. One I think is good. The other I’m not so sure about.
A while back, I wrote about the state of Apple “After Steve” (Year One AS). In it, I discussed something that has now become a staple of Apple announcements. Specifically, that the presentations are a team effort. Most of the time, Steve handled the bulk of the announcement himself. He rarely, if ever, brought anyone else up on stage to help. Even when he did, it was clear Steve was in control of the presentation, as he was in control of the vision.
Under Tim, Apple has changed to be more of a team environment. No single person carries the vision anymore, and those not willing to play on the team are largely gone. The most visible incident was the Apple Maps fiasco, and the departure of Scott Forstall. Tim Cook did something Steve would likely have never done: he apologized and recommended competing apps. This included an open letter, signed by the executive team. Scott refused to be included. Unsurprisingly, he was gone shortly afterward.
Wednesday’s event, like most in the past couple of years, was largely handled by most of the top executives. The only exception is Jony Ive, who (so far) has only appeared in pre-made videos. Tim is now more of the MC than anything else, and he didn’t actually announce any product. Apple has also done more to include 3rd-party developers as part of the act, letting them demo their own software or hardware. Allowing someone from outside of the company is a bit of a risk, but it has worked well so far, and it makes sense, given that Apple’s success is partly due to these other teams, not just their own efforts..
I think the team approach is expected, and it makes sense. Apple doesn’t have a single visionary right now. They may never go back to one. But unless that happens, making these presentations about the team (and thus about Apple) and less about a single person is a good thing.
Lots Of Content
The other trend has been to stuff as much as possible into a single 2-hour plus event. I’m beginning to think they are trying to put too much into one session. The first time it happened, it was interesting, because we hadn’t really seen it before. Most announcements were focused on one or two products, maybe a third that was worth an early look. The downside was that they still took 2 hours, sometimes with what felt like interminable droning on trivial features that weren’t nearly as important as the presentation made them out to be.
This week’s presentation, which I already wrote about, felt rushed, almost frantic. Eddy Cue kept jumping ahead in his slides, and didn’t appear entirely comfortable with the pace. The 3rd-party developers were clearly told to not doddle, and barely skimmed their products in some cases. They sounded out of breath at times, and I felt like it while watching.
I’m not convinced that trying to wedge in announcements for 4 different products at one time makes sense. Today we got information on Apple Watch, iPhone, iPad Pro and Apple TV. The Watch and phone announcements make sense to be paired, because they go together anyways. The iPad Pro announcement, with an “oh, and iPad Mini 4 comes out too” tossed in could have waited for an iPad-focused announcement in November (when the Pro will be available, and presumably an iPad Air update will also appear). The AppleTV probably could have used one all by itself, or waited and been included with the iPad, until closer to the November ship date.
More isn’t always better. Sometimes it’s just more. Sure, Apple probably wants to mix things up a bit. Being predictable isn’t always good. But trying to jam a lot into a small space isn’t great either. Messages can get lost, drowned out by the flood of information being poured into the room. I think it’s time Apple went back to events that focused on a couple of products, and maybe gave us a sneak peak at a third. They can shorten them down, perhaps to as little as an hour, and give both the audience and presenters a chance to catch their breath.