Will Apple Presentations Continue To Degrade?

Today’s Apple presentation was, at times, excruciating to watch. Between uneven styles, stilted delivery and a bizarre commitment to the “cast of thousands” approach, we had a presentation that completely lacked the flow and polish of those in the past. Can we expect this trend of worse and worse presentations to continue? Will they attempt to achieve some new low in dull, boring, chaotic or almost nonsensical?

Before I Begin

There’s little point going over the new products, because frankly, nothing was game-changing. Yes, lots of hardware improvements. Yes, a big step backward by removing the headphone jack (seriously, Jony couldn’t find space? That’s the best reason you can come up with?). It’s one thing to take the lead, it’s another to jump the gun, and we aren’t ready for the analog headphone jack to disappear just yet. But none of this represents a fundamental shift in the technology. Some of what we saw is impressive technologically, but ultimately it’s about evolution and not revolution.

Where’s The Beef?

It took over 30 minutes to get to anything of substance. For over half an hour, we get treated to a lame intro video featuring Tim Cook riding in a car, some mumbling about education, and a terrible “demo” of the collaboration features in Apple’s productivity apps. Sure, we got to see Nintendo finally wake up and see they are a game company, and not a hardware company (Mario should have been on iPhone 3-5 years ago). And we got to see Niantic acknowledge that they should be using the Apple Watch to stop people from running into things like cars and busses. But otherwise, the first 30+ minutes was a complete waste of time.

In the past, this “setup time” was used to give us the lay of the land: number of devices sold or installed, details (real details) on financial numbers and growth. Sure, a lot of it is already out there. But a recap doesn’t hurt. It gives people a sense of the business side of the company, since Apple is a business after all. But it almost never went on for more than 10-15 minutes. The tiny bits we got weren’t enough to bother with. Either expand on it or leave it out.

It was 35 minutes before we finally got to see the new Apple Watch (and we still have no idea how many of them Apple has actually sold). The Watch presentation was about twice as long as it needed to be. Then we get to see the new iPhone, which jumps around between cameras and the display and audio and a desperate need to have 10 items in the list. And we never, ever once got to see the presenter holding the thing up on stage. Sure, it’s tiny and the stage is huge. But seriously, let’s see it for real, not just artistic photos on the screen. Those cameras at the event do have a zoom feature.

Stop Showing Us What It Can Do!

There’s no way you can capture what things will look and feel like on a mobile device by projecting it on a big screen. We rarely had feeble attempts to demonstrating just “how amazing” the new product was in the past by watching lots and lots of software being run on it. Bringing up the developers that have helped in your success is laudable, but it sometimes appears laughable.

In the past, the audience was left to use their imagination as to what you could do with an Apple device, or imagine what it could do (and then you went to a store and saw it for yourself). Yes, we got some feature demos. But those have become longer and longer each year, and that is not a good thing.

These demos almost smack of desperation. “See how amazing our stuff is! Look at me! Look at me!”. In some ways, it feels like they are talking down to us, dumbing things down because we aren’t smart enough or imaginative enough to envision what it can do. You know what: the audience will have a pretty good sense of what it can do, given that it does more-or-less what it’s done for nearly decade, and while it may be faster or bigger or whatever, it’s basically about the same as it’s been for years.

This Is Not A Good Trend

Software announcements that are one, long, drawn-out, excruciating, boring litany of new features. Hardware announcements that don’t even bring the hardware onto centre stage. Interminable demos. Mumbling on and on about stuff to fill time. Almost always a little miniconcert at the end in a what appears to be a desperate attempt to say “see, we’re Artistic!”. The whole mess MC’d by Tim Cook.

No polish. No pacing. No real showmanship, just lame attempts at it. If Apple is putting a lot of time and effort into preparing for these things, it doesn’t show.

Enough is enough. It is time to stop creating product announcements that are 30-50% filler. No more awkward cast changes, stilted deliveries and endless demos that go on too long. Get to the point, show us the goods (and for pete’s sake, show the device live on stage), give a taste and then let the audience take it from there. It doesn’t mean they have to be a short, dry, featureless event. But these have to stop looking like a “hey, let’s put on a show!” production knocked together the day before. Apple’s products are supposed to be about, in part, design and quality. These presentations contain neither of those elements right now.