We have come to expect jaw-dropping innovation and game-changing creativity in the Apple ecosystem, with a standard set long ago by the late, great Steve Jobs. But aside from a few shining points in today’s launch event, the “wow” was at a disappointing minimum. Sure, they announced a Hermes line of high-end Apple Watch options, and outlined its evolved functionality. And titillation was thick in the crowd when they finally unveiled the much-awaited next models of the iPhone line, announcing the iPhone 6s and 6s plus – which include a new “3D Touch” feature, four color options (silver, gold, space gray and rose gold) and a camera capable of capturing 4K Ultra HD video.
“No product is more about innovation than the iPhone,” CEO Tim Cook said at the company’s launch event. “We have changed everything about these new iPhones.”
But aside from the new, Siri-integrated Apple TV ecosystem, the experience failed to make the kind of massive impact we’ve come to expect from the company.
Then, of course, there’s the Apple Pencil, a fascinating tool in its own right, but one which brings back specific memories of Mr. Jobs:
True, Jobs wanted nothing to do with a stylus pen, saying “Who wants a stylus?” when introducing the iPhone to the world. “You have to get ‘em, put ‘em away, you lose ‘em. Yuck! Nobody wants a stylus. So let’s not use a stylus.”
One of the first things Jobs did when he returned to Apple in 1997 was to kill the Newton, a tablet-like device that used a stylus. He was, however, referring to the iPhone, while the Pencil is tuned for iPad use. Furthermore, Jobs also rallied against big phones (he called Samsung’s Galaxy S phones “Hummers”) and small tablets – so suffice to say, staying directly in line with Jobs’ vision is no longer a priority.
Apple did strike potential gold in its investment in the idea that it’s more fun – and a hell of a lot more affordable – to stay home rather than go out.
With its evolved AppleTV option, “We believe the future of television is apps,” said Cook. The latest incarnation of the television platform features a robust third-party App Store, a new remote and an overhauled operating system. If you hate Siri, you’re going to be bummed at the news that the subtly condescending Jarvis wannabe features heavily in the update. Siri serves as your personal media assistant in a surprisingly comprehensive search framework. If you want to see which episode of “The Simpsons” featured Michael Jackson as a guest voice, just ask Siri to find it, and you’ll be watching in no time. If you miss something, say, “Siri, what did she say?” and the episode will rewind a few seconds, and even turn on captions. For the indecisive, Siri can make movie and TV suggestions based on your taste preferences. Also, Siri searches across all apps, so you don’t have to pull up individual ones to find what you’re looking for.
The new black remote features a glass touch surface on the top half, so you can navigate the Apple TV with swipes. The TV now runs on tvOS, which is based on iOS and “built for the living room,” according to Apple’s Eddie Cue. The device, which can last three months on one charge, will start shipping in October and cost $149 for the 32 GB version and $199 for the 64 GB.
As great as the Apple TV development is, after Thursday’s presentation one gets the sense that the company is adrift, without a central core of exciting innovation. Sure, they’re still the undisputed champion in the game, but the lack of innovation defies the age of amazement. Every product was foreshadowed in the press – Jobs’ favored element of surprise went right out the window. And with it, a sense of the magic that made Apple so special.
As for One Republic… why? Nobody with a soul cares about this band, and Tim Cook’s breathlessly adoring introduction was off-putting. We were expecting a U2-level act (without the force-fed terrible free album, please), and instead got a boy band relevant only for their string of obvious radio hits. They played multiple songs, and nobody cared, and even fewer genuinely believe in One Republic.
As a final-taste impression of the entire presentation, Apple could’ve done far better than a gang of industry props with no staying power. A better band wasn’t crucial to the experience, but it sure left the experience on an odd footing.
We’re still looking for that spark of innovation, that driving blast of creativity that revolutionizes the present and paves way for a completely changed future. The fact that Apple’s main takeaway was an evolved television experience and an iPad nearly the size of a Macbook is telling, and a bit disappointing.
But we’re still going to buy it.