First of all, welcome to 2012. Okay, so I’m a little behind the rest of the world, but I finally made it.
The new year actually makes a perfect topic for Week 1. As you probably noticed, this week we got a mini-flood of articles about what we can expect from Apple in 2012: iPad 3, iPhone 5, Apple TV, slim MacBook Pro. To which most of us would say:
Of course that’s what’s coming. It’s hardly news. I’ll tell ya, secrecy just isn’t what it used to be.
Though Apple continues to be thought of as one of the most secretive companies on earth, the truth is, they’ve lost the ability to surprise us like they did in the good old days.
The products are still amazing. The announcement events are fun. We still get surprised by the details as they are unveiled. It’s just that we know in advance what the products will be.
It wasn’t always this way. When Steve returned to Apple in 1997, secrets were secrets. His onstage announcements were real surprises (for the most part). The look of iMac was a shock. You had no idea that Apple was going to enter the consumer electronics market with iPod. You weren’t sure which Apple technology would be the focus of each event.
Breaches of secrecy were a scandal. Several days before the introduction of the first multicolored iMacs, the official family photo of all five models escaped from a printing facility in Germany, where a version of the multipage insert was being printed. It took the steam out of Steve’s big announcement — which was a crime punishable by death. (Or something close to it.)
As Apple has grown, and more people are exposed to the deep, dark secrets at various stages of product development, that kind of secrecy doesn’t exist anymore.
People were talking about iPhone — and calling it by name — months before it appeared. The name iPad was a surprise, but the device wasn’t — it was also widely expected months before, and its features accurately predicted.
This isn’t a terrible thing. It’s just a different thing. The new “iTV” (or whatever it will be called) will get the same attention this year. There will be buzz for months ahead, because Apple shaking up a new category is a great story. Journalists will hang on every word at the announcement event, even if many of the details become known before.
The only difference between now and then is that we know it’s coming. At least in the broad strokes.
I do find myself wondering about one thing this year. What’s next for Mac Pro? While it has grown in power, no product in Apple history has gone this long without a major overhaul. Mac Pro can now be officially classified as a “workhorse.” We’ve come to expect internal improvements only, but no major conceptual rethinking.
Will Apple demonstrate a new commitment to the pro market? Or will Mac Pro get upgraded the way Final Cut Pro did? Does Apple still love the high-end pros, or is it really just focusing on different levels of consumer now?
While it may be easier to predict Apple’s hardware these days, predicting its intentions is a different matter.