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Jun 13

Schiller’s zinger: Apple’s rallying cry

“Can’t innovate anymore, my ass.”

Phil Schiller’s one-liner in yesterday’s WWDC keynote just may be one of the best in Apple history.

People may forget what drives Apple, but Apple does not. Back in the dark days, before Steve Jobs returned, the company really had become mediocre.

The success of iMac proved that Apple wasn’t dead yet. From that point on, a series of successes put Apple into the black and removed all the question marks surrounding its viability.

The kinds of products that were fueling Apple’s rise — iMac, iBook, AirPort, etc. — made one thing abundantly clear. Apple would continue to grow as long as it continued to innovate.

Schiller’s zinger was the 2013 affirmation of this belief. It was spirited and confident.

Of course, that zinger would have been totally zing-less had it not been for the announcements that came immediately before and after.

I have a long list of notes from the show, and would like to share a few reactions. As usual, I’ll try to be selective and not duplicate what you’re reading in the many articles that are out there already.

Tim Cook. Either Tim is getting a bit better, or I’m getting more used to him. He didn’t seem quite as forced in the role of Chief Spokesperson — though he does seem self-conscious about conveying confidence and enthusiasm. Lots of over-stressed “incredible” words.

Craig Federighi. Wow, he was good. Nice to see Craig getting so much air time. His presentations were concise and his quips were entertaining. He’s a smart man.

Phil Schiller. Phil was his usual self. His “ass”-zinger really did capture the energy and ambition of Apple, and will instill the troops with new energy. However, he’d better watch out. Craig is creeping up behind in the comedy category.

Scott Forstall. Oh right, he wasn’t there. Not only was he not there, the last traces of our friend Scott were banished forever. His brand of skeuomorphism was the butt of many jokes. Does anyone remember that when Scott was dethroned, it was announced that he would continue to serve as a special advisor to Tim Cook? I don’t imagine he’s dishing out any special advice these days.

Jony Ive. Interestingly, the man of the hour appeared only on video. Given his expanded role at Apple as chief of both hardware and interface design and his legendary status as Steve Jobs’ closest workmate, that could even raise some eyebrows. However, at this point it’s pretty clear that Jony would be on stage if he wanted to be on stage. Seems that he simply recognizes his own limitations and prefers to let others do the presenting.

Roger Rosner. Who? My point exactly.

The Apple Reunification Celebration. I was a huge fan of Cook’s management shakeup last year, because I thought Apple’s longtime advantage — the perfect integration of hardware and software — was ringing hollow. Two of the most important leaders on each side (Ive and Forstall) weren’t even talking to each other. By dumping Forstall and elevating Ive, Tim Cook fixed this. Now one person with magnificent taste is guiding the entire user experience. Jony has risen to the occasion. He embodies the true spirit of Apple.

iOS 7, The Look. Overall, I think it’s gorgeous, and a very welcome evolution. There will always be those who slam such changes (“It’s a rip-off of Windows,” “I hate the colors” and various shades of “Horrific mistake by Apple”), but great companies do what they believe is right. And let’s face it, they sometimes take cues from what others are doing. Remember Steve’s “Good artists borrow, great artists steal” line. What many critics fail to remember is that software interfaces are ever-evolving. Remember how OS X looked when it was unveiled? It changed over time from being “lick-able” with its colorful features to a more refined and elegant look. (Before getting sidetracked with leather stitching, that is.) iOS 7 is the new iOS starting point, and it feels wonderfully fresh. However, it’s carved in pixels, not stone. It will evolve when and if it needs to.

OS X Mavericks. How dare they say goodbye to the cat theme. Well, I guess it had to happen sometime. “Sea Lion” was a nice way to lead the flock into the new California theme. Now all they have to do is get rid of the round CD image that’s been part of the OS X symbology since the beginning.

MacBook Air. Damn, I hate it when Apple gives me good reason to abandon a computer I’ve only had for one year. I need that 11-incher with nine hours of battery life. Now.

Designed by Apple in California. Tricky. Turning this into a theme line for advertising purposes is a tall order. Obviously, it’s part of Apple’s response to the rise of Samsung — which, as the more astute might notice, is not an American company. According to the commercial, Apple’s “signature” contains a ton of meaning about the hard work that goes into making devices that change people’s lives. This is a whole new interpretation of a line that’s always been present. The line was originally created simply to imbue Apple with some California coolness (which has a huge magic factor in other parts of the world), and to help lessen the impact of the reality that most Apple products are not made in America. Some ads are important, other ads work hard to be important. I imagine we’ll see a lot of opinions from both sides on this one.

The new Mac Pro. I’m floored. Apple is at its best when it goes beyond innovation and totally surprises. This is as unexpected as it gets, in much the same way that the original Macintosh, iMac, iPod and Power Mac G4 Cube were unexpected. Granted, the Cube had its issues, but let’s save that comparison for a future article. This new cylindrical Mac Pro proves that, despite massive evidence to the contrary, pro users have not been forgotten at Apple — they’re just being redefined. Big difference.

Overall feeling. The company that seemed a bit too self-conscious in the presentation department after Steve’s passing seems to be settling into a good place. The new cast is talented and works well together. They inspire confidence in the future, which is something the Apple crowd can use more of these days.

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65 comments

  1. true.

  2. There will always be people who love or hate the UI. Personally, I like it. I think iOS was getting long in the tooth (visually, at least), and I really hated the overly cute skeuomorphic stuff that Steve Jobs and Scott Forstall were so hooked on.

    I don’t think any of us can say that Steve would or wouldn’t have offered the sneak peek of Mac Pro. With every passing day, Tim Cook encounters more situations that Steve never imagined — like a world in which Apple’s stock price is taking a beating because of the public perception that Apple has lost its innovative edge.

    I thought that the sneak peek of Mac Pro did much good, in that it provided visible proof that Apple has the talent to surprise us in ways we can never imagine. Many have clearly forgotten that. Financially, the early reveal doesn’t do them a bit of harm. The pro market is extremely small compared to the phone and tablet markets. But that sneak peek was thrilling enough that Apple will get a lot of positive buzz about it in the coming months.

    It was also important because the pro market has been horribly neglected in recent years, with quite a few abandoning ship. Those guys needed to be reassured that Apple feels the love for them.

    Clearly Tim and team took a long hard look at what products are coming when, and were trying to work it to their advantage. It appears that they simply decided it would be more beneficial to let the Mac Pro fight the “don’t innovate anymore” perception at this point in time, rather than hold it back for another six months. Without it, the WWDC “news” would not have been as compelling.

    It seemed like a smart move to me — and one that Steve Jobs might well have considered, given the circumstances. (But I’m not saying he would have!)

  3. ChangeAddicts

    Oh Ken, thank you for writing that! I wanted to say the same things that you pointed out in the end. I know and trust that Apple has a grand plan and working hard to bring the pieces together without tipping off the copy cat competition! Their focus and vision is so inspiring to me and that is one of the reasons, besides the fact that they just make great products, that I will keep on buying from them. Integrity is something that money can not buy but you can buy an Apple product and let that integrity enrich your life. I have been reading in the media about the doomed Apple and so called lack of vision for a long time now! I can imagine how focused you would have to be to bring the future to people in such a way that causes a negative reaction only to accepted later as “of course.” A paradigm shift has this quality too. Man wanted to fly, the genious’ wrote about the foolishness and impossibility of it and they got agreement everywhere! But after the fact, everyone just says “of course!” Genius is to dare think outside of what is possible and to ignore the brutal slings and arrows, to see where that thinking leads you. Apple is the embodiment of this, but don’t expect people living in the old paradigm to understand.

  4. Oh Ken, thank you for writing that! I wanted to say the same things that you pointed out in the end. I know and trust that Apple has a grand plan and working hard to bring the pieces together without tipping off the copy cat competition! Their focus and vision is so inspiring to me and that is one of the reasons, besides the fact that they just make great products, that I will keep on buying from them. Integrity is something that money can not buy but you can buy an Apple product and let that integrity enrich your life. I have been reading in the media about the doomed Apple and so called lack of vision for a long time now! I can imagine how focused you would have to be to bring the future to people in such a way that causes a negative reaction only to accepted later as “of course.” A paradigm shift has this quality too. Man wanted to fly, the genious’ wrote about the foolishness and impossibility of it and they got agreement everywhere! But after the fact, everyone just says “of course!” Genius is to dare think outside of what is possible and to ignore the brutal slings and arrows, to see where that thinking leads you. Apple is the embodiment of this, but don’t expect people living in the old paradigm to understand.

  5. Dan, I’ve read your comments here and all in all I am confused.

    Your line of “apple used to tell the media how it is and not be apologetic”… and yet, I don’t see Ive or Cooke apologizing for IOS7 to the detractors. In fact, I see them willing to share their principles and philosophies behind it, and not apologize for anything.

    Acknowledging the move away from the skeumophic philosophies of the past was good–everyone knew it was an issue, and instead of skirting it, they faced it head on. In doing so, they created a contrast between their previous point of view and their new point of view–which is what they intended.

    As an app designer, if that is really your business, I can’t imagine how your comments are about the “system settings icon” on a beta OS are consuming more of your time and energy than the things that really matter to developers: the market, the ecosystem, and the way to exploit new designs and functionality in order to further your business.

    Most serious app companies I’ve talked to–only a few thus far–are excited about the changes because it gives them room to find new ways of doing useful things, more toys to play with, and thus–more potential for profit in the best market for app makers that exists in the 2013 world. They all have preferences and opinions about the new look and color and etc–humans always will–but app developers have a different focus that oozes through all they do, and I don’t see that focus in your comments at all.

    Also, any person with real money to bet would never put their money that “this GUI will bring Apple down”. Far from it. Maybe you just tossed out that hyperbole to make your comments seem more authoritative, but the binary there isn’t in any way real. Most likely this IOS7 will be a stepping stone to whatever IOS8 is, be it released in one year or 3 years, and in the meantime billions of dollars will be paid out to app developers who are smart, focused, and opportunistic. OSX and IOS will continue to integrate more deeply, and if the functionality and workflow that apple designs remains valuable to users, they will continue to hold enough marketshare to make an obscene amount of money and keep devices in the hands and on the desks of many people.

  6. I view it differently. I see this as a lifestyle campaign that is creating contrast between apple and the alternatives in some interesting ways.

    More and more, apple is in a very different business than android, google, linux, and windows. These companies produce OS products, They are product companies. Apple is different–they are a design company that produces workflows. For this reason, apple isn’t trying to “reinvent phones” every year with every iphone. It’s not about new bells and whistles at every step. They reinvented phones, and then the started going deeper and deeper into that reinvention, looking to integrate the phone more DEEPLY across your workflow, from your laptop to your desktop to your tablet and to your phone.

    Apple’s focus is “deep”. Android/Windows focus is “wide”. Deep vs. Wide. Workflow vs. products.

    “Designed by Apple in California”, as well as the “More people…on iPhone” ads are bringing a message that increases this contrast. Apple is design and human workflow, and as a result, more people are enjoying their lives and technology by “getting into that stream” than with other “products”.

    Who knows, ultimately, how effective these ads will be. We can all offer our point of view, but time will tell. However, the direction is bold and is definitely putting a stake in the ground about Apple’s identity and point of view about the world in 2013, and it gives them something to build on in the future.

  7. If Apple is still a primarily Mac & iPod company, I’d agree with you that the new Mac Pro needs a special event. Thing is things have changed and iOS & iOS devices rule the roost now. Also Mac Pro is always associated with WWDC & developers. Special events are reserved for mass market products.

  8. “Designed by Apple in California” makes a perfect sense. When Apple used “Surf’s up!” as a headline of one of the original iMac ads, Apple Japan gave up translating it into Japanese. The Japanese consumers didn’t really understand the headline but got the feel of it when they heard us say “You know Apple is a Californian company.”

  9. Hmmm, interesting that the previous comment is talking about this article being fair and about feet on the ground… The author fails to see many important points of that presentation and just focuses in trivial discussions that could have been all the same about what shoes were they wearing that day, it would have been as informative anyway. Clearly an Apple-fanboyish article, with no real analysis of what is going on with Apple, but trying to look like it does. And I’m actually an Apple fan, or better said, a fan of what the spirit of Apple used to be, and that now seems lost between bad leaders, lack of real innovation, disregard for the end-user’s real needs (even when you reinvent something you need to have a real use and an ear on what the clients are asking for… even when you take it a step further… a perfect example being the iPhone and the iPad), and just a decline in quality both at the software level and the hardware and end product look and feel. If you don’t see it, you are blind, or you don’t know squat about technology or design, no different from the masses that go buy a set of spinners for their wheels because is the last rave and everybody is talking about them, never mind the intrinsic lack of taste and common sense. Is a shame to see my favorite manufacturer in such a decline, masked by piecemeal spurs of not-so-revolutionary innovation…

  10. From cultofmac.com? Really? Educate yourself: Not everything they post in the Internet is real…. Shocker, right!?!?!?! Regardless is a quite awful UI

  11. no, I would cite androidcentral for such reference… show me something that defies my argument and I maybe learn something new gee …

    why do I even bother feeding such a troll like you? :/

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