“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.