11
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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  • PeterBlood

    Well done fair article. Wish more writers had their feet on the ground like this. You gotta love Phil for calling the “Apple doesn’t innovate” dissenters on the carpet with his richly funny acerbic comment. How can you call a company un-innovative when you have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes? Those types will never learn. Go Apple go.

  • dmw2001

    Good points all around. The only note I would make is the “Designed by Apple in California” is highly ironic as Apple does not pay California state taxes as it is incorporated in Nevada.
    Overall, I loved it!

  • Jurassic

    “Either Tim is getting a bit better, or I’m getting more used to him.”

    Watching the presentation yesterday, it appears that Tim Cook has greatly improved his presentation skills!

    He wasn’t up to the level of Steve Jobs (but who else is?), but he was a lot closer to that level than, oh, let’s say Steve Ballmer’s presentation abilities. ;-)

    Tim Cook was very watchable, interesting, and believable (even moving at points). He has come a long way!

  • bdkennedy11

    iOS 7’s design can be found on a 2006 iPod Touch prototype. Apple did not copy Windows or Android.

  • Michael Ellis Day

    In fairness, “Paid for by Apple in Nevada to the Absolute Minimum Extent Required by Current U.S. Tax Law” isn’t very catchy.

  • Viswakarama

    Tim Cook is great CEO who knows how to let the other talents cooperate and function as a single organism!!!

    Phil Shiller zinger says what Apple is all about!!!

    Craig Federighi is a wonderful engineer who works well with Jony Ive’s design philosophy!!!

  • GurraG

    I was super impressed with Craig Federighi. Not quite Steve Jobs, but relaxed, funny and could handle the crowd. It was the closest to a Jobs presentation by Apple I’ve seen.

    Overall I haven’t seen such a packed key note in a very long time, regardless of what you think about what was presented.

  • synthmeister

    And no one, I mean NO ONE, had a clue beforehand on the look of the new Mac Pro.
    My ears are already being tickled by the siren call of the Jet Engine, Thermal Core Mac Pro.

  • Angler

    you know which side i’m on regarding “Designed by apple in California”. It’s not about the users and is a non-sequiter in my opinion to the message of the spot — + it feels defensive. Apple is NOT a defensive or reactionary brand and it feels both to me.

  • shegolkov

    Interesting statements. Largely in agreement.

  • “Good artists borrow, great artists steal”: I don’t think this is Steve Jobs’ line. At the very least, Picasso used to say it. Or maybe Steve stole the line? My head hurts!

  • Polimon

    New Mac Pro has me drooling. Phil Schiller’s remark had me out of my chair applauding, and I was watching the keynote alone at home.

  • ksegall

    I didn’t mean to credit Steve for that. It was Steve quoting PIcasso.

  • Hamish

    Tim has got a lot better, Craig was outstanding and Eddy was great too. I did think Phil seemed rushed though, and almost nervous. He rattled through his stuff at such speed, I got a defensive vibe from him that I haven’t seen before. I wonder how he’s really doing with all his new responsibilities, given the rumors I’m reading about frustrations with Media Arts Lab…

    Overall, iOS 7 is looking interesting, but hopefully the remaining months between now and launch will allow them to tighten up on a number of aspects, to present a more consistent experience. And of course, they must be holding some things back for the iPhone launch… OS X Mavericks has some great features coming along. The new Mac Pro was quite a surprise, but I fear it will cost a fortune.

    8/10 – an impressive showing, but it felt like it was missing something or was too rushed or something.

  • I thnk Craig Federighi should do every presentation…. I was sold!!

  • dan pahlajani

    You guys are not on drugs right? Now, I have been the die-hard strongest Apple fan. But the new UI is going to bring Apple down.

    Federighi’s negative comments on past “Apple” UIs was damage to Apple reputation. This personal vendetta should not be displayed on stage – Apple brand didn’t stand for that.

    Jobs would have NEVER made Mac Pro a side line introduction, it would have been special event for such an surprisingly beautiful machine and innovation. Did anyone read Verge? They claimed Apple didn’t have much to say on hardware front.

    Finally, the new UI is hideous. It’s not classy – mixers of 3 or 4 OSes, should I name them here? Buttons don’t have borders anymore and are like text. Really? Who approved the System Settings icon? Should be fired. Text readability is extremely poor. Apple may lose ALL government contracts since government has HIGH usability and Section 508 requirements. I have barely scratched the surface – the fcuks are many and huge.

    Yes Apple delivered a lot. I liked Phil’s comment. But Mac Pro should have been a separate event with tag line “Come see our new innovative creation”. Would have sent the message loud and clear.

    –Dan

  • Yohannon (Just Yohannon)

    Dan, if you haven’t tried the new UI, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it. I’ve been an Apple die-hard since 1987, and have seen the interface evolve both as a consumer and (for several wild years) as a QA engineer at the Mothership. The roadside is, indeed, littered with the remnants of Apple’s design cul-de-sac’s. However, I was immediately struck by how much the iOS UI improved over 6.0, so the concern trolling over section 508 just seems… forced.

    And the Mac Pro announcement had to come during a WWDC keynote, especially since I suspect we will see other big, consumer orientated product announcements over the next few months.

    Of course you are free to have whatever opinion you want to have. I am also free to have the opinion that you are wrong to pass judgement on topics you have little hands on knowledge of, unless you’ve already installed the developer beta… and you’re under NDA, so you really shouldn’t be talking about it at all. ;-)

  • nuttmedia

    As good as the “Designed by Apple in California” commercial is, I was more moved by the opening video with vector graphics and text set to piano. Not really because of the more direct response at Samsung and its brethren, but for the reference to what I see as the core tenant of the Apple ethos – focus. Say no to the extraneous, and apply all effort to the few elements that truly define and delight.

  • dorkus_maximus

    The new UI is not going to cost Apple any government contracts. The government doesn’t have usability requirements, else it would never have made Windows so ubiquitous. It does have requirements associated with s. 508, but those accessibility requirements can’t be met simply with a bold typeface. If iOS 6 could be used by a blind person, so can iOS 7. If anything, the expansion of Siri capabilities will make iOS 7 easier, rather than more difficult, for a person with disabilities.

  • Gonji

    I felt when I was watching the Keynote that it was a rallying of the troops. Apple has taken a ton flac lately, and it seems some of it has gotten through Apple’s defences. The Keynote introduction, the Phil Schiller’s quip, Tim Cook’s final words and the “Designed by Apple in California” tag with its accompanying ad were, and are, all aimed at Apple staff to say, “keep believing in what you are doing, only your great products are Designed in California by Apple.”

    This was reiterated to me when I read the quote on Daringfireball by Ben Thompson (A good read).

    “The truth about the greatest commercial of all time – Think Different – is that the intended audience was Apple itself. Jobs took over a demoralized company on the precipice of bankruptcy, and reminded them that they were special, and, that Jobs was special. It was the beginning of a new chapter.

    “Designed in California” should absolutely be seen in the same light. This is a commercial for Apple on the occasion of a new chapter; we just get to see it.”
    http://daringfireball.net/
    http://stratechery.com/2013/tim-cook-is-a-great-ceo/

  • ksegall

    Well, as part of the creative team behind the “Think different” commercial, I can safely tell you that Ben Thompson is seriously mistaken.

    Our commercial was aimed at two audiences simultaneously. There was the world, which hadn’t seen a healthy, innovative Apple in a good ten years, and expected it to collapse. And there were the employees, who had a lot of talent, but had become demoralized over that ten-year span. Each audience was equally important.

    Ben makes a good point that the 1997 was almost bankrupt. And that’s another important difference between the purpose of these two commercials — one that actually undermines Ben’s argument.

    There were still a lot of good people left in the 1997 Apple. Steve needed to rekindle that flame. The Apple of 2013 is quite different. The company is hugely successful, almost beyond imagination. The employees aren’t facing a morale crisis. They know that Apple hasn’t lost its innovative edge, and that any such perception is based on the writings of people who haven’t a clue.

    Of course the new commercial is meant to have an uplifting effect on the employees, as any good ad should do. But this ad is clearly targeting Apple’s customers, who have been bombarded with a surging Samsung and a never-ending stream of dire forecasts.

    In short, there is little similarity between the circumstances of Apple in 1997 and 2013. The ads exist for very different reasons, and are designed to accomplish very different goals.

  • paol

    Dan,
    You do know all trolls these days start off by saying, “I am a great fan of Apple, but…..”, or “I own all the Apple products, but…..”.

  • Gonji

    Ken, I tried to reply to your comment in response to mine but the reply field didn’t work with my iPad for some reason. So, here’s my reply:

    “The employees aren’t facing a morale crisis. They know that Apple hasn’t lost its innovative edge, and that any such perception is based on the writings of people who haven’t a clue.”

    I take your point, Ken, that the circumstances of the two campaigns are quite different, however, this is a change point for Apple; dare I call it the true beginning of the “Post Jobs Apple”. To me it was Tim Cook saying to the staff, and of course the public, “This is a new beginning, but we are still the great company we have always been. Keep believe and doing what you have always done. This is what makes us great.” As opposed to Steve Jobs’ “Reality Distortion Field”, this was Tim Cook’s “Reality Clarification Field”. A field to clarify the distortion caused by the clueless. Phil Schiller’s comment shows that some of the cluelessness was was being felt at Apple.

    My words at the beginning, “a rally to the troops” were probably a bit off, as they probably should have been “an affirmation for the troops.” Still, I feel this campaign is aimed at Apple staff to say, “You are brilliant, don’t listen to the clueless as they are not”, and also, of course, to the general public to say, “We will bring you brilliant products, just expect new things everyday as innovation takes time, the time to say ‘no’ a thousand times.” Reality Clarification.

  • albertkinng

    Kidding? Right?

  • albertkinng

    Don’t fall for trolling. You don’t need to give excuses to no one.

  • albertkinng

    Apple stop making circus shows since Macworld. This time was a sneak peak for Samsung and Google. And the theme or topic was for themeselves. They are screaming we Own this shit! And it was about time!

  • albertkinng

    True

  • Brrriiiaaallliiiaaannnttt

    Hate to say it, but Apple is better on the defensive, getting ripped apart by the masses.

    To be the best, and still have to pull ‘My A$$’ quotes is the best place for Apple to be.

    Apple needs motivation beyond the actual competition, motivation to exceed the expectations of the most cynical critics…

    Apple needs to forever aspire to a ‘platonic ideal’…glad to be on the ride…Cheers!

  • albertkinng

    It needed to. Search on Google Apple is doomed, go ahead… I wait for you here. See? The droid heads, the galaxy zombies and the press is attaking Apple without rest. It was time that Apple show some balls.

  • Jorge Carvalho

    I have just one ideia on the back of my mind after seeing the keynote:
    That Mac Pro would have been awsome at the end and (big and) with “oh another thing ” . That Mac catch everyone in suprise , no sites sugested that it would be announced , and is this days that’s a feat on its one.

  • albertkinng

    LMAO

  • Makanja Bagus

    You put it all nicely, Ken. A nice article… Thanks

  • Viswakarma

    It is in the DNA of all Americans and American Organizations to pay as little tax as possible!!!

    Google, which originally incorporated in Delaware, is now incorporated in Ireland!!!

    Microsoft was incorporated in the state of Washington on June 25, 1981; reincorporated in the state of Delaware on September 19, 1986; and reincorporated in the state of Washington on November 1, 1993.

    Boeing– the very large aerospace corporation, started in Washington State and has major operations in that state, is incorporated in Delaware!!!

    So, there is nothing ironic or wrong about Apple being incorporated in Nevada.

  • bshammy

    Very well done article. Thanks.

  • FrotSkyman

    Right on the money, as usual Ken. When I heard The Zinger (as it shall be known from henceforth), the first thing I thought of was “Ken is going to LOVE that!”

  • Richard

    seriously, educate yourself, will do you good

  • Pingback: Apple, iOS7 and WWDC: 7 articles for you to read — Tech News and Analysis()

  • albertkinng

    for asking????

  • Pingback: Apple, iOS 7 and WWDC: 7 articles for you to read | TECH in AMERICA (TiA)()

  • Brainwrap

    I agree that under normal circumstances, the new Mac Pro would have warranted “One More Thing…” status. However, there was one problem preventing that in this instance: There’s no ship date or pricing (and I believe some of the final specs are still a bit in flux). Apple almost *never* announces new hardware in this manner; the only reason they did so with the Mac Pro is because it’s been SO long since the last update that they simply couldn’t wait any longer.

    Plus, sales of the existing system have probably plummeted so low that pre-announcing isn’t likely to have an Osbourne effect (it’s not like there’s that many sales to kill anyway).

    However, without more specific pricing and other key info, they had to walk a fine line between a big, splashy debut and saying nothing until it’s ready. I think they did a pretty good job of walking that line.

  • Richard
  • dmw2001

    But none of the companies you mention use their hometowns as marketing tools. Apple does, thus the irony.

  • dan pahlajani

    yes I agree with you. If only I could prove it. I am the most die hard fan of Apple; I have strongly argued in Apple’s favor since 1986, my fist Mac. Even when Apple was down. In fact I wish y friends don’t read this comment of mine. I will be the laughing stock.

  • albertkinng

    I believed you. The thing is that no GUI can bring a company up or down. the benefits of a GUI it’s the core. that means if you don’t like it you can change it because it’s software. If your point were true then Web OS had push HP to the top in 5 seconds, because comparing that OS with all of them out there Web OS was the most beautiful to compete with Apple, but No one know what happened with that OS and HP was kind of self-destructing on that point.

    I see this iOS7 as I see Redbull Energy Drink. When I taste Redbull the first time I was “DAMN nobody would drink that!” and go figure! Red Bull is the number 1 energy drink in the world.

  • dan pahlajani

    I will bet my 6 month’s worth of paycheck (you will be rich ;-) ), Apple won’t announce any consumer oriented products like Apple TV or iWatch. Tim clearly said at AllThingsD that game changing stuff is not coming this year. (Well he also said people love surprises, so I am keeping my hope low to enjoy the surprise.)

    I understand its a developer conference. I am a developer as well and having been developing a major business app for a few years now. But still, Mac Pro was such a ground-breaking change that it deserved it’s own event. Would have had a huge positive effect.

    Section 508 is not forced. As I mentioned, I am a UX designer with over 12 years of experience. Suffice to say, that internal politics will give Android supporters a chance. An extremely easy chance.

  • dan pahlajani

    No, not a “One more thing” but a special event.

    True Apple doesn’t announce a product without ship date, but if they held the even special event about 2 months after WWDC, they could have had more details in place and had a ship date about 2 to 3 months. That Apple has done a few times, specially for such a wonderful machine.

    Now the only reason I would think Apple didn’t give it a major announcement was because Apple strongly believes that we are in the post-PC era.

  • dan pahlajani

    You obviously haven’t done any design work for government. :-) I have.

  • dan pahlajani

    This is a longer discussion. Bottom line, I argue in favor of Apple all the time. But iOS 7 has nothing that was new. In fact everything is so similar to Android and Windows Phone that I am depressed. Again as a designer, I know that there were so many awesome ways to bring modern design to iOS.

    So do you really like the System Settings icon on the home screen? Really? Then you probably for using Apple products cuz of it’s popularity. I use Apple products would set the bar high. Designs would be copied by competition. Apple used to tell the media how it is and not be apologetic which is what Apple seems to have become. Trying to prove itself. Ugh… it’s like Apple reacts to what media says. When was Apple that way under Jobs? Apple single handedly dictated how it will be.

  • dan pahlajani

    I assure you, I own more Apple product than you do :-) My whole family is Apple. In fact I have converted my extended family to Apple. You can’t beat that ;-)

  • Hugo928000

    The litany of big numbers and of exagerated words can become an issue… All brands are using words that are not credible anymore. They all say they change the lives of the customers…. Come on … This is a joke…but yes Phil Schiller’s zinger is much much more powerfull…. It is authentic… it is genuine… it is … simply….. the language that people speak…. As soon as it is a corporate language using words that are “too much” the message fails… This is where apple is beating other brands : The simplicity of the words… If they loose that…. they will become the brand for established wealthy “seniors”…