observatory


29
Aug 14

iPhone and iWatch: a dual debut?

In a re/code article on Wednesday, John Paczkowski stated with conviction that iWatch will make its debut on September 9th, along with the new iPhone(s).

Within a day, there were a hundred stories reporting that bit of news — either citing John as the source or simply presenting it as fact. Computerworld actually ran the headline Apple makes Sept. 9 event official, hints at more than iPhone 6. Uh … not really. All Apple did was send out an invitation.

Now I happen to have a lot of respect for John, and he may well be right. Still, one can’t help but marvel at how quickly unverified stories spread.

Whether it’s true or not, this isn’t the kind of decision Apple makes lightly. It’s fun to imagine the two sides of the debate — do we launch these products in two separate events or combine them into one?

Since I wasn’t invited to the meeting, I’ll have this debate with myself. Continue reading →


22
Aug 14

Some curious Apple lapses

What’s wrong with this picture?

Those who love Apple are oftentimes its most finicky critics.

My theory is that these people expect perfection, so they feel compelled to point out the imperfections — large or small.

Oh, wow. I guess I’m now officially in that group.

Recently, I’ve noticed two lapses that seem out of character for Apple. Each is mystifying in its own way. Continue reading →


15
Aug 14

Microsoft’s new ads: beating a dead horse

Hail Microsoft, the King of PCs.

It’s easy to understand why the company clings to its “PCs forever” strategy, even after every major Windows PC maker has suffered slumping sales due to the tablet revolution.

It’s actually a form of corporate addiction. When you’ve built a huge global powerhouse based on one strategy, it’s hard to stop.

When trouble brews, the reaction can be reflexive: “let’s go with our strength.”

So now, in its three new ads for the Surface tablet, Microsoft once again goes with its “strength.”

While it previously fell short by comparing Surface to the iPad, it tries again by comparing Surface to the MacBook Air.

Because, as we all know, what the world really wants is a tablet that feels like a PC. Complete with keyboard and Office software. Continue reading →


8
Aug 14

The Apple rainbow logo rides again

In case you missed it — a frame from the end of the “Stickers” ad

 

I have to say, I’m a bit surprised.

Given all the sites that regularly dissect Apple’s every move — major, minor, real or imagined — an earthquake in the Apple world has gone virtually unnoticed.

That ancient rainbow logo, last seen in mainstream advertising at least 13 years ago, has magically reappeared for yet another moment in the sun.

Well, maybe it’s more of a moment in the shade, as it does go by rather quickly. In fact, my informal unscientific poll shows that most ordinary viewers didn’t even notice it.

It comes at the end of the Stickers commercial, when the sign-off logo flickers between the contemporary black logo and the old rainbow logo.

Of course I am greatly exaggerating the importance of this unexpected-but-sweet little touch. But if you’re a student of Apple advertising, or just a casual fan, it’s a cool thing to note.

Continue reading →


24
Jul 14

Apple & Samsung: different takes on interim ads

In the last week, we’ve seen new commercials from both Apple and Samsung.

They’re for different product categories — laptop and phone — but they do have something in common. Both promote products that have been out for some time and have no new features to boast.

With MacBook Air, Apple is in a pretty comfortable place. The ultra-light notebook category isn’t nearly as combustible as the phone category, and MacBook Air isn’t particularly threatened. Sales are better than ever.

With the Galaxy S5, Samsung finds itself in a tougher spot. Decreasing sales have already let some air out of the Samsung balloon. Apple is on the rise again, and 95% of the buzz these days is about the looming iPhone 6.

With all that in mind, let’s look at how Apple and Samsung are stating their cases.

Stickers is a great example of a well-crafted, lovable ad that scores points despite a lack of any real news. Continue reading →


18
Jul 14

The relentless (and annoying) pursuit of eyeballs

As a longtime ad guy, I now confess:

I have a love-hate relationship with the products of my own profession.

I love ads that draw me in with intelligence and wit.

I hate ads that barge into my life uninvited.

When I was a wide-eyed junior copywriter, I came to appreciate the code of ethics that guided the high-quality ad agencies.

I was taught that since people don’t actively seek out ads, we had to be respectful of our audience and capture their attention through creativity. It was our job to attract customers, not brow-beat them.

In other words, we tried not to annoy people when our goal was to start a conversation with them.

Honestly, it didn’t feel like a code of ethics. It just felt like common sense. Continue reading →


23
Jun 14

Shooting blanks at Apple

I love the smell of exaggeration in the morning. (Illustration: Fortune.)

With a rising stock price, cheery forecasts from major analysts and growing anticipation for iPhone 6 and iWatch, it’s getting harder and harder to write negative articles about Apple’s prospects.

But, naturally, some people do.

Surprisingly, it was Adam Lashinsky who recently rose to the challenge with his article for Fortune entitled Apple’s newest product: Complexity.

Compelling headline. Compelling visual. The only thing it lacks is a compelling argument.

In fact, it’s an excellent example of how even the smarter Apple journalists can be seduced by the lure of Apple doom-casting. Continue reading →


2
Jun 14

Apple journalism as entertainment

Apple’s rock-solid sales threatened by Android’s slowing sales!(Reality Distortion Field courtesy of Business Insider)

In times gone by, I’d get a kick out of watching any local band play live.

If they were good, I loved it. If they were bad, well — I also loved it. It was strangely entertaining to watch a group try so hard and sound so terrible.

In much the same way, I got a kick out of a Business Insider article over the weekend with the catchy headline The iPhone 6 Had Better Be Amazing And Cheap, Because Apple Is Losing The War To Android.

I hope you enjoy bad bands too.

Kudos to the Business Insider editor, who, in the site’s well-established tradition, has molded a headline that’s simultaneously brain-dead and inflammatory.

Singing lead is writer Jim Edwards. Do watch closely, because Jim is the guy who will give you the most bang for your entertainment buck.

A few bits of his insight and logic: Continue reading →


22
May 14

The online Apple Store’s humble beginnings

The latest numbers show that in 2013, Apple rose to #2 in online retail, second only to Amazon.

Not all that amazing, given that iTunes and App Store sales are now included in Apple’s figures.

But, given the humble beginnings of the Apple Store, it does give me that “how far we’ve come” feeling.

It all started with a baby step back in the “Think different” years, even before the first iMac appeared.

In those days, Apple made its big announcements with multipage inserts in magazines like Time and Newsweek. Apple creating an online store was indeed big news — though not quite big enough to merit its own insert.

The piece you see here was titled “Think different. Really different.” Within its pages, Apple announced three bits of news: Continue reading →


6
May 14

iWatch: Apple’s next naming drama?

Of all the product names in Apple history, by far the least surprising was iPhone.

After iMac, iPhoto, iMovie, iPod and iTunes, Apple had well established its i-rhythm. And the fact that Apple was feverishly working on a phone was one of its worst-kept secrets. For many months leading up to the device’s unveiling, the press was consumed with speculation about what an “iPhone” would be.

Behind the scenes, Steve Jobs was unwavering in his desire to call it iPhone. The fact that it fit well with other i-names was only part of it. In this case, he thought it was important for the name to instantly communicate the category to be disrupted.

Just one flaw in Steve’s plan: Cisco reportedly owned the name. It was already shipping a product called iPhone, though I’ve yet to meet or even hear of anyone who has ever seen one. It was a phone that made phone calls over the Internet, hooking into one’s home network. Continue reading →