Calm down, tech events are good, really

Criticizing Apple intro events is one of life’s great pleasures. It’s so easy, anyone can play.

“Where’s the magic?” “Where are the surprises?” “The humor?” “Why so glossy and slick?”

If you’re looking for a culprit, you know where to find him. Tim Cook is responsible for every bit of the content. He’s proven himself guilty of one major crime: he isn’t Steve Jobs.

So, yeah, these things are flawed—but they are hardly useless.

I see every Apple event as the ‘opening argument” in the court of public opinion for a new batch of products. This is Apple’s chance to show its cards, explain the “why” and lay the groundwork for marketing to come.

You can get the facts online anytime. But there’s a human side to technology (at least there should be) that exists only in these events, when Apple execs stand before us and make their case. That can be a plus or a minus, and it is revealing either way.

Personally, I’d rather spend two hours watching an Apple event than two hours reading about it. But some disagree.

Take NYT writer Shira Ovide, who says We don’t need tech infomercials—from Apple, Google, Tesla or anyone else. Her premise sounds tough, but her arguments are flimsy.

Mary Kay-style demonstrations for the 400th edition of an iPad are clearly not the most serious problem in technology or the world.

With over 350 million iPads sold, I suspect there are a few people who might be interested.

Most people will never even watch these things, thank goodness.

Correct. Definitely not “most people.” Only interested customers, tech writers and industry observers. In other words, Apple is speaking to people who do watch these things—not the entire universe.

Marketing 101 student: “Why put on a big event when you can just write a blog post about it?”

Shira: Exactly!

What’s the alternative? Well, Microsoft on Tuesday published a blog post that described the latest model of its Surface laptop and other products. Spotify also posted on its website about its new experimental gadget that’s like a modernized car stereo remote... Microsoft and Spotify showed that most product launches should be a blog post and a two-minute video. The Microsoft and Spotify products seemed to get noticed and written about on Tuesday even without a two-hour hype machine

Apple already does the equivalent of a blog post by telling the full story on its website. That alone—or a blog post—does not make a brilliant marketing strategy.

It’s a tough choice, but I’d take marketing advice from Steve Jobs over that of Shira Ovide. Steve proved that marketing is every bit as important as the products themselves. Simply laying out the facts is hardly enough in this hyper-competitive world.

This is old hat for Apple, too. And on Tuesday it did what it has done forever: It released an intentionally vague message about what is expected to be a canned webcast presentation.

Enough of these vague messages, Apple! Who on earth can decipher them? All you did was give us a date, time and place. Who has time for this kind of detective work?

This achieved its goal. People who care about technology talked about it.

Apple tried to do something and it worked? This is madness, I tell you. Madness!

Look, product messaging comes in two flavors—the ads we seek out and the ads that are forced upon us.

I’ve railed about the latter for way too many years. Ads on network TV and ad-supported streaming services are often way too repetitive and deeply annoying. If anyone wants to start a war against advertising pollution, I’m all in.

But product intro events are purely voluntary. Watch them or don’t. Your choice.

You know, there’s already a harsh penalty in place for companies that repeatedly bore us or waste our time. People stop paying attention. Companies need to evolve or die, in products and marketing.

The world is filled with things worth worrying about. Tech company events just aren’t one of them.