Bored, bothered, and bewildered: Exploring the reaction to the 2013 iPad & Mac event

It's almost impossible to actually take in an event when you're covering it live. Whether you're transcribing what's being said, or providing play-by-play commentary, color, and analysis, you're forced to pay only partial attention to what's going on because the rest of your attention is busy digesting, translating, and expounding on it for your audience. So, after I finished doing the live iMore show during Apple's 2013 iPad and Mac event I had to go back and watch it properly in order to fully appreciate everything that went on, to get the subtleties and nuances, to catch the slips and hints, and to formulate an overall opinion of the event. I've done that twice now. And overall, I'm conflicted.

I can understand how Nick Bilton of the New York Times feels about the event:

Lately, however, [Apple] events have replaced the “wow” with the “boring.”

Bilton thinks the products are still good, but the presentation is getting old. Marco Arment experienced similar:

Something felt a bit off about this week’s Apple event.

Arment chalks it up to a combination of lack of surprise, flat presentation, repetitive messaging, and a lack of timely preorders.

I can also understand what John Gruber of Daring Fireball experienced:

Apple’s events are more like watching episodes of the same TV show, but with different bits each time. The show itself grows ever more familiar, but the content changes with each episode.

And Jim Dalrymple on The Loop:

If there was any event in recent memory that demonstrated the depth and scope of Apple’s products, it had to be this one. Every new product tied into the last and the next announcement in one way or another. Whether iOS or Mac, software or hardware, the connection was there.

So, what's going on, and how do these feelings reconcile?

Predictability

The iPad mini going Retina was predictable, but would anyone rather have had it go down in display density instead? That would have been a surprise, but not a good one. The iPad turning into the iPad Air was predictable too, but would anyone have better welcomed it getting heavier and thicker? This, of all arguments against the Apple event, is the most emotional, the most human, and the most inexplicable. Absent new products, most updates to existing products will be logical and incremental. A triangular iPad Air would have been different, but it would just as likely have been stupid.

Mavericks and the redesigned Mac Pro were technically new, but Apple had already shown both off at WWDC 2013, so they were expected, and hence not really, truly new. Likewise the new MacBook Pros, even though the 13-inch ended up being thinner and lighter again, were anticipated because their product cycles are linked to Intel's processor roadmap and Haswell had already come to both the MacBook Air and iMac lines. It was their turn. So, again, not really, truly new.

The iWork and iLife app updates were new, but also existing product lines, and it turns out some people aren't very happy with them, so they get to be both not really, truly new, and, to some, unwelcome for their not really, truly newness.

Add to that Apple's massive manufacturing scale, which makes leaks more likely than ever, and we have people doing the gadget equivalent of reading a movie script before going to the theater, and then being upset the movie doesn't surprise them. Spoiler. Alert.

The world tends towards patterns, and humans are really good at spotting patterns. When things make sense, they're predictable, and as much as we love that, we also kind of hate it. We want movie sequels to be more of the same, but not the same. We love our favorite food, but the twentieth time we eat it is never as good as the first. And much of how we experience things is tied to how we feel at the moment we experience them - a sensitivity to conditions.

Making the iPad Air as thin as it is wasn't easy. Going to Retina in the iPad mini this year was even less easy. Apple barely got it done in time (look no further than the "later this November" shipping date). Pushing Apple A7 chipsets across the entire new iPad lineup wasn't easy either. It was, dare I say it, a surprise. (Or more technically, a payoff years in the making). Not having Touch ID in the new iPads, most likely because Apple is struggling to produce enough sensors for the iPhone 5s lineup as it is, was also a surprise. Also an unwelcome one by many.

Like "one more things", true surprises at Apple events are few and far between. They're the iPods and iPhones and iPads. They're 2001 and 2007 and 2010. Apple will almost certainly attempt more of them, perhaps even as soon as 2014, and we'll likely suffer the same "oh, a wearable, we expected that!" and the follow on "oh, an updated wearable, where's the iCar?!"

We're an incredibly connected, keyed in, revved up, informed, insightful, and grown up community and customer base now. We've bitten of the Apple, and we've lost the paradise of - and appreciation for - the mysteries of our youth.

In this case, with this complaint, it's not Apple that's failing to deliver, it's our expectations that can no longer reasonably be met.

Presentation

Yeah. There were stumbles. Black Knight? It was like watching dad try to twerk. (Or watching me try to use twerk in a sentence.) It was a script pulled too tightly over too much event. Apple used to release new iPads in the spring, new iPhones in the summer, new iPods in the fall, and new Macs whenever they were ready. For the last two years, they've released everything but iPods, iPhones, and a smattering of Macs at one mega-event in October. It is, arguably, too much.

Mavericks, new MacBook Pros, the new Mac Pro, iWork for iOS, OS X, and iCloud. The iPad Air. The Retina iPad mini. And updates to a bunch of other Apple apps. It's almost inarguably too much. I'm tired merely from typing them all out. Yet October was when Mavericks was ready. It was when the new MacBook Pros got the Haswell chipsets they needed. It was when the iPad Air and, especially, the Retina iPad mini could be shipped before the holidays. It was Apple putting the pedal to the metal and getting stuff out as fast as technology and components would allow. It just all happened to, once again, fall on the same month. It was exhausting just to watch, never mind how exhausting it must have been to orchestrate.

Eddy Cue in his Kung Fu shirt, and Roger Rosner awkwardly, slowly helping him make mock album art was painful. But there have been awkward - and painful moments at keynotes for years. It's when it all adds up, the slips, the pace, and the pain, that it begins to create that "off" feeling.

Steve Jobs wasn't immune to this either. Tossing cameras into the audience, losing it over Mi-Fis, getting lost in small features for minutes at a time. But he was Steve Jobs. Unfortunately, he's who Apple's current slate of presenters, from Tim Cook on down are following. Worse, the romanticized memory of Steve Jobs is what Apple's current slate of presenters, from Tim Cook on down, are following. And that's an impossible position for anyone to be in. Apple is still lightyears ahead of most other tech companies when it comes to presentations, but they're held to a higher standard than any other tech company because of it.

There were moments - "mind blown", for example - that stood out, but given it was an Apple event, given all the announcements were recapitulations or upgrades, given the sheer mass of them, and given the stumbles, there weren't enough.

What would make it better is a little more relaxation on stage. A little more energy and a little more sense of fun. Apple introduced some great products. The executives knew that as well as the media. We just needed to see that they knew it. That they loved it. And that they were willing to worry less about script, and risk getting lost in it just a little more. That's the key to any great presenter - they transcend the presentation and make it feel natural, organic, alive, and human. They have fun, and through them, the audience does too.

This, I think, the complaint about the presentation is what rings most true, and what tipped the balance for everything else.

Repetitiveness

As a result of incremental updates and presentation problems, Apple's events have felt more repetitive than they have in the past. They're not, of course - Apple events have been repetitive for years - but once an illusion shatters, it tends to stay that way.

The advantage to repetitiveness is that, when it works, it's magical. It's the chorus in the song you can't stop playing over and over again. It's the signature line you're always waiting for the hero to utter. It's the moment when anticipation becomes reality.

The disadvantage to receptiveness is that, when it doesn't work, it falls absolutely flat.

There's an old saying that the key to a great fight is in the matchmaking. Fighters can have great skills and great game plans, and without changing a thing, explode one night and fall apart another. Likewise with presentations. An off night for Apple's executives, a malaise among the media, and a few flubs plus a few long moments of silent non-reaction, and things start to go south fast.

Does that mean Apple's gotten stale? Does it mean the media is hopelessly jaded? Maybe, and of course not. It's not immediately clear to me how Apple could, or even if Apple should change their event formula. Having attended numerous events by other companies, including almost all of Apple's competitors, I can objectively say no one else comes close in terms of clarity of message delivered. Apple tells you what they're going to say, says it, then tells you what they said. With big, helpful, charts detailing products, pricing, and availability.

Would sideways cars on a broadway stage, or HALO jumpers landing on the roof make Apple events more interesting? Maybe. But would it make them better? I'm not convinced.

Introducing the 5th iPad is going to be repetitive, nailing the chemistry of the event is what makes it not matter.

Immediacy

There were no pre-orders for the iPad Air, just like there were no pre-orders for the iPhone 5s. My guess is its for similar reasons - there's simply not enough stock to allow for meaningful pre-orders and to supply retail stores for launch day at the same time. Instead of having an almost immediate sell out thanks to low pre-order quantities in advance, and under serve people who go to the actual stores on day one, Apple is opting to give retail some breathing room by starting online orders the same day. In a perfect world, Apple would have enough iPad Air stock to have started pre-orders last week, but we live in the real world and sometimes deadlines are sprints all the way to the end.

Likewise the iPad mini, which is crossing the finish line so hot it isn't even going to be ready to ship with the Air. Whether or not Apple announces pre-orders for it remains to be seen, but there simply aren't enough to start selling this week. Even more so with the new Mac Pro. However, that's such a niche, high-end product it doesn't have the holiday sales pressure on it that the iPad line does.

Mavericks, iWork, iLife, and the new MacBook Pros shipped the same day as the event. Can't get any more immediate than that.

So

As Apple events go, the products announced last week were absolutely amazing. The equivalent of nuclear weapons in a conventional theater. I still can't believe they managed to get the iPad Air and Retina iPad mini ready to go as quickly as they did. Mavericks is solid, and the new Mac Pro is porn. I understand the complaints about the new iWork suite, but I also have an idea of the compromise that had to be made there. And the new MacBook Pros are pretty damn fine as well.

But the presentation was rough. They had all the elements, but they just didn't come together. It happened, but it's absolutely something that can and should be improved. We'll never see the iPhone getting introduced again, or the iPad, and we'll never again, not ever again, see Steve Jobs on that stage. But Apple's got a phenomenal set of products and the best team in the tech industry. If an when they can relax, they can let the joy out, they can pace themselves, and they can have fun up there, we'll have fun with them. The predictability, the repetitiveness, those are things that shouldn't and almost certainly aren't concerning Apple.

Keep making great products and nail the presentation, and few, if anyone, will complain about either of those things next time.

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 103 comments. Add yours.

brandongoeszoom says:

Completely agree. I was live blogging the event, and half of the time, I was thinking, "Must I really type this? We heard about this months ago!" It's been quite some time since a technology event has excited me, and that makes me sad. I can't wait for someone to wow me again, Apple or otherwise.

lkrupp says:

And when’s the last time a non-Apple technology event has excited anyone?

brandongoeszoom says:

Being a webOS lover, I was obviously excited about their HP's announcement of new phones and a tablet (even though that was short lived). I've been excited about Google's events, primarily ICS and Jelly Bean announcements. Nokia's recent announcement about new Lumias and a tablet was actually pretty good, to me. But I wasn't wow'd by any of this. Minus the webOS stuff lol And the earlier Apple stuff. Now it's, "Yawn. Okay. Yeah. Knew that was going to happen. I might buy it."

rogifan says:

"Steve Jobs wasn't immune to this either. Tossing cameras into the audience, losing it over Mi-Fis, getting lost in small features for minutes at a time. But he was Steve Jobs. Unfortunately, he's who Apple's current slate of presenters, from Tim Cook on down are following. Worse, the romanticized memory of Steve Jobs is what Apple's current slate of presenters, from Tim Cook on down, are following. And that's an impossible position for anyone to be in."

I'm glad you mentioned this Rene. People remember January 2007 and January 2010 but they forget all the January's and June's when Steve would spend an excruciating long time getting lost in some software feature and everyone in the audience couldn't wait for it to be over. Or the endless parade of app developers on stage showing off FarmVille or some other app nobody cares about.

I like that Cook just wants to get down to business and has cut out a lot of the endless app demos. But I think Apple needs to spread products out over more events. Or announce some products via press release only, like they did with the iMac. With the iPad going 64-bit it would have been nice to show off the advantages, like they did with infinity blade at the iPhone event. Instead all we got was a rundown of specs and prices. Sometimes it felt like they were on a timer and rushing through stuff. But I think it will all be different when Apple has a brand new product to announce. And I kind of have this feeling that a brand new product isn't going to leak before hand, or at least not the way iPhones do. So the announcement will be a surprise to most.

Paul Vik says:

Totally agree, but i'd love to see the day when Jon Irvine appears on stage and is animated :-)

mbeware says:

When they got these iPods, iPhones and iPads out, they were a new class of products. And since the iPad, it was only variation on the same theme.

What we expect from apple, it's something we can't expect. There will be watches and glasses. Some competitor will have them (already have them) out first, but Apple will be the first to do it right. The same way they did with MP3 players, cell phones and tablets.

And maybe they have a secret underground laboratory with something totally unexpected that will once again change the way we do computing...

reptarwilleatu says:

well said Rene, this is why i like your writing above just about everyone else. it seems that everyone is totally bashing Apple over the keynote and releases. don't read the internet if you don't want it to be predictable. but i agree on the presentation and such. like you said, i don't think Apple is too worried over it and their still completely focused.

remember that time everyone was saying Apple is doomed because they haven't released a product all year yet...oh wait.

Trappiste says:

"Apple is still lightyears ahead of most other tech companies when it comes to presentations, but they're held to a higher standard than any other tech company because of it."

I guess one needs to be American to understand and care about this marketing BS -- or value anything basef on it. I care about the products, not the marketeers' showmanship or the number of lies and half-truths shamelessly fed on the audience and media.

". I still can't believe they managed to get the iPad Air and Retina iPad mini ready to go as quickly as they did. "

Retina Mini only six months late and 50% too expensive compared to Google. But then, Google innovated the product segment, so... I guess it is inevitable that they lead and Apple follow.

Rene Ritchie says:

Why wasn't the iPad Air released in 1997 and for $10?

Chris White11 says:

I am American and these presentations drive me crazy. Samsung tried to change it up with the Galaxy S4; however, it was just as painful. I am more of the kind of guy who is fine with a press release telling me the new features, highlights, and specs.

angermeans says:

I've owned both Nexus 7 devices from Google (I assume this is what you are speaking about) and although it is a good product for the price it isn't a great product like the iPad Mini was/is. It's not even close. Apple could have easily released an iPad Mini with retina last year if they wanted to, but they care too much about the user experience and the battery life to do that. Google on the other hand (like other Android OEMs) doesn't look at these details and this is the main reason Android devices are good and not great (and I've used many over the years). The Google Nexus 7 is advertised at 8 hours of use and I can sit here flat footed and tell you I've never gotten that not once. Like most Android products I'm convinced their tests are done with no radios on, not running 3rd party apps (which are known to have memory leaks and other problems, and done under testing which is more of a math equation of what they should theoretically get and never do. Apple on the other hand I've consistently gotten over what they've announced as the pinnacle ten hours of battery life. I've always been amazed and battery life paired with the size, lightness, and speed are what make tablets great. Apple just has a precedent they set and it is something I've come to expect. Whether it is the 60 fps at every turn, great industry leading touch latency (over 2.5 times better than the top Android phone and Im sure its even more when tablets are concerned), an eco system of apps, music, books, magazines, and movies that are literally a couple years ahead of the competition (Android is a barren wasteland especially when tablets are concerned), the industry best silicon (i still can't believe the A7 it is an absolute beast and runs just as fast as a Mac Mini I bought brand new less than 3 years ago and in my phone and soon to be tablet), industry best displays (no ppi isn't all that goes into a display), best cameras (Nokia is up there with them, but you have to deal with WP8), and best of all hardware that competitors wish they could design and manufacture especially at the yields and bulk Apple seems to be doing in their sleep now a days.

So with all this said, if it takes six months longer to get my iPad Mini with retina (and don't forget an A7 processor which is well worth the extra price jump as I thought it would always be behind the iPad Air) then so be it as it will be the best product I can get for my money on the market and I can be sure that the competition will spend a year trying to catch up with Apple to just lap them again the next release. I love tech and buy all kinds of it, but Apple is the one that has my attention and although some of their announcements seem a little stale without Steve Jobs all I mentioned above doesn't seem to be changing any time soon.

Steve Doherty says:

" .. and here's another video we made .. " <- There was too much of this.

Rene Ritchie says:

Better than the 25 app demos we sat through a couple years ago...?

Carioca32 says:

Good point. BTW, where did that Cards app thing go? I remember it taking a looong time on a keynote.

Rene Ritchie says:

Cards was put into iPhoto, maybe they should have demo'd that instead of the Eddy Cue album?

chuthan20 says:

Yea, they wasted some time showing collaboration feature... which most of us are used to it from Google Docs (even though iCloud is much better than Google's). Eddy kept on saying 64bit.. faster... and as a programmer I can't stop thinking how fast? If they said, oh, 64 bit registers hold more data on the registers.. how many app developers will actually take advantage of it (maybe some hardcore game developers who knows what they are actually doing...). Every time Eddy said 64-bit, I was like plz don't say it one more time unless you are gonna tell us how fast (only time he said 64bit was useful is in Garageband.. it can load 32 tracks). To me, it just feels like Apple's desperate attempt to impress the customer, to tell us they are still innovating. I just watched the video where Steve Jobs says we work backwards from customer experience to technologies rather than piece together some technologies and force it on user but that is exactly how it felt like to me with 64bit on iPhone 5s. It would be similar to Thunderbolt ports on macs... nobody makes hardware for it. Sometimes I do wish Apple listens to us but again most of the time I like Apple products because they give us less options to think about.

worknman says:

That's like comparing the s--t I took last night with the one I took this morning. One way or the other, they need to go. I really don't care about the latest store that Apple built, and I doubt anybody in the audience does either.

saturnotaku says:

"there new MacBook Pros..." Might want to go in and fix that. Great story otherwise. There is still magic to be had at these events but the shine is wearing off somewhat.

Rahat Khan1 says:

The problem is how Tim Cook talks. Don't get me wrong, I like that guy, but he talks as if he has constipation. All. The. Time.
They need someone less robotic and more lively to do the presentations.

Rene Ritchie says:

Angela Ahrendts on stage for the Apple Store stuff?

Carioca32 says:

How about a well prepped and scripted Justin Timberlake for everything?

Bruno Alves1 says:

I think the media tide has definitely turned and Apple can only do wrong nowadays. I mean yawning away the iPad Air? Really?? That weight loss is not just iterative: it's a potential game changer in how you use your iPad. The Air is now closer in weight to the mini than the old iPads; the choice now is all about screen size. With the first mini, people were willing to ditch their retina displays just to get a lighter, more portable iPad. A year later, they don't have to. If that's not meaningful change I don't know what is.

Dewayne Smith says:

I agree with you. I am still using a iPad 3. Now I don't have to choose a smaller screen to get a lighter tablet.

worknman says:

It's a nice upgrade, but the iPad Air still won't fit in my man purse :)

DocPeterG says:

My children and I are heavily involved in community theatre and it is with that perspective that I'll tell you what I think has been happening in the non-Steve Jobs keynotes. None of the protagonists rehearsed enough.

The story is told that Fred Astaire was once observed practicing sticking his hand in his pocket for 7 straight hours. His grace came not only from his God - given talent, but the fact that he fanatically programmed each and every muscle to do exactly what he wanted it to do. The dance became his, so he was free to be himself.

Similarly with Steve Jobs. I'm sure you've read all the stories about the hours and hours he spent rehearsing any presentation. His ease of speaking was there because he wasn't worrying about the words or the demo anymore. Because of the rehearsals, the words became his so he was free to be him and the audience responded to that.

Rene Ritchie says:

I haven't heard about how much rehearsal time was put into this event, but it did seem like they were too worried about being on-script and didn't just relax into the material.

Jobs always felt more like jazz, like he could riff without getting lost.

Hopefully they get back to knowing it so well, they can have a good time with it too.

renstein says:

Two completely different performances, a month or so apart. It is no wonder they weren't as rehearsed for this one. And it isn't like these guys don't have other things to be doing. So, yeah, the second was probably rehearsed a lot less than the iPhone presentation, which I have not seen anybody complain about.

jabbaspalace84 says:

One of your writers recently posted a video of Steve Jobs responding to criticism at a live event in 1997. And he handled it beautifully, as you know. Apple products of today, as you also already know, are remarkably faster, better, and lighter with software that is roughly a thousand times more intuitive and engaging. So, I also think the problem is a cultural one - we are really super spoiled; however, Steve Jobs could sell you a stack of printing paper and make it glow. That skill can't exactly be learned and it's showing. I knew there was a big problem last year when Tim Cook's tone at one release was so obviously forced. He was kind of monotone at the prior one and now he was making up for it: "These products...are sooOOo great!" They're obviously in a valley rather than on a hill in terms of new exciting products. I was thinking myself that maybe getting Jonny Ive up there would improve the presentations. Sure, he's mild-mannered and probably would prefer not to be in the limelight. But he's at the heart of Apple (the core, shall we say?) and understands the artistic/feeling element to these products. Maybe keeping him tucked into the audience isn't best for anyone. He is, after all, in every introduction video. I don't know. Maybe that's a horrible idea. But maybe it's not.

RealNeal says:

I think they need to hire a professional spokesperson. IBM did that when they were introducing OS2. They had a guy who could do just awesome demonstrations, was funny and exciting, and could answer any question thrown at him. And that was his only job - to show off the product. He was amazing - a true showman.

On another note - Rene, do we know what time the iPad Airs will go on sale on-line? I see the stores are opening at 8AM.

Rene Ritchie says:

I don't think Apple's said, but I wouldn't surprised if it was 12am local time (which would be 12am Cupertino time in the U.S.)

dalaen says:

Applies for North America only.
Europe sees this time scaled on GMT (for iPhone sales at least).

iDisturbia says:

Aha, some expect Apple to bring some strippers perhaps, like Samsung does, eh?!!

Let me correct that for you ....
.
.
.
They'll never be Steve Jobs, but they ARE all good, and relaxed, and happy ...
.
.
.
AND ... Can't innovate anymore, my ASS.

So, whoever gets bored, please try to get laid some more and don't blame Apple.

Carioca32 says:

No they are not. They are just unimpressive executives trying to do a job that does not suit them: to entertain. There are professionals for that, and its a profession that demands very specific skills, its not for executives/amateur entertainers.

If you just want to present new products, just put them on your web page like everybody else. If you want to do this in a entertaining and engaging way, get a professional to do it, a new face for Apple.

iDisturbia says:

Yep! Whatever it takes to hurt Apple!

Steve Jobs is gone ... so will Apple!
They are doomed!
Their stocks are dying!
Tim Cook can't run Apple. He should resign yesterday!
Their products are over-priced!
iPhone can't sell!
iPad can't sell!
.
.
.
And now, they are going after their presentations!

ROFLAMO!

Oh google and samsung!

badMojo69 says:

I predict the next IPad air/mini will have a fingerprint reader and the next IPhone will have a pro version that is larger. Before Apple can call something a Pro they have to make a non pro version, so people don't freak out when the pro version goes up in weight and down in battery life.

I have two IPads, the 1st and 3rd and have seen nothing that warrants an upgrade at this time. I'll upgrade to a new Ipad when the software is there to take advantage of the A7.

Becjr says:

Well put article Rene. Apple's products were their usual brand of "magical wow", I too think that we expect to be blown away and we want to be surprised even when it's not possible, after all updates are, well, updates.
The biggest issue I had withe Apple's event presentation was that it didn't feel authentically organic. That's what Steve brought every time. He didn't always feel rehearsed and scripted. Tim sounds anxious and high on nervous adrenaline... Our maybe his voice always sounds a little unstable.
They tried to have some fun with the iWork demo, but it felt pre-teen awkward.
Apple did pack quite a bit of stuff into this past presentation (like a tech blivit). Maybe they were trying to hard to maintain a quick enough pace to squeeze everything in?
I'd like to see Apple make more use of their technology in the presentations / demo to really help sell the point, but there was obviously no space left for that kind of thing this last go round.
The presentation felt rushed and a little uncomfortable - and I'm sure we all noticed.
We all know that Apple reps are reading these post and taking notes to make the next Apple event better. xD

Sent from the iMore App

Carioca32 says:

Good post, as for innovation, instead of a predictable dense keynote, think Apple could do a two-day super-event with professional presenters, hands on and sales of everything being shown, perhaps even someone famous, instead of going the Microsoft way and trying to pass executives and CEOs as showmen. They're not, they're boring, and that's how they should be, they have other important skills and more important things to do than worrying about keynotes every few months.

captobie says:

Isn't "boring" and "predictable" just a tech blogger problem? What really counts at the end of the day is the sale, and with the recent 9 million iPhone figure I'd argue that Apple hasn't lost its touch yet. At least not in the one area that it genuinely matters.

poiman says:

While the new aditions to both iPad Air and iPad Mini Retina are great, I think Apple could have done much more to surprise everyone. Why didn't they finally include an active digitizer? Why didn't they include the fingerprint sensor?

Aditya Chowdhury says:

Precisely, Tim Crooks sounds too robotic, every presentation he seems to use the same phrases (specifically a HELL lotof superlatives), even the format of the presentation seems monotonic. I couldn't watch it past 15 minutes. Let me draw a far fetched comparison here, that very day I also watched the Nokia presentation. Elop felt so natural on stage, he was with others to demonstrate products, he was there making jokes with other presenters, it was fun in spite of what Nokia announced was absolutely nothing even close to what Apple did.

dalaen says:

"we have people doing the gadget equivalent of reading a movie script before going to the theater, and then being upset the movie doesn't surprise them."

So true.

Riscon says:

Very good article, and is exactly what I have been saying since Jobs stopped presenting. The presentations are cold and lack enthusiasm for the most part. There was no wow factor, as everything was an enhancement pretty much. There is a solution and that is move Craig Federighi in the main presentation. He was brilliant at WWDC and has the ability to inject much needed life in to what has become a very sterile presentation.

ralphtweety says:

I agree with Rene's conclusion, but I also agree with those who see that this was, and was becoming a problem even under SJ's leadership. My personal experience was - Awesome products, air of nearly breathless expectation, almost totally engaged for the first hour with increasing boardom from there to the end. My conclusion - The products are awesome and the presentation really needed to be under an hour.

rogifan says:

The thing is people choose to remember only the good bits of Steve demos, not all the boring ones where he sat behind a computer monitor and got lost in a software feature.

As far as Jony being on stage....I think he's smart enough to know he wouldn't be good on stage so he does videos instead. Believe me, if he was good on stage and wanted to be up there he'd be up there.

Larry Pager says:

The tech industry has slowed down in innovation (not just Apple). At this point nothing really new is coming out. Great refinements? Useful features on existing products? Absolutely. True game changers? Not really. The iPhone 5S, while a great product, will never be seen as the game changer like the first iPhone.

So couple that with the lack of personality on stage (compared to Steve Jobs, which is an extremely tough act to follow) and you get boring keynotes. In addition, it's OK to describe how the first iPhone is a " gorgeous, ground-breaking revolution" because we're all in awe and it's true. Not so much when you talk about a new color scheme for iOS and every, single, little, detail is described in super flowery terms.

karmski says:

I am always excited about Apple events, but felt this one was just too rushed. It would have been nice to hear more about each product, rather than what seemed like brief, bullet points. To me the mistakes and awkwardness stemmed from keeping an extensive program to a set time.

Also I was thinking while watching the event, that Apple should invite a more varied group to their events. Those that are blogging and reporting live are too busy with their work to participate in the excitement of proceedings. A more diverse group would help with the atmosphere.

Great article Rene - you always provide much food for thought!!

Sent from the iMore App

johncblandii says:

It is the same ole same but the verbal misses got me. Cook paused for 3 seconds while staring down once. That was odd.

As DHH said, they need to nix the stat porn and get to the fun stuff. They are actually having a bit more fun and it makes the presos more interesting.

joshrocker says:

I think it all comes down to the answer of predictability. We all knew what was coming. I could have told you (and could have just about anyone else that follows Apple news) exactly how this event was going to unfold. Leaks ruin the excitement. I venture a guess that it's impossible to produce on the scale that Apple needs to while at the same time keeping secrets.

We all know it's impossible revolutionize the industry on a yearly basis. We need to sit and be patient for the next big thing, even if waiting is boring.

Carlton English says:

Great article, this year was the first year I didn't run home and turn on my Apple TV to watch the event. But I knew they were going to improve the iPad and I knew I was going to upgrade. The same with my jump from the Note 2 to the Note 3, I knew they were going to improve the device and I was going to upgrade so no need to watch an event on it.

So I agree with your predictability points, since I had a general idea of the upgrades that were going to happen there was no need to watch an event on it. I wouldn't say I would have been bored watching the event just not surprised and therefore made the decision not to watch.

ltcomedy says:

I feel like Apple should take a year off of new "Portable Products" No new iPhone, new ipad/mini or iPods for 2014, take a year and innovate the shit out of these devices, go back to square one and give us something to really get lost in again. I rewatched the original iPhone keynote from 07 with Steve Jobs the other day and the sense of "Holy shit this is gonna change everything" in that keynote was awesome, even watching it now 6 years later it's hard not to get caught up in it. Apple needs to take the time to really make the products that will make us feel that excitement again. Right now even though these upgrades are awesome we are just too used to it, we take them for granted almost. I'd even argue apple is losing sales to themselves at this point because a number of people I know look at a 5s upgrade and say "the iPhone 6 will be next year I'll just wait". I challenge Apple to give us a year off and give us products worth waiting for again.

rogifan says:

When you say "innovate the shit out of these devices" what exactly do you mean? At this point what more can be done besides making the existing devices incrementally better? The form factor isn't really going to change (just like it hasn't with laptops) so most of the improvement will be with the guts and with software. I just get annoyed when people throw out the word innovate because everyone's definition of innovation is different. To me the A7 and M7 is innovative. Getting 64-bit high res. display and 10 hours of battery life in a device that weighs only 1 pound is innovative. But to a lot of people it's just boring and predictable.

joshrocker says:

I agree with you. I thought 64 bit and touch ID was innovative. I don't know what people expect. The form factor for these devices isn't going to change. Outside of a curved screen, I can't think of much else that can be done that wouldn't be a gimmick (such as a dual screen device ect). Most of Apple's recent innovations have been under the hood type things. Things that will quietly affect the way we use our devices. Those type of innovations aren't really WOW moments that will have the average person talking. That makes these types of announcements boring for the average person.

Dev from tipb says:

Marco points out something overlooked in the rush to lionize Steve Jobs - the impact Scott Forstall had. While it has certainly become fashionable to treat him as the whipping boy, despite his arguably being the father of iOS, he dominated presentations almost as much as Jobs, because he brought passion. Ive communicates an aloof pride, and Cook an understated competence, but neither of them let you peek at the almost childlike enthusiasm for the product and for its creation that Jobs mastered, and Forstall also exuded. Schiller is the only one left who comes close, but as more a marketer than an engineer or creative, he cannot bring that oomph to the same portions of the show.

SMulji says:

I actually think Craig Federighi does a pretty decent job and shows enthusiasm as much as Forstall.

Rene Ritchie says:

Agreed. Forstall was great, and Federighi is getting better and better.

Dev from tipb says:

Jobs (and, to a lesser extent, Forstall) somehow managed to come across as being so excited about something they did that they couldn't wait to share it WITH us, whereas Federighi still seems to be making Pronouncements AT us. It is a marketing more than substance difference, but that was Jobs' genius - making people feel like they were inside some rebel operation with him.

In fairness to Federighi, it is probably much easier to come across as an excited iconoclast when you are establishing a new category in 2007 or 2010 than when you are the established incumbent in 2013.

rogifan says:

To me Scott Forstall came off a bit smarmy. To me he always seems a bit fake and definitely full of himself. Whereas I think Craig Federighi comes across as much more humble and earnest.

ShameerMulji says:

True but then he has better hair than Forstall

Jay Mobile says:

I think that Apple has just set the bar so high that there keynotes only seem boring because in all honesty the competition is not giving them any thing to really shoot for so they compete against themselves. I mean I just switched back to iOS after trying to hold out for the iPhone 6 while using the Galaxy s4 and it really is just not the same. I have to admit that Apple users are spoiled and will never be pleased no matter what they come out with next.

JNGold says:

Correction, Pundits and naysayers are spoiled and will never be pleased no matter what they come out with next. Apple users will continue to buy and love their Apple products, which the explicit comment that they remain close to Apple's core (no pun intended) values and quality.

sampandi says:

Yup! You stated it rightly; "Apple users are spoiled...." But I must admit that Apple's events are less surprising lately. They need to invent, not just launching a serial products.

stillmaticb331 says:

Don't really understand what people want from these product reveals? Its not a movie that you're paying for, its not supposed to be a 3-ring circus act. Its one of the best and most innovative companies simply showing its new and soon-to-be-available products. I mean the iPad is AMAZING, but its a flat, front and back touch screen device. How much more can they actually do with every release and still be mind-blowing yet price friendly? What do people want from them? I mean if you want to be surprised and amazed by the new product releases don't salivate over your keyboards while spending hours on these spoiler blogs. Just wait year to year and watch the live streams. Annoyed by people saying they are boring. Spend 15 minutes on the best Windows computer available at Best Buy and you'll quickly apologize to Cook and Ive and sit back and browse blissfully.

murphymac1 says:

I think it IS just a reveal now. The shows were a huge big deal when Jobs did them because he was gifted at delivering them. He was a weapon the competition didn't have, nearly automatic impressive show. So why not make a major effort to prepare for them and make it count?

Why they think they should continue with the same format shows WITHOUT him - I don't think that's so clear. Why keep having them if you're star performer is gone? They could do something completely different than these shows in the same old format. Instead they continue with them - emphasizing how lacking their presentation skills are compared to those of an incredible, exceptional salesman.

Come up with something new Apple. The shows don't have the old punch.

GlennRuss says:

Boring, unimpressive, lacking "wow". Look at Apple's bank account. There is your "wow." When you have made about every device there is, it is hard to top that. All you can do is improve on what you have until there is a technology break threw. I think another problem is all the leaks about products. There are so many now, you already know everything. Why even give a presentation. Just announce the date you can buy it.

Sent from the iMore App

Carioca32 says:

Tech history is filled with great innovative companies with large bank accounts failing. Just look at Blackberry now.

crazygonzo says:

That's why they NEED to shake things up. Late is the hour they choose to unveil their products, iPad Pro 12" inch display with keyboard cover would have been a welcome sight, an iWatch accessory would have been a nice real piece of news, Apple TV + 4k Cinema Displays upgrade would have made some 'noise' this Spring season.
No, a year of silence wasn't a good idea, and 2012 also wasn't that extraordinary. Let's count every product that matters, 30 months have given us = a minor OSX ML update, one significant iMac & Macbook Air refresh, Macbook Pro Retina, fresh iPods, iPad with Retina, iPad Mini, iPhone 5S & 5C. And now we got iOS 7, Mavericks, iLife/iWork updates, Mac Pro, iPad Air, iPad Mini with Retina (iOS 6 doesn't count because it was a service pack, simple patch, a quick fix).
I hope some of the rumoured 'ghost devices' will be made available April/May 2014, iPhone 6 & 6C with iOS 8 will be released in July 2014. I understand that they were slowly positioning themselves, adding small blocks and building everything so it'll be ready for the future but it's time to let people glimpse that future. Next 10-20 months will bring the announcement where Macs and OSX are headed in this uncertain 'tablet world' we live now. To people that are disappointed with iLife/iWork I say "those are not Pro apps anymore (if they ever were), wait for next year's updates with fixes and I for one can't wait for OS Xi" :)

rogifan says:

A 12" iPad with a keyboard cover would be a welcome sight? No, the media would have just branded it a surface ripoff. Apple is positioning the iPad as a truly mobile device that you can take with you anywhere and is so thin and light that the hardware basically disappears. That's the complete opposite of a device that requires a kickstand and keyboard to be useful.

crazygonzo says:

In my opinion a 600g 12" inch display is very mobile, keyboard is a bonus that no one will force you to use all the time.

vox212 says:

I thought it was the best Apple event since the passing of Steve Jobs. New iPads, New Mac Pro, New MacBook Pro's. Apple is doing just fine. I walked by my local Apple Store today and it was packed wall to wall with people and that pretty much says it all.

Ben_Trovato says:

I agree, this event did have some great product releases. It would be nice for Apple to innovate not only at the product level, but also at the presentation level. I would like to see Tim Cook do less talking. He looks great as a CEO but he isn't bringing energy to the presentation. People want to see jazz, excitement, energy. They want to feel something. The product itself is no longer enough. Tech has evolved a lot in the last 15 years and a lot of the entertainment that is found in other genres need to find their way into these keynotes.

rogifan says:

Yep every time I go to an Apple store its packed and the Microsoft store across the walkway is pretty much empty except for some kids messing around with Xbox.

murphymac1 says:

Everyone talks about the 2007 iPhone event as the gold standard. For me it was the first Nano.

The best part of the Bilton piece was when he pointed out how Jobs had a connection with the audience. As rehearsed as he was it still felt like he was flying by the seat of his pants.

I think Craig Federighi is their best presentation guy now. He seems excited by the technology. He has some charisma. He has a little bit of that Jobs - audience connection thing.

Cook is awful on stage. I don't think he's as excited about the tech as he tries to make himself sound. It's more like he's trying to channel Jobs and that's a bad idea. Way too rehearsed. Too stiff. They need to minimize his time on stage.

Schiller is himself but he's short on pizazz.

I cringe every time Ive speaks. I picture the Conan and SNL writers waiting with notepads. The man is clearly a genius. But he doesn't need to participate in this marketing stuff.

When Jobs did these shows I'd hang on every word. Now I don't even watch the whole thing.

ShameerMulji says:

"Schiller is himself but he's short on pizazz"

To give credit to Schiller, he does have his moments where's he's energetic and fun to watch. Maybe not at Tuesday's event but he has in other events. So he does have it in him. Tim Cook and Eddy Cue? No.

rogifan says:

Cook really is awful on stage and his time should be limited. Eddy Cue is cringeworthy too. Maybe let Phil and Craig run the show. As far as Jony's videos, as much as some people complain I think Apple would need to stop doing those videos if they took him out because they just wouldn't be the same. For instance, watch the iPhone 4S or 3rd gen iPad videos and its clear the videos don't work without him.

Good OL MC says:

Two thoughts:

1. If Apple had introduced a new product category or a new service this would not be a discussion right now. The problem is that Apple following the same basic script for it's announcements fits in to a larger, "Apple is boring" narrative that many journalists want to write and that many people do actually believe. A dynamic change and this goes away.

2. I work in sales and something anyone doing the same has to do every so often is rethink how you pitch things. You don't necessarily do this because the people are bored of your schtick but because you are bored of your schtick. I forget which writer/site it was but it was either Engadget, iMore, or The Verge that said in one of his early CEO keynotes that Tim Cook was following the Steve Jobs playbook. Might be time to change it up a bit.

And back to the sales comparison: you should never wait for your pitch to stop working before you change it - you should be ready to change when it is working the best. "Skating to where the puck will be."

markbyrn says:

Apple keynotes have been bashed from the day Jobs introduced the iPhone. At first, there was ridicule and when the phone started selling, it was the reality distortion field. When the iPad, it there was ridicule about it being a giant iPhone and named after a feminine hygeine product. So now that Apple is just introducing quality upgrades to existing products as opposed to something new (which would be ridiculed of course), the pundits are bored because there's no surprises and they critique the presentation to the nth degree. Stop already.

Mardin says:

I think the "Off" part for me, is when the Apple Executives try to convince us how amazing everything is, even when its not.
It was legit when Steve told us how amazing the iPod was "A thousand songs in your pocket - amazing" .. and how amazing the iPhone was "A phone, a internet communication device and an iPod" -- mind blown.

But why do they suddenly insist on calling everything amazing? 'Tags' in Mavericks is not amazing and mind blowing. iWorks and the Pages functionality to create covers of Eddy is not amazing.

It gets old when they over do it. And thats why it feels stale. They should try to retain and keep their exitement for the really exciting products like i.e. the iPad Mini with Retina and A7 processor.

Lance Trimington says:

Great, simple, paced piece Rene. Mildly ironic I should say that considering the Apple Event wasn't.

Steve Jobs was many things to many people but my summation is that he was a great showman, a salesman. I suspect he was as much PT Barnum as TA Edison.

There were good reasons that he did the Apple events and Eddy Cue was busy signing deals and not seen publicly. Tim Cook is the guy they need in the next decade as the pipeline ramps up for China and the demands that market will place on Apple. But I will go to sleep if he thanks everyone again about the great work they are doing. C'mon. They get paid. They love it. Looks great on a resume. And. You thanked 'em at WWDC.

Roger Rosen may be a great product manager but pleeese. World class presenter? Nope. The Pages demo was dreadful and the content complete bollocks. And as for the predictable and plodding videos of product. Honestly I almost don't believe Jonny Ive anymore. Is it really the 'best' work we have ever done? again? Give him a rest.

Engage new filmmakers. Lose the white look. Make it noisy and loud and slightly obnoxious. Keep up the app demo embargo but run more amazing real people videos and I think Rogifan is right. Leave it to Phil and Craig.

Before your competition catch up.

rogifan says:

"Make it noisy and loud and slightly obnoxious"....,no, no, no. Leave that to Samsung.

And as far as the product videos....Apple has been doing them since Steve Jobs came back. I don't remember people complaining about them from 1998-2011.

Chris White11 says:

I might hit a nerve here, but Apple understands that many consumers look to these events to tell them what they need in a phone, tablet, MP3 player, desktop, or laptop computer. Apple's model is not necessarily to look at customer needs, but look at what they can perfect and convince the customers that they need it. This is particularly true in the iPhone and iPad worlds. If the Keynotes did not praise every "innovation" as being amazing then they may lose their customer base who like a competing product, but were waiting to see what Apple offered. This marketing model definitely benefits Apple, and allows them to seem more innovative than they necessarily are. There were a lot of people who heard of LTE, but actually did not really know what it actually was until the iPhone 5 keynote explained it.

Ken Vrijland says:

Very good article! I couldn't have said it any better...
Especially the 'it's not Apple that's failing to deliver, it's our expectations that can no longer reasonably be met' part...

dvdphn says:

I feel the main thing lacking is the actual passion in showing off the products. It's the "You have to see this" factor, that Steve Jobs conveyed so well, that is missing.

The first Apple keynote I've ever watched was for the original iPad. And yes, just having Steve Jobs sit there, showing off what he can do with the device, was amazing to me, (but most articles online were so blasé about it, which was perplexing and frustrating).

True joy and passion in doing something with a device is suppose to be natural. You feel happy for the person doing a skateboard trick or playing with a yo-yo, and if that is strong enough, it should make you want try it yourself.

dvdphn says:

The presentations are formulaic, which most people would consider to be boring and repetitive, but from an organization point of view, it's great to be clear and consistent. The product improvements are always great, (1.5-2x the speed of the last model? Come on people, that is impressive).

I think they should do more comparisons with the old device. It's nice to show the bullet points, but demo the speed of websites loading, and the natural workflow. Don't force it. People like seeing things in action. The usable screen size of the iPad Mini vs Nexus 7, was a good eye-opener.

Also, I miss the multiple keynotes in a year, (iPad, WWDC/iPhone, iPod, Education... Was there more than 4? Maybe I'm counting the sneak peek into iOS 4 too). Waiting for autumn for device upgrades is much too long, and massive. You'd think upgrading the computers before back-to-school season would be better, but who knows, maybe people are willing to splurge at Christmas. Kudos to Apple for compacting the content though, (around 30 min for each device line), and simplifying their events: WWDC, iPhone/Music, iPad/Mac.

LeFrancoy says:

I really believe that something was axed at the 11th hour. The stuttering, the lack of enthusiasm that some felt, the everything but the kitchen sink strategy has to come from somewhere (when you compare the WWDC and iPhone events to this one).

In the past, I’ve notice Apple get products out via PR right before or slightly after events. I’ve always fathomed that they had cards up there sleeves just in case they needed them... And that if everything went according to plan, they would quietly release them into the wild.

My personal theory for last week’s event; they were aiming to have the iPad Air and the iPad Pro (w. touch ID and some other pro-oriented feature(s)) out the door but just couldn’t pull it off. So it would have been: Mini $400, Air $500, Pro $600.

Something like that throws a serious wrench in the clockwork and puts everybody off balance... Just a random guy’s theory, but we’ll know in a few years when some executive-in-the-know’s NDA expires anyway.

philips9179 says:

i don't know, they almost seem nervous to me, of what, i don't know.

if they are nervous of doing presentations, then thats usual, i think they need to find a better way to present though maybe through auto cue or bullet point the main usp/talking point, as long as they know their subject backwards, they can then have some fun with the the content and mess around a bit. if its the competition, then if they explain the unique usp, they really shouldn't have any problems. if they are nervous of going off the path that steve jobs would've went, forget it, they are already doing it - look at the excellent job they did with touch id on the iPhone 5s, nobody wants to go back to putting in passwords anymore.

Derrick4Real says:

As a potential consumer and someone that thinks apple makes really good products i will disagree in this sense. Nothing about that presentation really made me want to buy a product. In most cases it made me think my current devices are just fine. And in many cases it's made me consider other brands. I was in best buy and honestly after using mb air's vs laptops, iphones v android phones, and ipads vs android laptops like nexus/surface (and yeah i made all those comparisons); with those i used to think apple was the only choice but now i see very little gap. The real world uses of the products would be similar. Bottom line is, for me the other guys are back in the game as potential purchases. The gap is closing. And that's because what apple is releasing are good, spec bumps, but nothing monumentally better than the competition.

lomow says:

The keynotes/presentations are fine; the company is firing on all cylinders. These keynotes are to inform the public (i.e. people who don't follow all of the rumors) of new/updated products; unfortunately Apple has to do this by talking to the press/media which is jaded because they do follow all of the rumors.

The only thing I miss, is that Steve Jobs used to do a great job of framing the announcements around a theme or big idea - e.g. 'We’ve always tried to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts'.

PS - regarding iWork - Apple is willing to sacrifice 100K power users so they can provide a consistent and simplified experience across all platforms to 50M-100M customers who have joined the ecosystem in the last 4 years - seems like the right trade-off.

SockRolid says:

Agree. Apple's products just keep getting better and better. Journalists and bloggers have little to nitpick about other than keynote presentation style.

Dark_Huntress says:

Agree 100%! As everyone who knows me knows I am a fangirl. But even I find the Apple events lacking energy. You are spot on Renee.

iDisturbia says:

OMG!!!! Sooooo boring! Another Apple Q4 result with Apple kicking wall street lazy journalists' a$$ ... err ... expectations! Not again ... LOL

http://www.imore.com/apple-announces-q4-2013-results-iphones-ipads-macs-...

Derrick4Real says:

No offense to that imore post but it doesn't exactly tell entire the story. Yes Apple sold more iphones but Apple overall profit fell. That is they sold more iphones but made less money. That's like you work more hours but take home less pay overall. Ipad sales were flat and ipad revenue fell which is strange because the tablet market overall is growing. Mac sales were down and mac revenue was down. Wall Street looks at profit growth much more than raw sales numbers. That is if you sell a million more than last year on the face that's great. But if you made less money off selling a million more that's an area of concern. fanboys care about how the company looks. Wall street's concern i largely profit growth which is why Apple sold off today.

robertpetry says:

Hi Rene,

I agree with almost everything you wrote here but I can't believe everyone has given you a pass on one line:

"I still can't believe they managed to get the iPad Air and Retina iPad mini ready to go as quickly as they did."

Uh, I have been anxiously awaiting the new iPad for a while. You said Apple planned to release an iPad mini like iPad 5 last April or May!! Obviously they changed their minds (probably or include the A7) but are you really that surprised that they have one now? Maybe you were just referring to the Mini with Retina?

SockRolid says:

re: "Something felt a bit off about this week’s Apple event."

I think Cook and Schiller were disappointed that they couldn't announce iPads with Touch ID. And maybe they were also a little worried that bloggers and journalists would complain bitterly about that. And it showed.

ianberg says:

No more keynotes by the CEO until there's a new product category to introduce. Let the subordinates that have more charisma introduce updates on existing products.