Thoughts on a keynote: Will Apple ever surprise us again?

On courage

So it ends. Another fall Apple event. What used to be "surprise and delight" has become predictable. For example, an all but confirmed removal of the headphone jack was expected. The big reveal of the day wasn't the news of the removal of the headphone jack, but rather Apple's somewhat interesting spin (er ... motivation) for doing so. For what it's worth, courage is running into a burning building to save an old lady and a puppy. Courage of conviction, though, is about making hard choices when you believe they're right.

So breaking it down, I'm impressed, but I'm underwhelmed. These are the best iPhones ever – the best Apple Watches ever (well, of course they are. Otherwise, why introduce them?). But, what does that mean?

On innovation

The iPhone 7? A solid update with features long-wanted.

If you're OK with the largest form factor, you really are buying a fantastic camera that also happens to be an iPhone. The other features across the devices are great as well. Evolutionary, but welcome. I'm not sure Apple will drive upgrades from users with A9 devices, but they're certainly good enough to prevent any upgraders from defecting to Android. They're also very attractive to anyone not currently on iOS.

To be clear, the iPhone 7 line remains the bar to hurdle for all other devices. iPhone is the gold standard. Period. Sorry. Nothing else comes close. Recalled devices that explode don't really count.

The new Apple Watch Series 2 is nice. But, I think the biggest innovation for existing users will be watchOS 3. It would be difficult for me to recommend an existing Apple Watch owner to upgrade without a very good reason. For example; if they swim a lot.

Apple Watch marketing has taken a fitness focus. That's good. It defines the device. Unfortunately, it also lumps Apple Watch into other fitness devices that are much lower in cost. Apple Watch marketing remains a challenge to Apple. Almost everyone I know who wears one has a different reason for doing so, and they are all rooted in notifications. Apple's fall marketing will be interesting to watch.

This new crop of Apple Watches can attract new users, if not necessarily upgraders.

I think the iPhone 7 event was a good day for Apple. A solid refresh of two lines. They're all good enough to attract new users, drive upgrades for some users, and in general, once again set the bar for what a phone or watch should be in 2016.

On the end of an era

I think the era of legendary Apple keynotes is over (those who were there in the heyday will be like those who saw the Beatle's at Shea Stadium. Kids, ask your grandparents). Sure, if Steve were alive, he'd never do karaoke in a car on the way to a keynote (unless, as Rene told me, Dylan was in the car with him). So what?

Apple defines the smartphone. Apple has defined the post PC world, as well as the ... well ... PC world. Apple created the first smartwatch worthy of criticism.

Sure, the keynote was predictable and, if you read the spoilers, perhaps even somewhat boring. The idea, though, that the era of Apple is over, is foolish.

Apple's success or relevance doesn't depend on one set of products or one keynote. The "Apple is doomed" mantra goes back almost to the days of the first Macintosh.

Betting against Apple, in the long run, is missing the forest for the trees, no matter how many trees others try to throw in the path. Especially, if those trees need to be recalled.

Michael Gartenberg

I’ve covered the personal technology beat for more than two decades at places like Gartner, Jupiter Research and Altimeter Group. I’ve also had the fun of contributing my $.02 on the topic at Computerworld, Engadget, Macworld, SlashGear and now iMore. Most recently I spent a few years at Apple as Sr. Director of Worldwide Product Marketing. On Twitter I’m an unverified @gartenberg. I still own some Apple stock.