Apple’s Year-Long Story

Tim Cook at the third-generation iPad event

Only Apple could deliver this kind of innovation in such a beautiful, integrated and easy-to-use way. It’s what we love to do. It’s what we stand for. And across the year you’re going to see a lot more of this kind of innovation. We are just getting started.

Tim Cook at the end of the third-generation iPad event.

Immediately following the new iPad announcement, my internet buddy, Andrew Hanelly shared a scathing review of the event. While it was clear he didn’t agree with the overall tone, he had mentioned that it felt as if “there was no central theme” to Apple’s latest unveiling. There is little doubt that this keynote felt different. It seemed to focus on a feature more than an overarching storyline (although you could argue the same about the 4S and Siri). We’ve already seen that Apple is starting to do things differently with their releases; the introduction of Mountain Lion is a perfect example of this. But what if they are taking an entirely different approach to their events? What if, rather obsessing over one enticing pitch at a keynote, they are taking an even bigger approach to 2012?

Rather than being less ambitious about a single event, what if they are now telling us a story, one chapter at a time throughout the year?

The rumor mill has already sucked the surprise out of the keynotes (unless you’re excited by what people got wrong), so Apple has two possible choices: obsessively crack down on leaks (which I’m sure it’s doing) or begin to deemphasize the impact of a single keynote and aim bigger. There are several pundits who spoke about the event lacking Jobs’ polish. That things like Resolutionary would never have made it past his filter (which I really can’t argue. Correction, apparently I’m dead wrong here, see the update at the bottom of this post.). Some describe this as chinks in the armor, signs of Apple’s unraveling. This, for lack of a better term, is horseshit.

Like it or not, Apple is going to change. As much as we may hate and fear it, Steve is gone and Apple will evolve in his absence. That’s just reality. In fact, the worst thing Cook could have done is donned a metaphorical turtleneck and tried to play the part. Slowly, respectfully they are making small changes to the way things are done. This is going to be a transition phase, it will likely be a bumpy one. Yet no matter how important Jobs was, it doesn’t mean that the the end result will be something worse.

Jobs, at his core, was someone who was highly attuned to the creative. Cook1 however, is rooted in the analytical. This will change the story, it will change the way Apple presents products and will even impact the way they create them. Operations is steeped in iteration, not innovation. And as much as I hope and believe we will continue to see revolutionary products from Apple (but no more Resolutionary ones, please.), I’m excited at the prospect of a more iterative focus. I’m likely biased as big change through small steps is a focus here on the site, but I’d enjoy a world where I seamlessly use my MacBook Air AND my iPhone AND my iPad rather than feeling the subtle disconnect that currently exists between my devices.

Jobs excelled at creating an air of mystery, but so what if we aren’t wowed every time the CEO opens his mouth? I’d rather be wowed every day by the products we buy and the experiences we have with them. And so far, since Cook’s been in charge, I like what I see. Rather than one revolutionary device2, they appear to be building an unfathomable evolutionary ecosystem. One where our screens exist seamlessly and where even the most novice of users can create exceptional things.

I’m probably being a bit too lofty here, but it’s a hell of a lot more fun to dream wildly about what they have planned for the year rather than obsessively guessing wrong about new iPad features. Think I’m crazy? Watch the end of keynotes from the past few years. They all end with an emphasis on what’s been accomplished. This is the first time in recent history that Apple has shifted the focus from what’s happening in the moment on to what’s to come. Could this be an attempt to cover for an evolutionary update rather than a revolutionary new device? Perhaps, but I doubt it. I can’t help but believe that its a subtle, but intentional shift of focus. One that Apple plans to deliver on in a big way throughout 2012.

Jobs was a showman, perhaps the greatest that ever lived. Cook isn’t. And frankly, I’m glad he didn’t try. He may however, turn out to be one hell of a storyteller and great stories take time.

Update: I completely forgot about Thinnovation. While I still hate the phrase, there goes my argument that it is “Un-Jobs-like”. Hat tip to 6oclock on Twitter for the reminder.

Image via: Apple Insider

  1. Who served as Apple’s COO from October ’05 to August ’11. []
  2. Although I’d imagine they are still working on a few of these as well… []
  • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

    Ah you’re so cute. You love Apple. I think the best part of this entire blog post is when you talk about how you think telling their story one chapter at a time. It’ll be really cool to watch and see if you’re right.

    You definitely are right about one thing. Cook is not Jobs. But Jobs spent an inordinate amount of time readying Cook for the job. There also are designs cooking that we don’t know about yet Jobs put into motion. He was the ultimate in passing on his legacy. We can’t expect Cook to act, present, or behave in the same way Jobs did. Good for you for making sure that message is heard.

    • http://michaelschechter.me MSchechter

      I do. I know I’m a fanboy, but I think there’s a lot to be learned from both 1) what they attempt and 2) what they achieve. Sure, there are flaws, but I’m consistently inspired by what they do. It will be interesting to see Cook come into his own and make a deeper mark on Apple. It will also be interesting to see how and what Jony Ive creates in Jobs’ absence. I’m positive about where things are heading and I’m excited to see they play out!