Is the “great” Apple keynote a thing of the past?

The last few months have been exciting to say the least. Leaks about the latest iPhone were doing the round and every week saw someone pop up with a new “rumored” product feature. The excitement reached its zenith when Apple formally sent out its invites to the keynote event, which for the first time were going to be held at the Steve Jobs theater at Apple’s new Cupertino head office.

Although I have not followed the keynote address ever since the great man himself released the first version of the iPhone, this year was completely different. I was all geared up for the event, not just because of the product launch, but also because over the last couple of years I had read so much about how Apple keynotes were not just about selling a product, but about hitting the right chords which will get people to dance to their tunes.

Tim Cook took the stage, welcomed the world to the amazing looking theatre, and paid a tribute to the one who envisioned the state of the art center- meant to bring the design and engineering teams together under one roof! The event kicked off with Apple unveiling their plans of transforming retail stores into modern day town squares. I was and I am in love with what Apple plans to do with their retail stores and I thought that this is indeed a great beginning to the keynote, and that we are just getting started. However, to my dismay, this was probably the highlight of their keynote.

The Apple watch series 3 was to follow and while I did like the watch, I started to get a sense of the fact that Apple is trying a little too much to highlight how this is the best watch that anyone can wear on their wrists. Anyway, I was not bothered much because what I was waiting for was still a few moments away. I yawned through the Apple TV presentation!

Tim Cook was back on stage and finally said “iPhone”! I was out of my slumber, a smile on my face and I could not wait to see what was to come- though the leaks had pretty much revealed the iPhone 8, 8 plus, and X, yet I was not the one to hold myself back. However, what followed was nothing short of disappointment and anguish. No, I am not saying that the products were not good enough- that is up to the customers to decide. What made me cry was the way Apple presented its most bankable products. Feature after feature, statement after statement made me feel that Apple was degrading to any other run of the mill budget smartphone manufacturer whose sole focus was on telling the world how amazing their product and its features are. Superlatives like best in class, never seen before, amazing etc. were like poison to my ears and I couldn’t believe that Apple was trying so hard to sell the “what” instead of the “why”. Simon Sinek in his golden circle Ted talk talked about Apple and how it sells the “why” to the world and the “what”. Here I was, witnessing the same Apple begging its customers to buy the “what” and not the “why”.

I have heard from peers that Apple keynotes have not been the same ever since Steve Jobs stopped leading them, yet I cannot fathom why someone would not try to take pointers from what the great storyteller did. In addition, I do agree that the leaks did not help their cause, as there was nothing to shock and awe the customers. However, there is a lot of speculation that Apple themselves planted these leaks leading up to the event to make sure people do not stop talking about the incoming iPhone. While that might have been a good strategy, where Apple lost the plot was that they leaked all major details of their flagship model.

While it is quite possible that we will still see the new products sell like hot cakes, the supremacy that Apple has been enjoying in the minds of its customers may well dwindle away. Apple has to be extremely careful with how they introduce their products to the larger audience, a couple of such lackluster keynotes will see their aspirational value in the minds of the customer slip away to competition- which has already eaten up considerable market share, and may leave Apple high and dry, with many questions unanswered.

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