Apple's transition into 'just another tech firm' is almost complete


Remember the late-80s/early-90s TV show called Doogie Howser, MD? The show about a genius kid who became a doctor? I remember watching the show and thinking that one day, when Doogie was all grown up, he’d have to make the transition from “genius kid doctor” to just “doctor,” and that would be an interesting storyline (unfortunately, the show got canned well before anything like that could happen).

Well, at yesterday’s iPhone SE unveiling we saw Apple make the transition from “wonder tech firm” to “just another tech firm.”

If you watched the live stream of yesterday’s event then you can’t have failed to notice how boring and predictable it all was. The hour-long event felt like it was about four hours long, and bumbled along from one thing to the next with very little energy or enthusiasm.

There was a speech about the Apple vs. FBI case, which was boring and predictable.

Then there was a speech about the environment, which was boring and predictable.

The Apple Watch got a few new bands and a price drop, which was boring and predictable.

The iPhone SE was unveiled and turned out to be existing technology shoehorned into an old shell, which was boring and predictable.

Then there was the unveiling of the smaller iPad Pro, which was boring and predictable.

After about ten minutes I was bored rigid, and after about 20 minutes I came to the conclusion that Apple’s event felt like a Microsoft event, or Google event, or Samsung event, or an event hosted by any one of the myriad of tech firms out there. Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone SE and new iPad Pro are interesting devices, and they’ll no doubt sell well, but they’re just devices in a sea of other devices.

There’s wasn’t even a “one more thing” moment at the end to reward those who’d hung on for the entire hour.

Even the audience sounded tired and subdued, so much so that I began to wonder if everyone had been given a double-dose of Ambien before going into the auditorium. I can only assume they were as bored as I was, but with an added element of having made their way there for the event.

Part of the problem is the media. There’s a huge interest in everything Apple, so much so that not only has pretty much everything been leaked before it’s unveiled, but the wild speculation generates disappointment when the new iPad Pro doesn’t double as a hoverboard. The media creates such an unrealistic level of expectation that whatever Apple unveils is likely to disappoint.

But then there’s the fact that Apple, at the end of the day, is just a tech firm. It makes products and services and exchanges those for legal tender. Apple is not a religion. Apple is not magical. Apple is not your friend. Apple is a group of smart people who’ve come together to make money.

Apple’s been on one heck of a ride this century. Thanks to the iPod and then the iPhone, a small, and frankly quite insignificant tech firm was propelled into the mainstream. I remember the company going from one that most regular people hadn’t heard of to a household name. Apple made its customers feel like part of a special club, and these customers are some of the most loyal that any tech firm can have. And these product launch events were a key part in making customers feel like a small part of Apple.

But what we saw at yesterday’s event was Apple acting like pretty much any other tech firm. We saw the company that created the iPod and the iPhone and the iPad being reduced into peddling price cuts, narcissistic statements about how awesome the company is, and rebranding existing hardware and new products. A lesser — perhaps less narcissistic — company probably wouldn’t have bothered with the cost and hassle of a press event and simply announced these products in a press release.

Maybe next time Apple should do the same.

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