I’m constantly amazed how Apple is able to create such excitement around its product launches. Invitations are extended to the press and celebrities from around the world. These people spend thousands to travel to Cupertino, CA, a bedroom town in Silicon Valley. They blog about it for weeks in advance while analysts speculate about what will or will not be shown. They finally arrive, much like we see on TV with the stars arriving for the Emmys. All for a two-hour commercial.
Any normal analysis would show that their new products are not revolutionary, except for perhaps the ability to do an electrocardiogram – that’s special, but probably many of us never knew we needed. But what’s astounding is how they spend so much time touting the ordinary improvements that are replicated each year by Samsung, LG, Motorola and others. Such things as larger displays, special “aluminium,” a haptic crown, and better cameras, all to an audience taking in every word. No one does a better job of turning on their PR machine and capturing the attention of every newspaper, every blog and every TV news show.
Even I fell for it in a way. I had to visit my Apple Store this past Friday to see the new Apple Watch Series 4. When I approached the store there were two employees stationed at the entrance, asking what I was there for. What a great stunt to make their products even more special! I quickly thought about the question and knew if I said it was to see the new phones or watches, they might have me wait for an available salesperson. Instead, I said to buy a cable, and they let me enter. Once I was in the store I wanted to see the new watches with the “amazing new display,” the ceramic back and a new slimmer case. There was a salesman with a tray of 8 of the new Series 4 watches in different colors, coddling them like a tray of precious diamonds in a jewelry store. I asked to compare the old and new displays, the new cases, and the result was underwhelming. So much ado about so little. The back? Ceramic I guess, but why should I care?
I looked at the phones and had trouble telling the difference between the iPhone X and the new ones. Same design, different sizes. Shoes come in all sizes as a given, why not phones? Not a big deal. Ohm yes, it’s Apple.
This is getting old. Too much emphasis on too little, all to encourage us to consume more, to replace our perfectly good products with something incrementally better. It’s a indictment of our society where we need to keep buying because the best of what we had last year is now only second best. While Apple claims to be environmentally responsible, their success depends on our discarding perfectly good products to buy their latest. And no company is more effective at convincing us to do this than is Apple.
An update on Facebook
On April 11 I wrote that Facebook was not invulnerable. And now we are slowly seeing it faltering. It’s not going to come all it once because of its momentum. But there are many indicators that show its time has come. Founders of Instagram have just defected. Employees are leaving and many are unhappy and no longer take pride in working there. It’s growth has flattened or decreased, depending on the demographics. We all now have a very different opinion of the company, the leadership and what it’s done to this country. They will never be able to get that back. From my own experience, most of my family that had used Facebook either use it much less or not at all. I hear from others great dissatisfaction of the quality of the feed. My assessment is the company will pay for not only its errors in compromising the data, but in how it handled it. Their executives are more despised than admired by others in Silicon Valley. They will get their due reward.