Expecting Revolutionary Innovation From Apple’s Reveal Event? You’re Missing the Point.
Apple on Tuesday had its big annual reveal event, and depending on who you talked to, it was groundbreaking or business as usual. For some, it jumped the shark. But that’s nothing new for some watchers of this event and the company’s fortunes, since it apparently also jumped the shark in 2012 with the launch of the iPhone 5, in 2015 with the launch of the iPad Pro, in 2016 with the release of its smart battery case and countless times over. Apple, for its part, always primes us for big things. The media launches have long been carefully crafted events — from the 1998 rollout of the original iMac, to 2001’s reveal of the first iPod, to even the presentation of the Apple II at the West Coast Computer Faire in 1977.
Launch events under Steve Jobs were legendary pieces of theater that became an integral part of the company’s DNA. Today, that tradition continues. This year’s event opened with a tribute to the late co-founder in an actual theater bearing his name. But the tech will never keep up with our unrealistic expectations of it. We’ll never have again what we experienced in 2007 with the launch of the first iPhone, a device bloggers called, of all things, “the Jesus phone.” How can we? It’s not going to be revolutionary every time.
The hype cycle, complete with the attendant disappointment or “huh, that’s cool, I guess” reactions that follow Apple events speaks to how we misunderstand innovation. We take for granted creativity when it’s not a big swing. We love tech and it’s an integral part of our lives — our phones are as much utilities as they are extensions of ourselves. But we don’t think much about how these devices come to be.
Innovation doesn’t happen on a stage. It happens over years and decades of contributions from many people and places. That’s how we got to the original iPhone in the first place. Those incremental changes are just as valuable as the big ones, but they don’t necessarily get the same kind of response. That’s perhaps why Apple’s perennial cloak of mystery doesn’t work in quite the same way any more.
As cool as 4K movies for all and the new Apple Watch seem to be and as sleek-looking as the iPhone X is, complete with a facial recognition log-in and no more home button, they may not have needed the level of secrecy that came with that original launch 10 years ago. But Apple wouldn’t be Apple without treating every new innovation — no matter the size — as an event. Which could very well be the secret to its success.