With Apple CEO Tim Cook choosing not to announce the iPhone at the WWDC, one thing is now certain: the era of symbolic teaser graphics and event tag lines died with Steve Jobs.
Warning: negative Apple rant ahead.
Even if you are one of the many Apple enthusiasts who have long held the belief that there was no way that Apple would announce the iPhone 5 at this year’s WWDC, you can’t help but admit that, in spite of a 2012 that has seen its share of new Apple gear — the iPad 3, a new line of ultra-impressive MacBooks, and the launch of iOS 6 beta — there is a kind of vapid, empty feeling surrounding Appledom these days. As of today, all of the most-rumored and highly anticipated Apple products have yet to materialize: the iTV, the Mini iPad, a new iPod, and the ever elusive iPhone 5, which is now two and half years in the making.
No one will contest that the MacBook hardware rollout at the WWDC was impressive — if you’ve got two grand to go spend on one of the new Retina display-bedecked MacBook Pros. iPhone 5 News Blog correspondent Sam Levin, who was at the WWDC, told me candidly that the new Retina display models are the only ones worth a damn. So, in essence, Apple just released a product that most people cannot afford, as the U.S. and Europe continue to flux in and out of recession-like economic climates. Nice one.
But what I find really interesting is that, since the death of Steve Jobs, we’ve seen one thing change dramatically in Tim Cook’s approach to hyping new events and product releases: he overhypes it.
Remember back in the day when Apple teaser graphics and tag lines meant something? Those days are long gone — and the shame of it is that Apple didn’t put us on notice. The first big let-down came in March, with the announcement of the New iPad. You’ll recall that the teaser photo caused quite an uproar, with many enthusiasts and tech writers alike believing that the iPad 3 would not sport the iconic home button. And the tagline, “We have something that you really have to see. And touch” only bolstered that expectation. In the end, the “see” part was the Retina display, but what exactly was the “touch?” How did touching the iPad really change? The answer is that it did not. It was a bad teaser photo and a bad tag line.
How could Cupertino’s marketing and PR department have sat around a table in a board room, look at that photo and tag line, and not ask themselves, “Hey, do you think that the angle of that photo might be misconstrued as being an iPad with no home button?” Or how about, “Hey, does this tag line really make any sense for the new features that we’re rolling out for the New iPad?”
Expectations were similarly mishandled at this year’s WWDC. The “teaser photo” for the event was nothing like the one last year. Take a look at the banners at this year’s WWDC versus last year. The 2011 banner heralded the advent of iCloud and Lion. It was an imaginative banner that actually laid out — albeit cryptically — what was coming. The 2012 WWDC logo and banners were non-figurative and bland, respectively. The graphics in and of themselves did not mislead in the way that the iPad 3 teaser photo did, but what about the tag lines?
“It’s the week we’ve all been waiting for.” This was the teaser tagline for the logo, and Apple enthusiasts have given Cupertino a pass for its hyperbolic, overstated tenor, saying that the “we” was referring to “we developers.” C’mon! Up until last year, the WWDC had been Apple’s perennial release event for the iPhone. In spite of the fact that the conference is for developers, Apple traditionally used it for much more than that. For Apple to have used that tag line, knowing that all we were getting were new MacBooks that nobody can afford, was disingenuous and irresponsible. It’s true that the WWDC was the week that we were all waiting for, and it turned out to be letdown for everybody — including those who were resigned to the iPhone 5 not being announced.
And what about the iOS tagline . . .
“The world’s most advanced mobile operating system.” What a facile, empty claim. To quote Charles Bukowski, it’s “like a pot of evaporated piss.” Apple would have been better off with, “We’re the richest technology company in the world, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Look: I love Apple and its products. So, all of this does not constitute a deal-breaker for me. But what I’ve learned in the post Steve Jobs era is to read nothing into teaser photos and tag lines. Obviously, Tim Cook does not have the finesse — the vibe — that Jobs brought to the fun of anticipating new products. For all we know, the next event tag line could be a huge “5″ in it, and we’ll end up with a refreshed iPhone 4S.
By Michael Nace