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I'm Glad Steve Jobs Didn't Announce Any New Products During His Keynote

I'm Glad Steve Jobs Didn't Announce Any New Products During His Keynote

by , 10:10 AM EDT, July 20th, 2001

Dare to do things worthy of imprisonment if you mean to be of consequence.

Juvenal [Decimus Junius Juvenalis]

A certain amount of opposition is a great help to a man. Kites rise against, not with the wind.

John Neal

I've told this story before.

When I wore the shoes of a younger man, to paraphrase a Billy Joel song, I tried my best to cultivate the aura of being an enigma. I hated for people to be able to "figure me out" easily. I remember once I'd read that you can distinguish a right-handed person from a "southpaw" by merely looking at how they looped their belt in their pants or by seeing which wrist they wore their watch on.

I, a rightie, to this day wear my watch on my right hand (the sign of a leftie). Ditto for my belt looping habits. I know, I know: dumb habits.

Anyway, I see this, somewhat, in Steve Jobs's recent actions vis-à-vis the recent new product announcements, better yet, the lack thereof. I'm sure that it's a "Steve Jobs thing" that Apple remain so secretive about unreleased products. Jobs believes or "knows" that Apple's success is image- and event-driven. Apple has an image of innovation and each media event is seen as a major event. The secrecy lends itself to this.

This has worked to Apple's advantage until Wednesday, the day that the New York Macworld Expo kicked off with what many Macheads deem a yawner of a keynote.

I, however, was laughing. "Steve-O stuck it to them all!" I chuckled to myself (I love to see the rubes when they are "taken"). They all went in knowing" that new stuff was to be announced. We've come to expect it. Hell, we demand it. I actually heard of people demanding refunds of their Expo admission fee because no flat-panel iMacs were introduced.

That is prima facie proof that Apple has the Mac community spoiled.

But I don't think that Apple will be any worse for the wear after this week's downer. Keep in mind that Apple is one of the very few PC makers actually functioning in the black, regardless of how bummed out we are over, say, no Apple PDA announcement. So if the only thing happening is our being upset over not seeing new widgets and gadgets, then all is very well in Cupertino.

After all, Apple is coming off a year an unusually high number of new product announcements enviable from any PC maker’s perspective: OS X, the critically acclaimed iBook and PowerBook G4, Apple Stores, iDVD, iDVD2, DVD Studio Pro, GeForce graphics cards… I need not continue.

And to top it off, I say you this: last week, a 733 G4 with a SuperDrive was $3499. Today, that machine is $1699 (okay, it does not have a SuperDrive, but it is essentially the same machine, which is the point I want to make), and for last week's price of a 733 G4, you can get a dual-800 processor with the SuperDrive, an 80 Gig drive, etc. – notwithstanding the fact that it's not shipping.

This is why I have one thing to say to all of you out there bellyaching about what wasn't announced: Shut up, you ingrates. Many of you probably didn't have the money to buy any of those machines anyway, yet you are so quick to bitch and moan about it.

The reasons behind the lack of "new" stuff boils down to two simple answers:

1) the new products we are dreaming about weren't ready to ship yet, or
2) Apple’s time table isn’t ours, meaning Apple will release those products in the near future.

I'm all for 2). Keep in mind that Apple is an international company. Apple management may have decided that instead of catering only to the American buying public, the company needs to act like the globe-spanning concern that it is. This could mean that Apple will introduce "new" stuff at the upcoming Paris Expo (which would still be in time for the Xmas shopping season). If this is the case, think of the good image this will give the company. Apple will be seen as a company that does more than Think Different. Think Global will be more like it. I have no problem with Apple holding off for a Paris announcement of fill-in-the-blank. (For me, the product to have nowadays is OS X 10.1.)

I believe that Apple would do well to start spreading out the new-product announcements. Apple is in a new period of its recent history, methinks. From 1997 until now, there needed to be the "new product every 90 days" that Steve Jobs obliquely promised. Now is the time for growth and creating a pattern of financial consistently, consisting of 1) retail stores that won't go out of business in two years, 2) a product line that sells on its merits, not on the fact that there is a new whiz-bang feature every quarter (we thought Wednesday was bland -- hell, Dell thrives amidst a far worse level of blandness), and finally 3) a hardware company that runs day to day like, well, a company.

If we admit it, Apple hasn't always been that way. It still isn't, in many a mind. It took me a while to accept this. Sure, I still believe there is an "Apple lifestyle," a Mac “community,” yada, yada, yada. But I'm realistic enough to see that it takes more than users’ sense of esprit de corps to remain viable. Apple does, too.

There was more substance in Wednesday's keynote address than what is represented by the Mac web's reaction (what this substance is, I will leave to others, and to my future columns, to address).

For example, the spiel debunking the Megahertz Myth was apropos, and needs to be trumpeted incessantly to the public -- in a more palatable form, mind you.

(Note to Steve Jobs: Jon Rubenstein needs a crash-course membership in Toastmasters, if you plan to continue using him as the pointman on this issue. But, please don’t; Jeff Goldblum is a mighty orator by comparison -- and that isn't a compliment).

Second note to Steve Jobs: we know that the only reason Jon was trotted out was to the counter the fact that there isn’t a GHz G4 processor shipping yet. But still the Megahertz Myth needs to be addressed. Just don’t stop the message when you surpass 1 GHz, ‘kay?)

Finally, the conspiracist in me saw another reason for such a non-event atmosphere in Steve Jobs's keynote: some part of Steve likes knowing that he can stick it to all of you rumor whores out there. Think about it: each year, the rumor weenies crow their predictions with more and more certainty. I see Wednesday's speech as a “dummy slap” against their collective water head.

Priceless.

We won't know any time soon why we heard (or didn’t hear) the news that we did this weak Expo week. The bottom line is that Apple won't die as a result. The company is still strong (stock prices are all a wash in the scheme of things), and new products will reveal themselves some day. I, for one, would like for the product to remain unannounced until it is ready, n'est-çe pas?

As for those of you who still have a huge beef against Steve Jobs for what happened or what didn't happened this week, get a life. You whiners.

Rodney O. Lain is a regular columnist for The Mac Observer, in his "iBrotha" column. We think he's just ranting because he didn’t get to go to New York this year.

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