Was Phil Greater Than the Sum of His Parts?

| Editorial

Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller gave his first complete Macworld keynote, replacing Steve Jobs in that traditional role. While Mr. Schiller is a superb presenter, articulate and charming, there was more missing than just Steve Jobs.

There were empty seats ... lots of them. It the first time in nine years that I've seen a single empty seat at a Macworld keynote. Not a smattering, onesies and twosies, mind you. There were massive blocks in the back, hundreds of empty seats. Another block on stage right had a hundred empty seats.

Empty Seats

When the conference faculty organized to head over to Moscone West, our escort reminded us: "No running!" I uttered in hushed tones... "Running? For Phil?"

Others will detail the nuts and bolts of the announcements, but in perspective, in the 30,000 ft. view, the keynote failed to achieve three things: pack the audience, maintain a high level vision, and enthrall the crowd.

Get a Life

Phil got off to a good start with iLife '09 updates. That wasn't unexpected. Unfortunately, 60 minutes into the keynote, he had demoed, with great skill, every new feature of iLife '09: iPhoto, iMovie, Garage Band ... then ... Keynote, Pages and Numbers.

Phil Schiller1

Indeed there were compelling new features in these products. What I liked most were the enhancements to iMovie, Keynote, and Numbers. iMovie changes have certified the vision that led to the initial wholesale change in iMovie '08. Keynote is now so good that if you use it, it's a sure sign of being hip. The term "PowerPoint bozo" will likely to be even more pervasive. Numbers has grown up and is no longer a toy.

Even with all these changes, I was left with the notion that life is too short to get too involved in push pins, GPS coordinates, geo-tagging every photo, maps of where we took each picture, and Indiana Jones-style global zooming red lines. Perhaps the reason why many American children are so overweight is because they're spending all their time fine tuning their iPhoto libraries instead of playing touch football.

Of course people will pick and chose the best of the technologies presented. Great photo memories, shared with others, are important. And as technology in the Macs improves, it's sensible to exploit that in hardware products. I won't quibble with that.

But after 60 minutes, in the last Apple keynote at Macworld ever, Mr. Schiller was delving into minutiae that left the crowd underwhelmed. There was a pregnant moment when Mr. Schiller started to talk about iMovie, the audience damned the new version with faint applause, and the Apple V.P. noticed that. He hummed to himself in acknowledgement, then quickly moved on.

Turn Out The Lights, The Party's Over

I've been present for eight Macworlds in San Francisco. They all, more or less, left the attendees with a sense of fascination and rapture -- the feeling that it's good to be in the Apple universe.

This time, all we got in hardware was a new 17-inch MacBook, and no quad core to boot. (Pun intended.) The non-replaceable battery is a technical coup, and it very likely will outlive the computer itself. However, in the grand scheme of things, that's just an incremental upgrade. We knew the new 17-inch MacBook was coming. I yawned.

What did we miss? There were a few hardware items we expected, mostly rumors. A quad core iMac would have been a great item to announce, even if not ready to ship. Something to say about Snow Leopard, and maybe a cool demo of OpenCL and Grand Central, would have whetted our appetites. An iPhone nano for $129 may eventually come, but we needed new Apple displays last year. Didn't happen.

What was missing was the power of Apple's vision and a feeling, however subtle, that there is genuine excitement in Apple's plans. Even though Tony Bennett sang, "The Best is Yet to Come," one has to wonder, instead, what's been lost. Nowadays, the theme is: Go to the Apple store. Buy more stuff. Spend more time in front of the computer. Buy more stuff. Edit photos. Buy more storage. Watch Sarah McLachlan try to teach you how to play music -- while you spend more money and she, with genuine talent, collects the checks.

Phil Schiller2

Apple's participation in Macworld ended with a whimper, not a bang. A sales presentation, not a memorable keynote address. That made me sad.

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Comments

sproxx

I am sorry, that your kids are overweight. :-(

Dean Lewis

I wonder if the economy has anything to do with the empty seats? Perhaps not all of them, but I suspect a good number of them were empty due to people just not having the money or being able to justify the expense to travel to San Francisco and pay for the events.

I was disappointed that there were no releases or even hints of other hardware. I’m in the market within a month or so for a new system, and an updated Mac Mini would be well within what I can spend and give me what I need.

Otherwise, I thought the announcements were all pretty solid. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of Apple press events come up this year…

csimmons

Well, since this is the last Macworld Keynote, and not the last Apple presentation period, so what if it was dead by your account? Apple has the unfortunate problem that the iPhone presentation at Macworld ‘07 set the bar so high that it’s nearly impossible for them to top it, barring they come up with an iTeleporter, or something like that. Give them a bit of a break…

u2mr2os2

[Geez, page refreshed on me and wiped my comment I was working on. Nice.]

Empty seats are not indicative of Phil’s actual performance. They are indicative of people’s (who aren’t there) expectation of his performance and expectation of no interesting (to them) announcements.

u2mr2os2

What kind of magical app was Apple supposed to release that addressed the apparent problem that “life is too short to get too involved in push pins, GPS coordinates, geo-tagging every photo, maps of where we took each picture, and Indiana Jones-style global zooming red lines.”? I know. Phil should have just said: “No new anything. Go outside and and get some exercise you fatties.” WTF?

Substance

John, your words described exactly how I felt watching this keynote.  Far better than anything I could have said. 

The saddest part is that I can’t help but feel that with Apple’s history of vindicative behavior, the fact that this is Apple’s last MacWorld and this lackluster keynote wasn’t a mere coincidence.

dahlenu

I don’t think Apple wants a “community” any more, they only want customers. People who buy. Not people who care. They talk about “meeting customers” at Apple stores: that’s called selling stuff, not meeting people. If they really wanted to meet people, they would continue Macworld SF.

Lee Dronick

“I wonder if the economy has anything to do with the empty seats? Perhaps not all of them, but I suspect a good number of them were empty due to people just not having the money or being able to justify the expense to travel to San Francisco and pay for the events.”

Or perhaps people also were concerned about weather related travel problems.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Imagine if Apple just bought 2 hours on A&E and broadcast it live. There would be nobody in the audience. Nobody. The only people that go to the MacWorld keynote anymore are the live bloggers. The hundreds of empty seats simply represent the boundaries of the Internet. There just aren’t enough web sites for all the live bloggers that could fit in the auditorium.

elehcdn

There is another issue with the economy ... would it be smart for a company to spend lots of money to rush development and release in the current economic climate?
Perhaps the reason that the Apple hype machine was toned down this year is because the economy sucks and Apple has decided that it is better off to slow things down and concentrate on marketing affordable software rather than try to launch expensive hardware in an economic downturn.

John Dingler

Phil made nervous listening to his really bad diction, so for the first time in any streaming keynote, I skipped, yes skipped, over any parts that I thought might not have been of interest. He was worse than Gil Emilio because I listened to Gil’s presentation in rapt attention.

Phil needs to do the following to not have me tune out:
1. Pause, take a few breaths, after every module of information.
2. Even out his diction so that key words are not speeded up, leading to a loss of clarity.
3. Not look down as much because this could indicate lying.
4. Look at the audience for a reaction which would key the audience into a response because a presentation is not a lecture. It’s a give and take.
5. Invite the audience to participate in his joy about a feature or product, instead of just being content to talk about it as if he were talking to a wall.
6. He needs to slow down his speech to make it look as if he is not giving us a bum’s rush.

WetcoastBob

Phil did just great! 

I got all the bumf about Apple improvements and changes.  No more…No less.  Hype does not improve the performance of my iMac. 

Macworld is at a bad time which is evident in Steve’s press release.  I wonder:  did Phil got to spend time with his family over the Christmas holidays?

You want some Razzle Dazzle?....  Go to Steve Ballmer’s keynote at CES.  GOOD GRIEF!!!

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