Having sat through more of Apple’s butt-numbing product events than I care to admit, it’s hard to muster much joy when the next one rolls around. Strangely, I’m beginning to think Apple feels the same way.
Based on the writing and performances at the most recent keynote, it feels like Apple is mailing it in. Carrying on a tradition out of obligation rather than passion. What were once highly-polished productions that set the standard for every company have devolved into repetitive, listless, poorly-written presentations that barely mask the sense of tiredness.
The result is a carnival of cringe defined by the need to feign excitement over things that are not terribly exciting. One could argue that it’s a general sign of a broader creative stagnation at a company whose business model now turns on over-hyping incremental updates or pretending that services like Apple TV+ are revolutionary breakthroughs when it’s really just another twist on streaming video.
Writing for The New York Times, Charlie Warzel mused that these events had become “love letters to consumerism” that seemed ridiculously out of step with a moment of deepening tech skepticism. Worried that they have devolved into parody, he declared it was “time to call it quits.”
I don’t disagree with his analysis. But there’s no way Apple can or would stop because this lumbering production represents too much free publicity. Why give that up?
But since they will continue to produce them, and we will tragically watch them, the company needs to find a way to reinvent the format and save it from the malaise that has set in.
A good place to start is with the speakers. Each speaker seemed to be speech-coached to within an inch of their lives. The template of advice goes like this: As you move into the power word or important descriptor, slow down a bit and maybe just make a slight break and then really lean into that word like “MOST” or “WONDERFUL” or whatever.
Just listen to about 30 seconds of Ann Thai as she leans into “THRILLED” and “ONLY and ‘”GROUNDBREAKING” and “no game service has…EVER…launched as many games at once.”
This is how every speaker talks, and the result is an amateurish-sounding infomercial that sounds like an extended commercial for the Ronco Pocket Fisherman. I think the speech coaches in this case may have been the young Jerimiah (sic), Ben, and Levi from this classic starting at 18 seconds:
The resulting monotony and lack of spontaneity isn’t helped by the writing which seems to be even more half-hearted. Eight times, speakers declare they “can’t wait” for something that is less than monumental.
“No game service has ever launched as many games at once,” Thai said. “We can’t wait for you to play all of them.” A few minutes later, Cook affirmed: “Thank you Ann. Apple Arcade is a gaming service unlike any other out there. We can’t wait to start playing when it launches later this month.”
Cook also “can’t wait for you to start watching Apple TV Plus” while Stang Ng: “can’t wait for you to try” the “the new always-on display” for the Apple Watch. Kaiann Drance “can’t wait for you” to “take some awesome slofies” and also “can’t wait” to see “what else other developers will come up with with the A13” Bionic chip.
Not pumped up yet? Sri Santhanam said he “can’t wait for our customers and developers” to see the A13 in action. While Deidre O’Brien “can’t wait” for customers to see the refurbished Apple story in New York.
The lexical sludge accumulates, leaving speaker after speaker to slog through mounds of eye-lid drooping phrases.
Not only can’t Apple wait, but the company wants you to know it’s “excited”. Overall, Apple and its presenting partners were “excited” 21 times, not counting 4 developments that were “exciting.”
Sometimes they were “really excited,” and sometimes they were “more excited” and sometimes even “incredibly excited” . And sometimes, in the case of Cook, doubly excited:
“Today, I am so excited to share with you the worldwide premiere trailer for ‘See’” he exults. Later adding, “All, all of these incredible shows for the price of a single movie rental. This is crazy. We are so excited about Apple TV Plus, that we wanted to do something really special.”
But how does one take “excited” up a notch? What is verbal equivalent of turning it up to 11? Answer: “thrilled”. 6 times.
Naturally, “innovation” or “innovative” pop their heads up 6 times as does “wonderful.” Then “beautiful” takes a bow 13 times. And “most” gets flogged 44 times. Followed by “amazing” which takes one for the team an ear-drum pounding 23 times. Our good friend “incredible” gets beaten to death 39 times (plus 3 uses of “incredibly” thrown in for good measure).
“Through the deep integration of hardware, software, and services, these products empower people to do incredible things every day,” Cook insists.
Apple, which once was renowned for its attention to details, seems to be no longer investing much energy in preparing these scripts, or reviewing them. There must be rehearsals, and I can’t imagine at some point somebody didn’t wonder if they shouldn’t cut a “can’t wait” or two.
Instead, we are treated the sad spectacle of people saying words out-loud hoping that doing so will make them true. In the attempt to persuade themselves, they are committing the most unpardonable of all Apple sins: They’re boring us.