Media reaction to this was, at least from the peers I spoke with, mostly positive. A few people had an “If they’re just going to show us the same movie they’re streaming to everyone, why are we even here?” take, but it’s obvious that the real value of being invited to attend live has always been about what happens after the keynotes, not seeing them on stage live. The hands-on areas after keynotes are useful not just for seeing and touching the products — colors, in particular, demand being seen in person — but for impromptu off-the-record conversions with Apple folks and other invited guests…. Interesting things happen when interesting people are in the same place. Interesting things don’t happen over WebEx group meetings.
To prove this point, I talked to John about this for a while after the event, in the café of the Apple Store across the street from Apple Park. As he rightly points out, you don’t go to an in-person Apple event to see the show that everyone else in the world is also seeing. You go to it because when the show is over, there’s a hands-on area outside where you can get access to the new products more than a week before anyone else will lay hands or eyes on them. And you get to reconnect with your colleagues and see Apple people you know. (Some people also got called behind the curtain to get in-person product briefings with Apple execs. That’s priceless.)
Just last week I chatted with a friend’s brother who I had never met, ran into an old colleague of mine from Macworld who works in the group that generates all those speed comparison tests Apple uses in its marketing, overheard Jeff Williams tell Dierdre O’Brien how happy he was that in-person events were back, and met a longtime reader and Six Colors member in person for the first time. And yes, I got to see what the Deep Purple on the iPhone 14 Pro looks like. (Gray. It looks gray.)
And let’s be clear: It’s not like the old live “stage show” presentation was interactive. They never stopped the show to ask Nilay Patel and Carolina Milanesi and Matthew Panzarino how it was going. So going to a pre-taped presentation really didn’t change anything, from our perspective.
What Apple loses in going entirely pre-taped is that frisson of excitement that comes from knowing that something could go wrong because it’s all happening live. It also loses the live-show dynamic of a bunch of Apple employees and invited guests applauding and cheering in the front rows of the theater, making the show seem a little more important, sort of like filming a sitcom in front of a live studio audience in order to import in some laughter and applause.
But what Apple gains in having complete control over its presentation—or, as Tim Cook referred to it again last week, its “film”—is more than it’s losing. Especially since, as was made quite clear last week, it can even draw a crowd to watch a pre-recorded event presentation.