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, Apple seems to be mailing it in, carrying on a tradition out of obligation rather than passion. Once a highly polished production that set the standard for every tech rival, these events have devolved into repetitive, listless, poorly written presentations that barely mask a sense of weariness.
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 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 instead of just another twist on streaming video.
Writing for the New York Times, Charlie Warzel mused that these “love letters to consumerism” had become ridiculously out of step with our 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?
Since Apple will continue to produce these events — 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 one appeared to have been coached to within an inch of their lives. The template goes like this: As you move into the power word or important descriptor — “MOST” or “WONDERFUL” or whatever — slow down a bit, maybe make a slight break, and then really lean into the word.
Just listen to about 30 seconds of Ann Thai as she hits words like “THRILLED” and “ONLY and ‘”GROUNDBREAKING” and says things like “no game service has … EVER … launched as many games at once.”
The same goes for every speaker at the event, and the result 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 isn’t helped by the writing, which seems even more half-hearted, with speakers declaring no less than 8 times that they “can’t wait” for something 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 “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 store in New York.
The lexical sludge accumulates, leaving speaker after speaker to slog through mounds of eyelid-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 four “exciting” developments.
Sometimes they were “really excited,” other times “more excited” and occasionally even “incredibly excited.” Or 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.” “Beautiful” takes a bow 13 times. “Most” gets flogged 44 times, followed by “amazing,” which takes one for the team 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, once renowned for its attention to detail, no longer seems to investing much energy in preparing its scripts. There must be rehearsals, and I imagine that at some point somebody must have wondered if they shouldn’t cut a “can’t wait” or two.
Instead, we are treated to the sad spectacle of people saying words out loud in the hopes that doing so will make them true. In the process, they are committing the most unpardonable of all Apple sins: They are boring us.