In the consumer electronics industry, Apple set the standard for the buzz-generating gadget unveiling. For years, crowds of journalists, employees, and industry insiders have gathered several times a year at invite-only events in the San Francisco Bay Area, waiting with nervous anticipation for Steve Jobs—or, since his death in 2010, his successor Tim Cook—to reveal the company’s latest creation.
Lately, though, the events have seemed a bit less, well, buzzy. Today, for example, Apple held an event in San Francisco to show off the latest updates to its lines of computers and iPads. Most notably, it presented a thinner, lighter iPad, the iPad Air (which will start at $499 when it begins selling in November), and offered the price and availability for its new high-end, cylinder-shaped Mac Pro desktop computer (starting at $2,999, coming in December). The event, while packed, felt less eciting than similar events in the past. This brings back a point I made just last month: If Apple really wants to generate excitement, it needs to trot out a radical, new type of gadget (see “Apple Needs A New Category of Gadget”).
Part of the problem is that Apple has set such a high bar for itself—and others—with the unveiling of major game-changers like the first iPhone and iPad. Both devices were anticipated with an intensity rarely seen in the consumer electronics industry; I remember reporting on the first iPad unveiling in 2010 and practically feeling the excitement pulsing through the air in the auditorium as Steve Jobs proudly presented the device on stage. And once the presentation was over, these two products did so much to push mobile technology forward, compelling software and hardware competitors like Google and Samsung to work even harder to come up with their own advances in smartphones, tablets, and mobile software and convincing consumers to buy millions of smartphones and tablets.
Now, unortunately or not, it’s a given that Apple will unveil something special, and when the result isn’t a blockbuster new device or device category—as was the case today—it doesn’t feel that important. We take the company’s array of iPads for granted now, because of course it offers them in different sizes and prices. It seems unnecessary to hold an enormous, expensive event in San Francisco to exhibit them. We’re hungry for more.