How Does Apple Stay in the Spotlight? Secrecy, 'Steve Appeal'
Today, June 7th, 2010, Apple CEO Steve Jobs once more held the attention of the technology world when he spoke at Apple's annual WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference). We already knew that Jobs was going to announce: a new iPhone. And, thanks to Gizmodo's reporting on a swiped iPhone prototype, we already had a good idea about what's going to be in this model. So, why the heck are there currently over 1,100 news stores and 696,000 (!) blog postings according to Google about Apple's WWDC announcement?
I mean, it's not like there isn't other important technology news today. For example, Microsoft has announced that the beta for Windows 7 SP 1 will be coming out in July. By my and Google's count, there are currently less than a handful of news stories about Windows 7 SP1.
What's going on here? Why does Steve Jobs grab our attention so even for people who can't stand Apple? Here is, for what it's worth, my list of reasons why Apple gets the limelight.
1. Apple products tend to be good. You may hate Apple's high prices; you may despise their high-handed way of handling standards and competitors, and open-source users hate their proprietary software stance, but the bottom line is that their stuff works better out of the box than anyone else's.
2. Apple's look and feel. For decades now, Steve Jobs' products simply look, feel, and sound better than their competitors. The Apple iPod, for example, was far from the first MP3 player. It was, however, simply the best 'in hand' player when it was first released in 2001.
Or, take the MacBook Pro. Is it the best laptop? No, I don't think so. I still like Lenovo ThinkPads and there are several Dell notebooks such as the Ubuntu Linux-powered Inspiron 15n that I'd take over a MacBook Pro. And, need I mention that all of them are a good deal more affordable than a MacBook Pro? But, I can't help but notice that many people, even Linux fans, carry a MacBook Pro if they can afford one. Why? Because, it just looks and feels great.
3. Steve Jobs' Charisma. Many people adore Jobs. I've known him, albeit not well, for over 20 years now, and I've seen his 'reality distortion field' at work. Put the man on a stage, and he can convince almost any audience that up is down, light is dark, and Apple's products are the best in the world. Even when he rubs people the wrong way, they can't stop paying attention to him. No one else in technology, Gates, Ellison, Torvalds, or Ballmer have anything like his effect on people.
4. High-end Branding. A while back there was some talk about Apple getting into the netbook business. I replied that there was no way that Apple would ever sell low-end laptops or low-end anything else. I said that because Apple's brand has long been that it's the Rolls-Royce of computing. Apple's devices are for high-end users with flush bank accounts, they're not for the hoi polloi. Apple wants you to think, and many of you do, that when you're carrying an iPhone or an iPad, you're better than the ordinary run-of-the-mill person.
5. Apple Keeps its Secrets. Most companies scream for your attention. Microsoft, in particular, will tell you how great its products are going to be years before they actually arrive. Getting information out of Apple until they're good and ready to show you the finished goods is almost impossible. While this drives reporters and bloggers crazy, it also feeds an endless rumor mill. Will Apple announce a Verizon iPhone? (Probably not.) Will the new iPhone use the Apple A4 SOC (system on a chip) that's in the iPad? (Probably.) Will Jobs announce a major new Apple TV? (I doubt it.)
So there you have it, take one part mystery, one part charisma, one part branding, and two parts excellent system design and engineering, bake at Apple HQ in 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA for six-months to a year and then release with grand fanfare. It works every time.