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It Wasn't Showtime

First Draught
It Wasn't Showtime
By M.G. Siegler • Issue #159 • View online
First off, huge shout-out to Shawn Topp, a reader of this newsletter who was kind enough to send along the logo above after getting sick of seeing the one I created with my rudimentary Photoshop (well, Pixelmator) skills. It’s 100% more 80s. And 200% better. Love it. Thanks, Shawn!
Next, my newsletter on Monday (and subsequent 5,000-ish word post) on Apple’s “It’s Showtime” event drew quite the response. So I thought it was worth a quick-ish follow-up on how I would have handled such an event. No one, let alone Apple, is asking. But I think it frames something many folks seem to be feeling.
It’s pretty simple, really. I believe the event felt strange to so many of us simply because it was the first Apple event in recent memory with absolutely no hardware component. (Well, unless you count the titanium Apple Card as hardware 😏.) Apple obviously did this on purpose, given the barrage of quick hardware launches in the week leading up to the event. They wanted to focus solely on services. Which, look, we get.
Apple views this as the future of their growth story as we reach peak iPhone. And given what has been happening with the revitalization of Microsoft (and Adobe, and others), this is probably smart. But it’s also likely to be a bit of a rough transition. It has to be, given the peak to which Apple ascended – the first trillion dollar company – on the back of their brilliant hardware (augmented by software).
But that’s not really why I viewed the event as strange. I just thought their rollout was flawed. Yes, it felt more like a Hollywood upfront than a typical Apple event, but even that was odd since they’re not actually selling their content to advertisers or affiliates. Instead, they’re selling their vision to Hollywood itself, as Oprah on down made abundantly clear. The audience, and the broader user base were the secondary receivers of this message, at best. Yet we were all invited to sit through a nearly two-hour event to realize this.
Apple really, really, really wants Hollywood to know it means business with Apple TV+. Which, again, fine. But at the end of the day, it’s still money that talks. And yes, Apple has the most of it, but other rivals have plenty too – and some of them, like Netflix, are spending more. So the most compelling part of the pitch is actually what Oprah turned into a meme: a billion devices, y'all.
It’s this fact, more than the money or all the fawning on stage, which works as a sales pitch to Hollywood. And again, that’s what’s so weird! It’s Apple’s hardware which is actually the sales pitch here. Yet we saw absolutely nothing new along those lines.
Worse, we heard a lot (well, actually, a little as it turns out) about services that weren’t yet ready for prime time. In years gone by, Apple made fun of companies for doing these pre-launches. Apple famously talked about and launched products when they were ready (sure, the iPhone was one notable exception, but that was an incredible piece of yes, hardware, that needed a bit more time in the oven). Now Apple is doing more of them than anyone else.
Since this is clearly how Apple intends to operate now, I would have previewed the Apple News+ service during the last Mac/iPad event, the Brooklyn one. Sure, it may not have been ready yet, but it would have been no further away than the gaming service is from us right now, for example. It also may have helped Apple get even more partners on board, thanks to public pressure.
For Apple Card, given that the service isn’t launching until the summer, I would have saved that for WWDC. Sure, that’s a developer-focused event, but Apple often sprinkles in consumer-facing launches and this would have been a fun, cool one.
For Apple Arcade and Apple TV+, both of which are coming in the fall, I would have saved them until… the fall! You know, when Apple holds their major event around the iPhone (and often one other one, like the aforementioned Mac/iPad event). Apple Arcade would have slotted in perfectly into an iPhone event, given how that is and will remain the dominant gaming device for Apple.
I think the Apple TV+ service could have slotted into this event as well – again, a billion devices, y'all. Most of which are… iPhones! This could have been a pretty great one more thing. As long as it was condensed down from an hour to something more like 15-20 minutes, Spielberg, Oprah, and all.
If Apple really felt the need for Apple TV+ to be the focal point of its own event, I think it would been okay to do so with either new iPads, Macs, or most fittingly, a new Apple TV as a secondary launch. (That’s assuming a new Apple TV is coming, which, there’s no indication of that yet, this year.)
Again, all of this is to say that rather than go full-services in an excruciatingly long event, I would have rolled them out in staggered fashion, tied to hardware events.
You know, what Apple has always done.
But I also know that is a lot easier said than done, given the pressure Apple is under to pivot-to-services, and to show Wall Street how seriously they’re taking this. But judging from the stock price, this week’s event didn’t really work in that regard. Yes, Tim Cook noted in the last earnings that Apple was accelerating the roll out of some services, so he needed to prove that. But all he really proved here was that they could announce services ahead of time. Without perhaps the key detail that audience cares about: pricing, no less.
At the event, Apple busted out their new tagline: hardware + software + services. They then spent two hours showcasing two of three, all while underscoring that the absent one was the most vital one of the bunch.
Drinking: a Fort Point Sonder 🍻

5ish Links
Apple's Demand and Supply
Speaking of Apple hardware, these charts are wild.
Speaking of Apple hardware, these charts are wild.
Cold Takes
What Kind of Person Fakes Their Voice?
500ish Words
A Billion Pockets, Y’all
Apple Seems Set to Unveil… Cable TV
A Giphy To Go
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M.G. Siegler

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