Apple’s March 9 keynote: Initial impressions

Screenshot 2015-03-09 23.30.36

I sat down and watched Apple’s keynote this evening, end-to-end.

Apple is, without a doubt, a company at the top of it’s game. I strongly admired the work they’re doing with ResearchKit — enabling medical researchers around the world to deploy research apps/services using iPhone sensors. Admirable stuff. All of it with a commercial bent somewhere, but I did get a good feeling. I felt good watching that segment. Which was — obviously — intended.

I did feel manipulated. It was cool suave manipulation though, for the most part. I did take umbrage with some of the selective stats and phrases they used. I could only imagine my 361 Podcast colleague Rafe Blandford blowing out a mouthful of Orange juice at some of the points raised.

The talk show

The keynote turned into a Tim Cook talk show at some points. I had to smile at those points when, for example, the CEO of HBO popped on to promote his new service. It was even more Graham Norton when the model Christy Turlington Burns appeared — Tim even used the prompt, “So what are you here for?” (or words to that effect. You know, the sort of thing a talk show host does to get a Hollywood film star to trot out their talking points.

I don’t have a problem with this. I just think it’s rather special: Is there anything more influential than an Apple keynote? I actually pressed pause on the playback to consider the amount of people who watched (or will be watching) this — whether they’re die-hard Apple fans or not. That audience has to be one of the most, most, most influential. Especially since Apple is expanding to so many new industries.

Reading versus talking

Now we’re getting picky. I prefer it when Apple’s Senior VP of Design, the now globally famous Jony Ive, speaks. In the various product videos today, Jony must have been sat in a studio reading. It didn’t feel the same. The words didn’t quite feel natural. I felt I was being spun, despite the serious work gone into the creation of their new products.

The standard Apple video is getting a bit boring now

When even IKEA is copying the slow-product-pan white-background Apple videos, it’s time for them to change it up.

“Once in a while, something comes along that changes the way we live… A device so simple, using it feels almost familiar…”

That above quote… is it from today’s keynote product videos?

No. It’s from the IKEA bookbook mickey-take introducing their latest catalogue. I kid ye not. Time to change these videos up a bit I reckon.

The New MacBook

Yet again, the other computer manufacturers are going to have to sweat blood to match Apple. At just 13.1mm thick, dear me… “all day battery”, a retina display. Smart. And it will also net Apple a good few billion dollars in fees for $24 plastic USB-C adapter costs.

Apple TV is now $99 $69

I was secretly hoping Apple would announce a $29 Apple TV. Or something that would have us all dropping our jaws in amazement. Of course not though. This is Apple. $69 is better. More folk will take the Apple TV plunge. There’s nothing new beyond HBO at a slightly eye-watering $14.99 a month. That does feel a bit expensive compared to Netflix. Still, they want their cash (and I presume, Apple gets a cut) and their content is pretty good. The HBO advert at the start — they even showed off a new Game of Thrones trailer! – testifies to that. The killer flaw with Apple TV is the remote: The whole Apple TV experience was  comprehensively outclassed since the Amazon Fire TV launched with an audio search button. Apple TV is now a flipping flucking annoying experience, especially when you search. Any parent who’s had to hunt for Fireman Sam through about a hundred flipping button clicks on the Apple Remote will tell you that this just does not work for a 4 year old.. or the harassed parent. And I just can’t be bothered anymore either. I’m going to the Fire TV more often now that I can just say “Fireman Sam” to the remote and boom, it’s there. (Or, when the children are asleep, “Vikings” — worth a look if you haven’t already).

Contactless is not Apple Pay

I have been pretty impressed at how any organisation (vending machine or otherwise) that launches with contactless terminals is branded by Apple as “Apple Pay enabled”. Rather than just contactless… which means you can use Apple Pay. This is how they do it though.

 

The Watch: Compelling

It looks compelling. It looks like they’ve done a good job with version 1. I think the pricing is ridiculous. $10,000+ for a watch that is guaranteed obsolete in a year… and worse, totally unproven. 18 hours on a charge is promising. But I’ve also lived with an iPhone 6 battery that’s dead after 2 hours of continual use. So I think we’d all do well to set expectations. The demonstrations highlighted an array of use cases that I think will be valuable — notifications and messaging is probably the key area of value for me in the first instance. Google Gear has already demonstrated to me that being able to reply to a text with a tap and a sentence is utterly convenient. Yet again it looks — from the demos — that Apple Watch has got this working perfectly.

The W Hotel example, where you could check-in from the Watch and then open your room door with the Watch….. yeah. Gotta hand it to Apple. Smart.

 

As for Google… I still find the whole experience a bit disconnected with Android Wear. They need to up their game, big time. No pressure.

I was expecting to want to be pushed to the $1,000 Apple Watch stainless steel model. No. I can’t be bothered. I want to try one: But I’ll happily be smeared with the generic ‘left hand customer*’ brush until the tech is sufficiently proven to warrant additional show-off money.  I had a moment of concern when the pricing options in the mid-tier began to look a bit hazy.

Are consumers going to get carried away with the Apple Watch? On the strength of what I saw in the keynote demo… yes. I think they will buy. I also think a lot of standard normob consumers (“normal mobile users”) will be downright impressed with the experience. Charging doesn’t look too much of a ball-ache (as the phrase goes). It’s still an arse having to take the thing off as far as I’m concerned. It’s not going to be any use tracking your sleep, is it? Not when it’s charging on the counter.

I will also tell you this: I mentioned the Apple Watch to my wife over the weekend. It wasn’t really on her radar so I put it there. I explained there were three choices (small, medium, large) in terms of price and two sizes (men — big wrist, women — small wrist). She queried whether the features between the prices changed.

“No, just the colours and materials basically,” I explained.

“I’ll have the Sport then,” she said.

Unusual.

Usually I’d need to press her to even bother to think about trying on an Apple Watch, let alone wanting to buy one. She bought it there and then. I have standing instructions to get her one. Interesting. This never happened with the Pebble or the Android Wear watches I’ve been using. She tried both on at my prompting and didn’t like them.

She hasn’t even seen the Apple Watch and she’s already sold. How many Apple iPhone customers will see the company’s new Watch ad and make a ‘buy’ decision there and then? And just under the $400 mark, it’s cheap enough for a lot of customers to want to buy one to show off and play with it.

 

The Fricking Whoop Guy

There’s a chap in the Apple keynote audience who always whoops. Maybe it’s a few of them. But the whooping is becoming seriously distracting.

Similarly, the clapping and audience shots … come on Apple! How many billions will it take before we can just get the information without constant, constant applause. By all means applaud at the good bits — the ‘tah dah’ price or availability moment. Or the big reveal.

But…

{WHOOOOOP… CAMERA PAN…. AUDIENCE FEEL THEY HAVE TO CLAP}

It does get a bit…

{WHOOOOOP… CAMERA PAN…. AUDIENCE FEEL THEY HAVE TO CLAP SOME MORE}

Annoying…

{WHOOOOOP… CAMERA PAN…. AUDIENCE FEEL THEY HAVE TO CLAP}

After a while.

By the end of the 90-odd minute keynote, it looked like the clap-a-minute routine was getting old, fast.

I know this is a good tradition — it does add excitement. But it’s quite painful when the whoop guy(s) doesn’t get the cue quite right. Either stick up an APPLAUSE sign or cut it out please? 😉

In summary

Another keynote masterclass from Apple. Some of the guests could have been a bit smoother but it was another brilliant delivery from Tim, Phil and his colleagues. A company at it’s best. The billions will continue to flow in. I did start watching the keynote with my arms crossed ready with a few choice pained-smiles to deploy but I didn’t need them. My wallet is already ready for two bog standard Apple Watch Sports.

What about yours?

What did you think of the keynote?

 

*Left hand customer: An Apple customer who always buys from the left hand top side of the company’s product pricing menu. If you’re “along to the right and down to the bottom” you’re obviously buying the most expensive they have — which coincidentally is what I did this morning in the Apple Store Basingstoke when I bought a new iPad.

 

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10 Responses to Apple’s March 9 keynote: Initial impressions

  1. AJ March 12, 2015 at 1:52 am #

    The iwatch will sell loads at the outset but I’m not sure this product has longevity. I don’t know anyone who is interested. I’ve been watching the keynotes for years but coukdnt be bothered with this one at all. Apple may be at the top of their game but we may look back at this in a decade or two as the high point. Meh.

  2. Ewan March 12, 2015 at 8:33 am #

    I think that’s quite possible AJ

  3. Ever March 12, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

    For the Mac Book:

    It’s only good for Web Browsing, Watching Videos, and Word Processing; that sounds like a very expensive Chrome Books!

    For the Apple Watch:

    It’s not water proof, it doesn’t have GPS, the batter life doesn’t looks good, and the price is way to expensive for a smart watch that will be outdated in a year.
    For that price you could probably buy a new smartphone and one or two smart watches.

  4. Mandarin March 13, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    “It’s only good for Web Browsing, Watching Videos, and Word Processing…”

    And you know this how exactly? High speed Flash, high speed RAM and a mobile-optimised operating system mean this might be a lot faster than you think.

    It won’t replace a Mac Pro, but it’s definitely a lot more than a Chromebook.

  5. Mandarin March 13, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

    I know what you mean. I am a diehard Apple fan, love their industrial design. I’ve bought into the entire ecosystem (MBP, iPhone/iPad, 5 AppleTVs, Airplay speakers in each room…) – but I’m really struggling to find a reason to buy the Apple Watch. If the battery lasted a week, I’d buy it in a flash; or even if the charger looked remotely portable – but it doesn’t, and it isn’t.

  6. Ewan March 13, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

    Will you pick one up anyway? 😉

  7. Mandarin March 13, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

    Possibly 🙂 But it will be a pure emotion-based decision – there’s no logical reason to buy one. And I would have to buy it in the full knowledge that next year they’ll release one with a week’s battery life…

  8. Ewan March 13, 2015 at 3:57 pm #

    That’s my view completely!

  9. AJ March 13, 2015 at 8:23 pm #

    I definitely won’t.

    And the really expensive one annoys me. This isn’t what I thought Apple was about.

  10. Ewan March 13, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    Very expensive price anchoring

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