“Signs that the traditional Steve Jobs keynote speech at Apple’s recent Worldwide Developer Conference – one of the highlights of the Mac calendar – might be slightly out of the ordinary were evident before the event even kicked off,” Seb Janacek writes for Silicon.com.
Janacek writes, “Well ahead of the event, Apple announced that CEO Jobs would be joined on stage by a coterie of executives for his keynote speech. Although Jobs frequently hands over slots to key personnel during the much-awaited stage shows, to give other execs advanced billing was odd. Keynote speeches are traditionally a Steve Jobs affair, so much so that some sections of the Mac community and press call them ‘Stevenotes.'”
“In the event, Jobs drifted in and out of the keynote, handing over significant chunks to his executives: marketing chief Phil Schiller, vice president of platform experience Scott Forstall and Bertrand Serlet, senior vice president of software engineering,” Janacek writes. “It was a staggeringly dull keynote by anyone’s standards. The various non-secret Leopard features seemed OK but OS X fans will hope that the ‘top secret’ features will be more exciting than what was unveiled during the 90-minute keynote.”
“‘Has Steve Jobs lost his magic?’ asked Wired magazine following the event. News reports and blogs echoed the sentiment. Moreover, many were also alarmed by the appearance of the listless Jobs, claiming he appeared gaunt and exhausted,” Janacek writes. “Indeed, so many reports and comments popped up online about the apparent state of health of the CEO that Apple took a largely unprecedented step and issued a comment in response to speculation – saying Steve was in ‘robust’ health.”
“Is there reason to worry about Apple’s ability to deliver at future keynotes? Perhaps not. After all, the speech Jobs shared with his execs was a conference for the company’s developer community. The event for big bang announcements has traditionally been the San Francisco Macworld Expo in January and until recently the East Coast summer events,” Janacek writes.
“Besides, it’s tough work surprising an audience by pulling a rabbit out of a hat when detailed speculation about exactly what the rabbit will look like has been pored over on every Mac-related blog for months ahead of the event. If a slightly less exciting bunny emerges the magic trick becomes even less convincing,” Janacek writes. “Therein lies the real challenge for Apple – to meet the considerable expectations of thousands of Mac fans on hundreds of Mac rumour boards and blogs.”
Janacek writes, “The most interesting aspect of the entire event remains the presence of the three other Apple executives and the speculation that the division of the traditional Jobs-dominated keynote might suggest the iconic executive is looking to develop an exit strategy from the company he founded. After all, he’s already sold Pixar this year. And reports claim the CEO is ‘grooming’ a successor.”
Janacek writes, “Of the three executives on stage, only Phil Schiller would appear to be able to try and fill Jobs’ shoes. He took charge of the keynote for the introduction of the G5 iMac in Paris in 2005, while Jobs was recuperating from his illness.”
“However, what all the candidates lack is what has been infamously described as the ‘reality distortion field’ – Jobs’ ability to make anything about a new or existing product seem absurdly cool,” Janacek writes. “On the one hand, the time seems right for the CEO to stand aside. The iTunes Music Store and the iPod are market leaders, Mac OS X is mature and much-lauded and the company’s computers have completed their transition to Intel and have a new lease of life. On the other hand, the company stands at the crossroads. Apple’s evolution into a media giant is at a key stage. The company is rumoured to be in advanced discussions with the movie studios about creating an online store for movie downloads and a device to play them on.”
Janacek writes, “The level of alarm about Jobs’ appearance and the events of the keynote show two things: firstly the apparent fondness Mac fans feel for Jobs, and secondly the level at which they link the future prospects of the company with the continued leadership of its CEO.”
There is much, much more in Janacek’s full article here.
To write that Phil Schiller “lacks Jobs’ ability to make anything about a new or existing product seem absurdly cool” has to be the understatement of the year. Phil Schiller may have the ability to be a fine CEO, but please, Apple, keep him behind-the-scenes, far away from any Apple keynote stage! If forced to choose from just the three executives from the WWDC keynote, we’d pick Scott Forstall over the others faster than a Mac Pro Quad Xeon can launch Calculator.
Still, if we had a choice of anyone other than Jobs to give keynote presentations, it would no doubt have to be Jonathan Ive, Apple’s Vice President of Industrial Design. It’s all about charisma. Ive has “it.” Just watch Ive in the old Power Mac G5 Intro video below (his bit starts at 2:43) and see if you don’t agree. Throw a black mock turtleneck on him and off we go! Of course, Ive would have to be able to deliver “it” in a live keynote, too.
Is Steve Jobs sick? – August 08, 2006
What happens to Apple when Steve Jobs quits or dies? – March 24, 2006
What happens when Steve Jobs dies? – August 20, 2003