The night is darkest just before the dawn...

Back in September, I experienced every bloggers dream. I literally walked into one of Apple’s retail stores, and struck up a conversation with the man next to me about Apple. We chatted about Apple as a company, Steve Jobs, and other random tidbits. Then, I brought up my frustration with Apple’s lack of attention to Final Cut Studio. It turned out that he actually worked for Apple… and was one of the guys in charge of the Final Cut Studio division.

I hesitated… I was unsure whether or not I could ask him questions. But before I could ask him whether or not I could ask him questions, he just started talking. And he talked a lot.

So when I posted my story on September 5th, that was not just my wish list. The revamped but still completely familiar interface, the dramatically increased speed, the revamped Motion and Color, and all the other goodies were all plans back in September, and most likely still are today. But perhaps the most intriguing and exciting part of what he told me was that Apple was preparing to release this puppy much earlier than usual — instead of the 2-3 years between major upgrades, FCS3 was slated to hit around April 2011.

Now we’re in March 2011, and others are finally starting to catch word of what’s going on. TechCrunch reports that several editors and other video professionals were invited for a special sneak peek of Apple’s latest offering. They reiterate the significance of the update, calling it “dramatic and ambitious”, that it’s even upping it’s professional focus, and most importantly, it’s slated to arrive in Spring 2011.

Furthermore, Larry Jordan claims to have been one of the editors invited, a claim which I completely believe considering his prevalence in the Final Cut instruction community. I actually know him personally… he’s expressed thoroughly his love for the program. So when he says that it’s a “jaw-dropper”, and that “it’s gonna be a great year” for video editors, I believe him.

The seeds that I was told about back in September are finally beginning to manifest themselves, and I couldn’t be happier. With big names being invited to see the program, we can be sure that Apple is gearing up to finally release it… and soon. But for the time being, for those who are impatiently awaiting the release along with me, all I can do is quote Larry Jordan one more time…

“Believe.”

Thoughts on iPad 2

March 10, 2011

Apple’s latest Media event on March 2nd (coincidence? I think not.) brought the second iteration of the iPad to the eyes of the public. Ultimately, it was nothing more than an incremental upgrade… solid, but nothing to phone home about. Nevertheless, when you watch the full 2 hour presentation, you see just how major of a deal Apple made it out to be.

To begin with, Steve Jobs made a surprise appearance at the keynote, receiving a standing ovation. This was Apple’s way of showing the world that “hey, he might be on a medical leave of absence, but he’s still alive and well enough to introduce the product!” Of course that wasn’t the reason Steve Jobs gave for being there… he said that he showed up because he was so excited about the product he simply had to be there to show it off.

Yeah…

What I found interesting is the way Jobs throughout the keynote set up certain non-upgrades of the device in order to make them seem like they’re something so new and radical that an upgrade is necessary. Battery life for example… he said that “with this many new features, how much lower do you expect the battery life to be? Well we managed to preserve the same incredible 10 hour battery life.” No change from iPad 1 to 2, but presented as a new radical innovation. The same with the price. He said that “with this many new features, how much higher do you expect the price to be? Well we managed to keep it the same.”

As for the new features the iPad delivered, they were basically the same as every Apple incremental upgrade… thinner, faster, and cooler. That’s that.

So tomorrow will be the test… will the iPad 2 manage to push the boundaries beyond that of it’s predecessor, selling more than ever and dominating the market even more so (if that’s possible)? Most likely. But only time will tell. If past Apple upgrades of thinner, faster, cooler are anything to judge by, then yes, it’s going to be a smash hit.

Apple’s Oscar Presence

March 10, 2011

The Oscars this year were one of the most memorable in recent memory. No, not from the perspective of a movie lover… The Kings Speech winning was nothing to phone home about. No, not from the perspective of an Oscar telecast aficionado… it was quite abysmal. But from an Apple watcher’s perspective? It was incredible.

Simply put, it’s amazing to see how far Apple has come in the past decade. A little over 10 years ago, Apple was on the brink of extinction and was saved out of legal pity by Microsoft. Now, Apple’s presence in the world is so influential and widespread that they barely even have to market. That basically get’s taken care of.

In this year’s telecast, Apple had one simple iPhone commercial. No big deal. But Apple was given the type of advertising that money can’t buy… association with America’s elite. In the actual broadcast, the co-host James Franco, “unable” to fix the projector behind him, realized the solution to his problem was to pull out his iPhone and say “there’s an app for that.” Apple’s slogan, made to demonstrate the wide range of life applications the phone has, has become more than a marketing ploy. It has become a fact of life. Apple doesn’t advertise at the Oscars… the Oscars advertises Apple.

Furthermore, a company advertised an app for Apple, and consequently ended up advertising the iPad… a fine example of co-branding. The funny part is that the power of Apple’s brand overshadowed the company that created the ad so dramatically that in the room of teenage boys I watched it with, nobody remembered who the ad was for. They all just thought it was an iPad commercial. Again, a company spends millions of dollars to promote their app and all people get out of it is that the iPad is cool.

The Apple brand is getting more powerful, widespread, and influential by the day. This year’s Oscars telecast is only a continuation of the trend. The question is, how far will it go in the future?

(oh, and who did one of the major thank you’s in Toy Story 3’s acceptance speech go to? Steve Jobs.)

In my last post, I discussed the allure of the Apple Media Event. But I addressed the media’s obsession with it just due to the fact of it’s existence. What I didn’t discuss was the actual event itself — meaning that when the mute boy finally speaks, what does he say? Or more importantly, how does he say it?

The Apple keynote itself, simply put, is legendary. Marketing professionals salivate over it, how nothing more than a press release can be turned into a “media event,” that is something so significant that it simply can’t be missed. Somehow a mere keynote has turned into an occasion that anybody who’s anybody in the media needs to be at. It’s not open for all — only the best of the best are invited to this extravaganza!

The keynote’s themselves are extremely formulaic. It starts with the ending of a popular song, after which Steve Jobs emerges on stage in from of a large Apple logo that is projected. The crowd goes crazy… people are whooping, yelling, and shouting for the iCEO. What most don’t realize is that Apple actually places employees scattered throughout the crowd who are instructed to cheer very loudly and frequently throughout the keynote. Then the media sees these people cheering and feel the need to cheer themselves. Before long, you have a crowd of the media’s most distinguished yelling at the top of their lungs just at the mere appearance of a man who’s about to announce how he’s about to get more of the crowd’s money, whether they truly want to spend it or not.

Jobs, known for his tyrannical dictatorial leadership of Apple, puts on an appearance of utmost humility. “Thank you for coming”, “It’s great to be here.” Then, the humility disappears. All their keynotes start with statistics… how Apple is better and more profitable than every other country in the industry. Their last quarter was their best ever. Their retail stores are more successful than ever. The trillionth app and the bajillionth song was recently downloaded on iTunes. They have a billion credit cards on file. Same thing every single time.

And then Steve gets to the point. The product that everyone is expecting Apple to announce (because Apple has leaked it to the rumor mill) gets announced. The crowd goes crazy. It’s even THINNER than expected! And it does this. Nobody expected this to be a part of the new product! Once again Apple has stepped up the competition in ways even the rumor mill didn’t predict (no matter that nobody expected it because Apple held it back when the ship leaked from the top).

Demo time! He calls up other executives to show the world that “Hey, Apple is more than Steve Jobs!” That way, when Steve Jobs isn’t CEO anymore, it won’t seem like a complete and utter change… it’ll be the same old familiar faces. Phil Schiller, Scott Forstall, Tim Cook, Johnny Ives, Randy Ubillos, the whole gang ready for action. They basically just show off the software of the latest and greatest and how it’s revolutionary and unlike anything that’s ever hit the industry and how nothing will ever be the same.

Then one of either two things will happen. 1) Steve Jobs will thank everyone for coming and that’s that. Or he’ll pull his famous trick out of his sleeve.

“But there is one more thing.”

It’s like the kid on Christmas morning who goes through all his presents. His parents, after he opens the last one and is satisfies with what he’s received, go to the closet and pull out the biggest gift of all. Now, Christmas is a smash success! Apple through Steve Jobs frequently does this very tactic.┬áThe trick where everyone thinks the keynote is over, and is excited about what Apple has presented, and thinks that’s that. And then Jobs stuns the audience by saving the best thing for last.

Now expectations have been met, and exceeded. The media has witness not a press release, not a presentation, but an event. And what type of coverage does an event warrant? Nothing less than front page.

The stage is set

The Apple Media Event is a fascinating animal. The media covers them as though they’re huge milestones in the technological world when in fact they’re nothing more than product announcements. Companies make these on a daily basis and nobody seems to care. But when it’s Apple it’s all of a sudden a huge deal. Why is this?

Put simply, people don’t listen carefully to a man who talks continuously. But when the practically-mute boy finally musters up the courage to say a few words, he can silence a whole room of curious people who want to know what is so important that it made the boy who never talks feel the need to speak. In the corporate world, most companies assume the role of the chatterbox. They constantly try to be in the spotlight by announcing every time someone in the company takes a lunch break. Press releases, interviews, social networking… they feel that unless they’re constantly on the customer’s radar that nobody will pay attention to them. But it’s a reiteration of a principle that runs throughout life — when a man tries hard to make a good social impression, he ends up failing, but when he just lays back he ends up becoming the life of the party. When an artist tries to be creative and original he ends up being ordinary and unmemorable, but an artist concerned merely with producing good work ends up being legendary.

So with companies… when the company tries so hard to be revolutionary, hip, and creative, they end up being just another geeky random tech company. But when the company lays back and focuses on making products that they themselves want to use and treat the customers as though they’re fortunate to get to have these products, then people clamor over them.

This is the Apple strategy. They never say a word about a product until it’s ready to ship. Then, when they say that they have something to announce, everybody listens, not because the products are expected to be incredible, but because the mute boy is speaking. People also listen because Apple’s philosophy as a company under the direction of Steve Jobs is different than other companies. They make products that they themselves really want to use. And they market themselves that way so that when people buy an Apple product it’s like gaining access to an exclusive club, not like accepting a flyer from a guy on the street dressed up in a hot dog costume.

Here We Go Again

March 9, 2011

Christmas Season – the time of year in which there is no Apple news. The rumor mill is literally pin-drop quiet. Why is this the case? If you ask Steve Jobs, he’ll refer to his favorite quote… “Isn’t it funny a ship that leaks from the top?” Simply put, the rumor mill (for the most part), is completely controlled by Apple. They won’t admit it, and they’ll act like they are appalled by the behavior, but it’s mostly a charade. There are definitely some things that are leaked which is not in accordance with Apple’s desires — the iPhone 4 Gizmodo debacle being the most notorious incident — but for the most part, the higher ups at Apple like clockwork leak rumors regarding certain products just at the right time.So the Christmas season is always dead quiet because the last thing Apple wants is for Christmas shoppers to read on the front page of the New York Times on December 21st that a brand new iPad is coming out in January. They’d cannibalize their most profitable quarter. But you can bet your bottom dollars that as soon as the 12 lords leap, they will be quick to start the buzz again for their next product.

This year, we saw the Verizon iPhone begin getting coverage immediately after new years, only to be released a few weeks later. Then whispers emerged about the iPad… it was subsequently announced a few weeks after that. Now, per usual, an early April media event is expected in which iOS 5 will be promoted in accordance with a MobileMe overhaul. Nothing to phone home about. And of course, Apple is now slowly creating buzz over the next iPhone, creatively dubbed by the rumor mill “iPhone 5.”

The rumors are saying that the next iPhone will have a larger 4 inch screen, be thinner (SHOCKER), and be faster. It’s even claiming that the back will be made of aluminum. Are these incredible additions to the iPhone that will change the way we use it forever? Not at all. But by building hype for the phone over 3 months before it will actually be announced, Apple’s turning a simple product introduction into a Messiah of sorts. When it finally arrives, it won’t just be another phone… it will be a fulfilled prophesy. That’s the genius of the way Apple controls their product propaganda. They don’t ever say a word officially about a product that isn’t ready to ship. But instead of sending “updates” and showing what they’re working on publicly, they very carefully leak small bits of information to the media. They absolutely go nuts when an employee leaks information without their approval… one man was fired that morning of the iPad introduction for showing it to Steve Wozniak an hour before the keynote. But that’s because they’ve figured out just the right amount that should be leaked, covering the balance between creating buzz and being surprising. Any leaked info unsanctioned by Apple becomes a liability to what Apple has so masterfully figured out.

So when you see the latest iPhone 5 bezel and screen, don’t deceive yourselves… this is what Apple wants you to see.