This morning’s WWDC keynote at the Moscone Center began with something we haven’t seen at an Apple affair for a long time: humor.
The lights went down - and instead of CEO Tim Cook walking somberly out on stage, Apple’s intelligent assistant Siri appeared onscreen and opened with a few jokes aimed at a crowd of developers.
“I see lots of familiar interfaces in the crowd,” the mechanical voice said. “How many software developers does it take to change a lightbulb? None, that’s a hardware problem.” The Garage Band app popped up and played a rimshot. (You can watch the whole keynote here.)
It was a neat way to nod at some of Siri’s weaknesses - “it’s hard for me to get emotional, because as you can tell, my emotions haven’t been programmed yet” - as well as take some potshots at the competition. “I’m really looking forward to the new Samsung. Not the phone, the fridge” was a zinger, as was, “anyone worked with [Android operating systems] Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean? Who’s naming these things, Ben and Jerry?”
But it was also, like a lot of things about the keynote, a very smart move on Tim Cook’s part.
When Cook finally took the stage, the crowd was well and truly warmed up (which, as Siri pointed out, wasn’t hard with the temperature at 75 degrees in downtown San Francisco). But the CEO didn’t hold the stage for long.
Within minutes, he ceded it to a video tribute to app developers around the world. Then again to Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller, who introduced the new line of Macbooks. Other Apple executives took the lead on the other big reveals of the morning: Mac OS X Mountain Lion’s pricing and availability, and the dizzying array of new features in iOS6. One demonstrated a driving game by playing against a mysterious helmeted figure, “Racer OS X.”
It wasn’t as if Cook lacked presence; if anything, he seems more comfortable on stage. He grinned broadly. He spoke with far more passion than at his previous two events as CEO, the iPhone 4S and new iPad launches. There were a few moments where, hands steepled, gaze fixed, Cook seemed almost to choke up when praising Apple developers as employees.
“Really, I can’t think of a better reason to get out of bed in the morning,” he said in closing.
Many CEOs say that, but Cook seems genuinely humbled by the smarts of his colleagues and the greatness of the products they produce. He wants them, not him, in the limelight as much as possible.
Nearly a year into his tenure, this seems to be the kind of thing we can expect from Cook.
Slow and steady, perhaps too slow (he hasn’t introduced a single new product; the iPhone 4S, new iPad and new Macbook Pro are still only upgrades). But he’ll make up for it in lots of fascinating incremental changes (witness iOS6).
Essentially, he’s putting the focus on a machine’s software (again, witness iOS6) rather than hardware. He’s rewiring his devices’ brains. How do you do that?
By making the OS the best it can be, yes, but also by empowering the next layer up: app developers. Putting the focus of the keynote on them. And getting out of their way.
So expect a lot more Apple keynotes in this vein. Humble, relaxed - and, yes, funny.
Don’t think we’ve heard the last of Siri opening a keynote, either.
What’s your take? Let me know in the comments.
Author: / Posted: 12-06-2012