Really, it is a performance. A three-ring circus designed to amplify the Reality Distortion Field and to build anticipation in a way that rock concerts normally do. It’s particularly telling when Steve (we all call him Steve, even though none of us know him even in the slightest) invites some other CEO to come on the stage and speak. To extend the rock concert simile, these are like the painfully dull 15 minute drum solos of yesteryear. They really highlight how good a showman Steve is, and how few other consumer product CEOs “get it” about generating excitement.
Reverting to the Christmas metaphor, there is also a letdown when it’s over. Invariably there are a couple of rumors that didn’t match reality (and, frequently, even the laws of physics) and no new iBrainImplant is announced by Steve. People wail and gnash their teeth, lament how far behind Apple is, and then begin to be distracted by the new shiny things and go out and acquire them.
While I’m far from immune to this draw (even the letdown), I’m probably not Steve’s favorite customer, and not just because I once wrote him a nasty note when he killed the Mac clones. I tend to obsessively read details about the new products, but rarely do I buy them. I don’t own an iPod. My desktop Mac is three or four years old. My Powerbook is over six years old. I still have a Mac clone that I really should just throw out, because I doubt anybody even wants it (plus I’d need to boot it and wipe the hard drive securely). That Mac clone is going on ten years old.
If that sounds like a lot of stuff, it’s nothing compared to what a lot of people do. In the PC world, a new computer every two years is pretty standard, and a lot of Apple fanboys match that just so they can have bragging rights. Instead, I get my jollies by being the go-to-guy when someone else wants a computer, especially a Mac. (Seriously, Windows people, why the hell do you ask me about what Windows machine to get? Do none of your fellow drones know anything about computers?)
But even if I don’t partake personally (I’m in my mind waiting until the second revision of Intel-based Macs to pick up an iMac or something low-power to replace my PowerMac, unless I get into some serious audio production between now and then), I enjoy the spectacle. I wish I could generate that kind of passion in people with what I do, but so far the people who blog about that seem to say “hey, make people love your stuff,” which is technically accurate but utterly unhelpful advice.
So, after the keynote is over, there’s usually a video available on Apple’s site. Go and watch it this evening to see a master at work, and maybe you’ll learn something concrete about making people love your stuff.