Steve Jobs Has Reentered The Building

Yesterday was the keynote presentation from Apple’s World-Wide Developer’s Conference. I noticed some heartening things, and jotted them down last night. I don’t think I was alone in my feelings. What did you think?

The recent Apple conferences and announcements since the passing of Apple’s venerable icon have left me feeling a bit cold, and quite worried, about the future of one of my favorite companies. I’ve been an Apple user since my Apple IIe, when those things were actually new, and even stayed with Apple after the Jobs ouster.

The ouster period was a dark time for an Apple user: there were a myriad of products, many indistinguishable from the models above or below them, an operating system that was original, but badly in need of an overhaul. People told me I was silly to stick with the underdog, as Apple would most assuredly go under.

But I liked the underdog. And, even in what would now be considered an antiquated operating system, there was still an ease of use that I enjoyed over Windows of the time, and the whole system had a feel that was unparalleled. I got this system. It offered me more than word processing or games – it was an experience.

When Steve returned to the fold, I was there. Not literally, but watching the video on-line, and I have done so at every opportunity since then. Despite the foibles of the man, Steve Jobs was an innovator. He cut the bulk, honed the company down to its core products (sorry, Newton users), and hunkered down to rebuild a company.

The presentations and keynotes became more theatrical. Jobs was not satisfied with merely talking about innovation, insisted on showing you everything in operation, even as he held a tight fist on information leaving Cupertino – which only added to the theatricality, as it increased people’s expectations. An Apple keynote became a white knuckle movie, with anticipation building in hopes for “one more thing.”

When Jobs passed, so did the keynotes. Tim and company stumbled. Presentations were rushed, confidence seemed to allude them. On top of that was the sudden push from media, as other companies tried to take advantage of a world without Steve. Suddenly Amazon was waxing philosophical about being “the re-inventors of normal” and Microsoft Surface ads were clicking their keyboard covers like they were the inventors of the magnet and no one had seen that happen before on a tablet.

Add that to dealing with the loss of one of the most iconic figures in the modern world, and some internal reshuffling, things were very out of sorts. It was most easily seen in the most personal connections from the company: the presentations.

But the presentations are key – and influential. Stocks rise and fall on them, and reporters confidence, which trickles down to consumer confidence, as they report on the unfolding events. In a way, things went full-circle: the loss of Steve, variations on the same ipad with the Mini, and complaints that iOS was badly on need of a refresh. This time, however, there would be no Steve walking back through the door.

I’ve seen Apple in the dumps before – and I may see it again. No company can survive on top forever (have you seen a Sony Walkman, lately?) But watching today’s World-Wide developer’s conference, I saw a re-invigoration of the Apple presentation. Tim and company slowed it down and took more time to let points sink in. Expectations were raised. Focus seemed to return, as the the Keynote opened with a video about Apple’s purpose, and a closing video that solidified it. It was the return of the experience. It felt like that vision was truly throughout the company, and the offerings of iOS 7 reflected it.

There were jests and jabs at the competitors, and a confidence that seemed more than lip-service. The video preview of the new Mac Pro was very Steve, as well as its design: a glossy black cylinder that doesn’t scream computer, but furniture. There’s even a backlight when you turn it around – how better to see while plugging-in peripherals under your desk?

Although Steve would have probably had it sitting on a pedestal, under a glowing spotlight. Or maybe sitting next to the presentation table, where everyone would have assumed it was a trashcan, until he picked it up exclaiming, “Oh, and one more thing…” He was, after all, a showman.

Today was a good day for a long-time Apple fan. I hope there will be many more.

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