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Maggie Shiels

Apple: All sizzle and no steak

  • Maggie Shiels
  • 10 Sep 09, 10:05 GMT

In Scotland, we have another way of putting it: "fur coat and nae knickers." And that's what Apple's "Only Rock 'n' Roll" event boiled down to.

Steve JobsSure, there was a video camera for the iPod Nano and a voice recorder, pedometer and FM radio. There were some price reductions and a bigger iPod Touch at 32 and 64 gigabytes.

For iTunes, there was some nifty software and a feature that lets you buy liner notes, lyrics, photographs and memorabilia - the equivalent of those old LPs Mr Jobs made fond reference to.

Oh, and let's not forget 30,000 ringtones.

But most of the press, analysts and guests were really there to see Apple's own rock star make his first big appearance following a medical leave of absence: Mr Jobs was treated for pancreatic cancer in 2004.

The hype and second-guessing beforehand was feverish, but there was little doubt that he had to turn up given how the market has reacted in the past to the merest hint of him having the sniffles.

And he didn't keep us in suspense for long, taking charge from the start. Mr Jobs sounded emotional when he talked about his liver transplant and said that he was able to stand in front of us thanks to the generosity of a 20-year-old who died in a car crash.

While he soon got down to business, there was a lot of flash bang but not much whizz. Given that the iPod is now nine years old, perhaps it's understandable. After all, what more can Apple make it do? Have it make you a cup of tea?

Accompanying these iterative upgrades was a plethora of stats: 100 million registered iTunes users; 220 million iPods sold; 8.5 billion songs sold; 1.8 billion app downloads.

But nothing really detracted from the main news: Steve Jobs was back centre-stage and running the show.

Remember, this is a man who could well afford to put his feet up and move on from the stress of running a multi-billion dollar company, but who told us: "I'm back at Apple and loving every day of it."

While this might be reason enough, the pressure is on. Analysts I spoke to were disappointed by the product announcements and hoped that the famed "Apple tablet" will appear in the new year and set the heather on fire.

Meanwhile, Apple will jealously guard its boss from the prying eyes of us in the media. Every time I, or another journalist, pointed a camera in the direction of Mr Jobs to get a more "intimate" post-show snap of the boss chatting to his execs and guests, a burly chap in a black shirt would "happen" to block the shot.

On a side note, Google CEO Eric Schmidt watched the presentation from the front row, evidence perhaps of no hard feelings after his departure from the Apple board.

I don't know how some big-name tech companies felt, though, because I know of two big firms and one smaller one that moved their own press events because they knew that all eyes were on Mr Jobs. And they sure didn't want to play second fiddle there.

Norah JonesAnd for the traditional "one last thing", we got the delightful Norah Jones to serenade us - and she got a kiss from Mr Jobs.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    The iPod Nano looks good. The rest was a bit... meh.

    "fur coat and nae knickers" is an awesome expression though. :)

  • Comment number 2.

    Agreed not much new news in there, and the ipod seems to be running just fine. I can't picture anyone going for the new ipod just because its got a camera on it.

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm kind of hoping the next one will make me a cup of tea. TeasPod Nano please! Can it also be designed to do all of my housework?

  • Comment number 4.

    I think most fans and analysts knew there wouldn't be a tablet at this event, so that wasn't the cause of the disappointment. Nor was it the lack of any deal with the Beatles. Few are really too bothered by that.

    No, from what I can tell, the disappointment came because almost everyone was expecting a camera in the iPod Touch - and it didn't materialise (reportedly last minute technical problems).

  • Comment number 5.

    Personally, I could do with some less new news from Apple - maybe it will tempt the journalists to write about all the other competing devices out there - most of which are not so exorbitantly expensive!

    And in other news, I got my album up on Spotify today, so I am in a good mood!


    Le Sanglier

  • Comment number 6.

    Who needs Gimmicks?...

  • Comment number 7.

    Not much, but enough for a blog entry, eh? Still waiting for this blog's opinion about Sony's IFA announcements on 3D technology for the home.

  • Comment number 8.

    Oddly, none of the reputable speculation I saw mentioned the tablet for this event. Every mention of the tablet I've seen (apart from the more hysterical end of the Apple rumour spectrum) talks about it as a possible for 2010.

    On the other hand, there was lots of mention of the fact that this event would be iPod/iTunes focused.

    So I'm a bit surprised (irony) that the analysts and journalists are disappointed.

  • Comment number 9.

    If you base your expectations on the crazy rumours before hand then these events will always be a disappointment. Apple said that this was an event for music & the iPod and that's what it was, you got exactly what it said on the tin.

  • Comment number 10.


    @5

    Personally I could do with less self promotion - if you were on iTunes then we may be more impressed.....:)

    I hope the camera in the Nano is better than the one in my iPhone 3G because that's rubbish.

    Good to see Job's appreciating what organ donor programmes can do for the sick - hope he shouts about some more.

    Some nice bit's and bob's here and there, but not all that really...........................

  • Comment number 11.

    Bringing out a tablet computer in 2010 is a prehistoric move in computing terms. Tablet computers have been readily available for years.
    It's about as innovative as sticking a pedometer on an ipod! :D

  • Comment number 12.

    I was hoping the new Nano would at least have more memory. Disappointing

  • Comment number 13.

    You mean they did not announce a new organic, pigeon based product?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8248056.stm

    (I wonder who will be the first to set up a Pigeon Broadband company?)

  • Comment number 14.

    @4 'No, from what I can tell, the disappointment came because almost everyone was expecting a camera in the iPod Touch - and it didn't materialise (reportedly last minute technical problems).'

    Some call it last minute problems, everyone else calls it 'We don't want to harm potential sales of the more profitable/desirable iPhone, especially since lots of people are current narked they can't get a 3GS cos of their contract'

    @10 'I hope the camera in the Nano is better than the one in my iPhone 3G because that's rubbish.'

    It won't be... All mobile cameras are rubbish because the technology behind them isn't fundamentally all that... Even the best Sony/Samsung CMOS sensors can't touch a relatively decent (and much cheaper) compact, regardless of the fancy lenses they stick in front of them.

  • Comment number 15.

    " Tablet computers have been readily available for years."

    Yes, they have. They've also been pretty rubbish and too expensive for anyone to care.

  • Comment number 16.

    I am, to say the least, extremely disappointed with this blog, and the BBC in particular, for not having any coverage of the Nokia World 2009 on this website.

    At the same time, I am not at all surprised that regardless of whether there was a big announcement at the Apple event, it got comprehensively covered. After all, this has been the trend with the BBC over the last few years.

    The Nokia World 2009 was a significant event in the mobile industry, not only because of the product and services announcements that were made, but because it signified an interesting time in the mobile industry, where the market leader is trying to fight back not only the market share that it lost over the last year or so, but also the mind-share of mobile users.

    It also signified how dynamic the mobile industry is at this moment, when every new product launch is scrutinised with a microscope. Sadly, this is not the case with the BBC and dot.life, as they are only mostly concerned with Apple and Google, even though Nokia is still the market leader, and just announced some of the most exciting devices and services it has in some years.

    I would have liked to see some information and perspective on those launches on the BBC, which in the end I had to get from various other sources on the web.

    I hope in the future the BBC, being a responsible news source, provides this much larger perspective that is needed in an industry like the mobile industry.

  • Comment number 17.

    I don't know why people were expecting an Apple tablet, because the event was quite clearly going to be an iPod and iTunes event. Personally the only thing I vaguely like is the updated iTunes (not that I use it much).

    On the face of it, this Apple event the reporting hasn't been over the top (I can only see the main article and this blog post). However, underneath that it certainly has been bias. By not reporting on competitors and other issues (e.g. Nokia World 2009 as londonitis mentioned) the BBC seems to be going against its core value, impartiality. This, if I am not mistaken is supposed to apply to whole of the BBC, not the just the main parts (e.g. conflicts,politics).

    @ dave_sparrow
    "Yes, they have. They've also been pretty rubbish and too expensive for anyone to care."
    The current tablets are actually quite good. They certainly aren't perfect and obviously aren't as cheap as a normal laptop. An Apple one though is hardly going to be cheaper (so, according to you, it would be more than "too expensive =s). If anything it will be more expensive. Anyway, there is already an unoffical Apple tablet like device made by axiotron, called a ModBook (it's powerful, but VERY expensive).

  • Comment number 18.

    How many people do you really think would read an article about Nokia World? That sounds boring as hell.

  • Comment number 19.


    @ 16

    surely that's NOKIA's problem.... the public's perception of the Co. is that it is simply a phone manufacturing Co. and little else. Don't get me wrong - they really do make good units, BUT the all important fast, intuitive and engaging interface is not there - nothing new to report.

    When Apple produce an iPhone that you buy off the self and add any contract (monthly or PAYG) to, then the cat is really amongst the pidgins and the likes of NOKIA will flail because all they do is make phones.

    Always has and always will be the software.....

  • Comment number 20.

    Here we go. Apple haters start moaning that BBC's coverage of Apple is too extensive as usual. In fact, I think their coverage is rather constrained in comparison to every other technology news site. iTunes is the number one music seller, yet the BBC are too scared to report about the significant changes. The iPod is the world's biggest selling portable music player, but the BBC is scared that reporting on a new range would make them look like fanboys. By my own argument, Nokia should also get coverage as they sell the most phones. But what do you suggest they report? A rubbish netbook, adding Facebook integration instead of the rubbish Friend View... seriously Londonitis, what do you think is newsworthy from Nokia World? The BBC are too frightened of reporting on Apple events, yet they are frequently the most popular stories they run.

  • Comment number 21.

    Actually I DO think people would want to read about Nokia World 2009. I for one do, and the buzz all over the blog community is huge regarding the products and services launched this time.

    The reason I think that this time was particularly worth covering is that Nokia for the first time have launched a Linux based smartphone, and it looks fantastic. If the price is right, it's definitely a worthy contender in the high-end smartphone market. The UI is slick and user-friendly, and the power of the device is up to the mark, with true multitasking.

    Anyway, before I end up describing all the specs, my point is that people log on the BBC to read the news, and opinions. They don't decide before hand that they only want to read news about, for e.g. the US, and not about any other country. That's why the BBC covers news from all over the world, so that peoples' varied interests are all covered. Tehcnology news isnt different either. if something special or big is happening, the BBC should let the people know, and perhaps even get a discussion started on the blog. Let the people decide whats news-worthy.

    The BBC even reported about the new Palm Pixi, which, in my opinion, is no big deal. But it still got reported, because someone out there thinks its a big deal.

    I'm not sure if the BBC is too Apple-centric, or too US-centric when it comes to technology reporting. Something tells me its the latter...

  • Comment number 22.

    I dont think people who want to see coverage of other computer companies are "Apple Haters" - that makes no logical sense whatsoever.

    Any news organisations coverage is dictated by access, schedule and budget.

    For instance, I know several games magazine people who were NOT covering Gamescom because a) they didn't get a free ticket and/or b) they had already decided to cover the Blizzard event with extra pepople and that was using up their budget.

    Apple have one of the most friendly and proactive PR departments I have ever come across - they are seriously good at Wooing the press, are very quick at "leaking" rumours to keep people interested, and so on. The result is that they tend to get that little extra publicity.

    I have to say, that their early adoption of stylish physical design has paid off. Although many other manufacturers of hardware are now equally as stylish, Apple was in there first with that approach, and the press look forward to new apple product because it will probably look amazing. Strangely, Sony, another icon of style in the hi-fi market, have never gotten the computer market quite right over here, not in the way one would expect.

    Whether the innards of Macs are any better, well, that is arguable. I know on my side of the industry, sound, that the concept that Macs were the more powerful music creation machines is long gone - many PCs are in reality far more powerful. Probably the only major difference is that Apple bought Logic and killed off the PC version of the software. So if you want to run Logic you now need a Mac - a pity in my opinion. They lost Thousands of customers to Cubase and others.

    At the end of the day, editors often take the easy route and go for popularity over balance. Running the same articles as everyone else is an easier way of keeping a basic audience and requires far less human resources. And this brings us back to the older discussion on here about what the Tech section of the site should cover:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/technology/2009/09/what_makes_a_tech_story.html

  • Comment number 23.

    "Nokia should also get coverage as they sell the most phones. But what do you suggest they report? A rubbish netbook, adding Facebook integration instead of the rubbish Friend View... seriously Londonitis, what do you think is newsworthy from Nokia World?"

    You mean aside from Nokia's first capacitive touch screen phone and a small form factor handset running a full version of Linux?

    Yeah OK.

    I think you'll find a lot more people are interested in what Nokia do than Apple when it comes down to actual buying decisions.

  • Comment number 24.

    If you think the N900 is newsworthy, then fair enough (I had thought it was launched before Nokia World so I stand corrected) I guess ditching Symbian is news. But a new phone with a capacitive screen is hardly a headline.

  • Comment number 25.

    Everything about that event makes me want to barf. Everything from the boring products (as always), the idolisation of a man who simply wants your cash and the company policies that ensure you get locked in, to the dull as dishwater musical performance. Its a living hell.

  • Comment number 26.

    Roves33 - I'm interested to know what products you think are more interesting from other technology companies. I assume you're refering to iTunes Store 'locking you in' so I'd also be interested to hear how you think Microsoft, Google and Palm's products prevent this locking in "problem".

  • Comment number 27.

    Im refering to the whole Apple experience from top spec mac to cheapest iPod. No other company has products so dependant on each other and so controlled. Microsoft? Windows is open in the sense that pretty much everything works with it and, critically(and this is the key point), is allowed to. Window mobile is totally free, you can do anything you like to it pretty much.

    Im totally uninterested or impressed by the apple experience as such i remain free from their products and choose other companies that give me the option to use my devices the way i see fit.

    I really dont understand the idolisation of a man who actively restricts your options and charges you a premium for it.

    Is this why whenever i see an Apple get-together like this i think of the movie THX 1137?

  • Comment number 28.

    Erm, and just who was it who hyped the whole thing up? Actually, not Apple. It was the user communities and the media.

    They can't have their cake and eat it, predicting a whole slew of things that the comapny don't actually do, then complaining when they don't. It might have been "all fur coat and nae knickers" but that's only because the media swiped them off the line beforehand.

  • Comment number 29.



    "Windows is open in the sense that pretty much everything works with it and, critically(and this is the key point), is allowed to".

    Really?, honestly? - getoutahere......

    In a market of quotable gross generalisation - you just won the Champions League.

  • Comment number 30.

    illuminatusmagister wrote:

    Erm, and just who was it who hyped the whole thing up? Actually, not Apple. It was the user communities and the media.

    ###

    And who fed them all the titbits to get them hyping?

    Never assume marketing people do one thing and let nature take its course - when you work with Apple as a client, you never take your hand of the control handle.

  • Comment number 31.

    "10. At 12:56pm on 10 Sep 2009, neilephipps wrote:

    Good to see Job's appreciating what organ donor programmes can do for the sick - hope he shouts about some more."

    Yes it's handy being wealthy when you need a new organ, isn't it. Or did someone just happen to die and the waiting lists get cleared at the time Mr Jobs required his new organ?

    And if Mr Jobs returning to work was the only "big thing" then why bother holding the "event" in the first place.

    Did anyone catch what Steve had for breakfast btw, I'd be really interested to know...

  • Comment number 32.



    @31

    Pitiful cynicism and somewhat ugly... A point, but very badly put forward.

    If Job's experiences make's people think twice about donor options then that's probably a few life's prolonged, wealthy or not, if you do not consider that a good thing then you are truly lost in one of your 'games'.


  • Comment number 33.

    "32. At 3:49pm on 12 Sep 2009, neilephipps wrote:

    @31

    Pitiful cynicism and somewhat ugly... A point, but very badly put forward.

    If Job's experiences make's people think twice about donor options then that's probably a few life's prolonged, wealthy or not, if you do not consider that a good thing then you are truly lost in one of your 'games'."

    Oh sure it's a good thing.

    But I'd rather people took note of real peoples experiences, i.e the mere not-so-wealthy mortals who have to wait weeks, months, years for a donor organ to become available.

    Steve Jobs experiences are just as valid but they are tarnished by the fact that he appears to have received his organ at the drop of a hat, something which doesn't usually happen.

    People need to be made aware of both sides of the organ donor story, not just the side coming from successful wealthy people like Mr Jobs who apparently manage to jump the queue.

    And an Apple conference where the majority of people know that Mr Jobs has had an organ donated to him, isn't the best forum for people to made aware of his experiences in my opinion.

    I guess with the lack of any real interesting items they had to go for the sympathy vote though.

    Ooh sorry that's just me being cynical again.

  • Comment number 34.

    Hi Maggie - It's great that Steve Jobs is back on his feet - one of the things he might turn his attention to is a major problem Apple are refusing they have with the Snow Leopard OS. The upgrade is killing MacBook Pro batteries all over the world. There is a rapidly growing thread on this at http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?messageID=10196985

    A lot of apple reps are telling people that it is their batteries that are at fault or worn out and that they have to buy new ones. I don't think so. Some people have reported that as soon as the OS is rolled back to Leopard the batteries work fine. People should take this into serious consideration when thinking about buying this upgrade.

  • Comment number 35.

    @30. I'm not THAT naive. however, Apple are notorously touchy and, in some cases, litigious about pre-release leakage. I suspect it's rather less Apple than media and fanboys stoking the fire. Apple just don't say ANYTHING

  • Comment number 36.


    In this country one waits in a queue for transplants. Is that the same in the USA where 47 million people are not insured and a large number are only just covered? How about chronic illnesses?

    ""And he didn't keep us in suspense for long, taking charge from the start. Mr Jobs sounded emotional when he talked about his liver transplant and said that he was able to stand in front of us thanks to the generosity of a 20-year-old who died in a car crash.""

    To the moderator: I would like to underline etc a comment now and again
    but when I right click the blue copy section this facility is not available?

 

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