Is it time to kill the Apple press event?

Apple's press events can pack a real punch, but others may not live up to anticipations. Is it time to ditch keynote presentations in favor of standard product-unveiling press releases?

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read

After all the hoopla surrounding Steve Jobs' absence from Apple's last Macworld keynote subsided, it was finally time for us all to tune into Phil Schiller's remarks about the future of his company.

Speculation abounded over what Schiller would announce. A new Mac Mini? An updated Apple TV? We didn't know, but many of us were sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to find out.

And then we did. And it was a snoozefest.

Sure, it's nice to see that iTunes has finally gone DRM-free, even though Amazon.com did so last year, and the updated 17-inch MacBook Pro looks nice, even though the battery isn't removable--a major blunder, since the advertised 8 hours of battery life will probably never happen, and serial travelers require the use of multiple batteries.

But what else came out of Tuesday's announcement? An update to iLife is nice, and iMovie's new features make it a more capable video-editing alternative, but beyond that, Schiller's keynote speech was rife with details and demos that bored those who were looking for major updates.

Realizing that, is it time for Apple to finally put an end to its strategy of holding major events to unveil product updates?

Answering that question might not be as easy as you think. Sure, this keynote didn't live up to the hype, but some have. Just last year, Apple's unveiling of its redesigned MacBook line was a major hit, and when the iPhone was first announced, it took the world by storm. In essence, these keynotes have been "hit or miss" for quite some time.

But that doesn't necessarily mean they're worthwhile. Apple learned years ago that its legions of fans and media followers would be more than willing to watch Steve Jobs on stage, discussing the boring (Aperture) to the fun (iPhone), regardless of the show's necessity. And from a business standpoint, it makes sense: why send out a press release with all the same details when a major event can be held, which will be watched and talked about by every major media outlet in the United States?

And perhaps that's where we find ourselves today. There's little debate over whether Tuesday's keynote address was boring and lacked the allure previous shows have offered. But Apple knows that we all want to hear what its top executives have to say, so we listen.

Apple doesn't necessarily manufacture the hype. Media outlets can decide whether they want to attend, and each time, they've decided that they would rather be there to hear about nominal updates to cater to a rabid Apple following, rather than skip it to comment on the announcements after it's over. Apple realizes that and has capitalized. Hey, who can blame it?

But Apple's plan to pull out of Macworld altogether suggests that even Steve Jobs is wondering if hosting press events every few months is the best idea. The company's events in the past have forced it to maintain a certain "wow" factor standard, and when it's not met, people like me start to lament the merit of holding such events. That's a lot of pressure to keep a company's employees under, and maybe Jobs has realized that it's proving more of a hindrance than beneficial.

Apple isn't alone in its desire to hold splashy events, though. Companies in every industry try to coax the press into covering such events to build excitement and momentum for their products. After all, if a slew of people attend a packed room to see a product, it must be important, right?

Regardless, I question the press event's necessity. It may help Apple build hype for a product, but I can't help but wonder if the company has gone to the well one too many times. Slowly but surely, media outlets may see the keynotes for what they really are: flashy propaganda seminars.

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