It’s Tim Cook’s Turn – The Jolt! from ckwrites 09.10.2014

True Confession

When I got up Tuesday morning I had absolutely no intention of writing The Jolt! this week, much less (spoiler alert) one of the longest ones of the year. In fact, I had hoped that you might be getting used to the new format… (Please bear with me, it’s getting sorted.)

The most popular posts I have written all have to do with my times with Apple, Steve Jobs and the launch of the Macintosh. As you might remember, the launch took place at Flint Center in Cupertino, CA on a gray January day in 1984…

When Steve passed, all the wise men figured that Apple’s days were numbered. That his anointed heir, COO Tim Cook, could not possibly lead Apple as Steve had. You see, Tim is an Ops guy. A brain that is all about process, clearly defined goals and relentless metrics to ensure that goals are being achieved, margins expanded and EBITDA nourished. Solid, admirable B-School stuff, but kind of ‘meh’ if your taste in pop culture icons runs towards people who think different.

And Now For Something Completely Different

I didn’t expect much when I tuned in to Tuesday morning. Talk about doing a show when everybody knows what’s coming… But there were a few things I was curious about. The event was staged at Flint Center, the same place we had launched the Macintosh in 1984. That in itself is somewhat noteworthy, as most of the Apple product launches since have been in Moscone Center – a  much bigger facility in San Francisco.

Secondly (and sadly) it is almost 3 years to the day that Steve died…

What I saw was something distinctly new and different. Steve-like in its ambition. Decidedly post-Steve in its execution. Tipping the hat to the past while racing forwards.

IMO, Tim has redefined his stage persona to something more comfortable and authentic.

He is not Steve. He was never going to be Steve. He knew that. We didn’t.

The mistake we all made is thinking that the only way to run Apple was the way Steve did.

Wrong.

The Design

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First of all, event people please take a look at the graphics feed that accompanied the live cast. Clean, gorgeous. A seamless tapestry of live shots and speech highlights, prepared marcomm materials and factoids, on point celebrity tweets, video clips and more.

Go look and shamelessly steal because the bar just went straight up.

OH. Lest we not cry shame. The video feed had all kinds of problems in the early going – first came the very annoying Mandarin as a second language track – assumedly a live translation to a very important market. Then came multiple breakdowns in the broadcast itself. I thought it was my crummy DSL feed but no, it was a global meltdown… Don’t know what happened but it sure wasn’t pretty. Good thing the graphic feed continued to be updated with all the key points… hmm, redundancy – an Ops concept.

The Phones

Tim said “Today, we are pleased to announce our biggest advancement in iPhone.”

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are drop-dead gorgeous. Yes, in straight market share Apple has ceded ground to the Android/Samsung crowd, but no matter. They got some back – and no doubt held on to some of their existing customers who wanted more real estate..

Here is where things began to become uniquely un-Steveish for me. Because guess what… Tim left virtually all the show-and-tell, the fondling, caressing and drooling over the new shiny phones to top marketer Phil Schiller.

Phil did his usual credible job. He had more than a handful of bullet points to play with – a new processor, a new camera, full HD resolution on the 6+, 240 fps slo-mo video, a new iOS and on and on… The one disappointment for me is that the new screens are not sapphire.

If you want more details, Slate has a good breakdown here.

What Was In Your Wallet?

Next up was the Apple’s long expected entry into the payment market called Apple Pay – which with any luck at all will replace what’s in your wallet with what’s in your pocket

Tim said “We’ve placed a lot of time and energy into creating an entirely new payments solution,” then hands it off to an exec to pound through the details.

Will lightning strike again in this very crowded field?

Home Depot’s admission yesterday that they have been hacked is making a strong case for something much more secure than the card in your wallet. I got a taste of it this summer and it is a subject of intense concern. I think that the charge will have to be lead by the card companies who will have to convince millions of merchants to move to a new platform. While that happens, Apple will have to rely on their installed base and software smarts to make this go.

Here’s a couple of things that seem as though they might tilt the odds in Apple’s favor.

Everybody who has an iTunes Store account has a credit card on file. And that credit card is incorporated into Apple Pay.

Which will of course be available in iOS8 on the new iPhones – as well as the iPhone 5 series. I don’t know if you’re getting the impression that Apple is starting to hum like a Swiss watch, but I am.

Think about this from an Operations view. Straight out of the box, Apple Pay will work with the banks that handle 83% of the credit card purchase volume. It will initially be accepted at 220,000 US locations.

I am betting that Apple made the deal the Tim way. By offering up the promise of millions of Apple customers – the upscale, early adopters that other marketers mostly dream about.

Another Tick

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But wait. Tim says “There is one more thing…”

If you are any kind of techno-fan you know that people have been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the long awaited Apple Watch. Low key and obliging, Tim says “Apple Watch is the most personal device we’ve ever created.”

This time Tim hands off to a Jony Ive video followed by an on-stage demo. I don’t wear watches but this one is really slick – from the customizable face, to the ability to monitor your pulse, to the built-in Siri voice help, to the new Taptic engine that can subtly give you navigational cues and let you know that “you have mail.”

Of course it comes with a complete SDK called Watch Kit so developers can add Apple Watch apps to the 1.3 million apps already in the App Store. Better yet, the full functionality is only achieved by pairing your Apple Watch with – you guessed it – your series 5 or 6 iPhone. You can do some pretty cool things with that combination.

And talk about calculating potential ROI. I am thinking that Tim made the decision to go-to-market with Apple Watch knowing that there were 500,000,000 people in the world who already own the prerequisite iPhone. Of course like the phones, the watches will also work with Apple Pay.

And no, we are not done yet.

The Play-Off

When Tim comes back out he says “Music is in the DNA of Apple. From the introduction of the first iPod to the addition of Beats, Apple has changed the way we all listen to music.”

First comes a brief nod to the eighth-annual iTunes Festival; a month-long series of concerts streamed free from London to over 100 countries.

Then Tim talks about the relationship Apple established 10 years ago with U2. And right on cue, Bono and the boys walk out on stage to perform a cut from their new album.

When they’re done, Bono explains to Tim that they just finished the album last week. He wonders what Tim might be able to do to help them get the album into as many people’s hands as possible, as quickly as possible. And right there on the original birthing ground in Flint Center – before our adoring, completely mesmerized eyes – Tim gets to do something I am sure Steve always dreamed about.

Presto Mister Zen Master Wizard (which is what Bono called Tim,) the guys high five and the new U2 album is available free as a gift from Apple, to all 500,000,000 iTune Store customers worldwide. Making it not only the largest album release in history, but also the fastest.

Now to be clear – and this is from the New York Times:

Apple paid the band and Universal an unspecified fee as a blanket royalty and committed to a marketing campaign for the band worth up to $100 million, according to several people briefed on the deal. That marketing will include a global television campaign, the first piece of which was a commercial that was shown during the event.

Just log on to iTunes and you’ll find yours there waiting for you. And I bet it doesn’t crash the server farm, because hey, an Ops guy planned it.

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For more on the making of U2’s first album in 5 years, here is a story in Rolling Stone.

Insanely Great

What actually prompted me to write this post was the way that Tim coupled strategy and execution to connect the dots and close the event.

“We are” he said (and I am very loosely paraphrasing,) “the dominant product in every category we compete in – computers, phones, tablets, music players, operating systems, App Store, iTunes Store, the Apple Store.”

The headline in Wired this morning reads: 

Why Apple Devices Will Soon Rule Every Aspect of Your Life

The biggest thing Apple showed off Tuesday wasn’t a product, or even a product line. It was the way all of Apple’s products—and thousands more from other developers, manufacturers and services—now mesh together. It is like a huge ubiquitous computer now, all around us, all the time. The interface is the very world we live in.

The product isn’t just a collection of features,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said, announcing his company’s new iPhone,it’s how it all works together.”

And that gentle reader, is something a great Ops guy can do for you better than anyone.

It is time to forget about what Steve would have done, or what was in the pipeline three years ago. What we saw yesterday is a very thoughtful, methodical guy who can keep all of the personalities moving forward, and all of the trains running flat-out towards a unified set of goals. The result is a juggernaut that does many things well – design, manufacturing, distribution, software as well as entertainment, publishing and lifestyle.

 No other company is even attempting this, much less executing at such a high level across such a broad front.

To close it out – in a generous and unpeevish moment – Tim gave a shout-out to everyone at Apple who worked on the new products asking them to stand and be recognized.

One More Thing. Having the time of my life. It’s a privilege to work with everyone at Apple.

And that ladies and gentlemen, is how Mr. Tim Cook does a product launch.

And why it’s his turn.