macOS ‘About’ Boxes

There’s been a lot discussion recently about the state of Mac apps, particularly on what the future holds with Marzipan bringing iOS apps (and their design language) to macOS.

Naturally, many Mac enthusiasts have been concerned about how Marzipan could corrupt the look and feel of macOS—look no further than Mojave’s additions of Home, Stocks, Voice Memos and News last year for noisy complaints.

These apps are early demonstrations of what will be possible from WWDC this year and most notably, Steve Troughton-Smith has been reassuring users of the positive aspects of such a transition, both with his tool Marzipanify and recent videos on Twitter, showing the last major transition from classic Mac OS to Mac OS X. People should calm down—we’ve been through this before and some degree of inconsistency has always been present in macOS. (Just look at the three different ways that I had to write the name of the operating system in this paragraph… Apple has changed its mind over time too.)

With Apple set to make a massive cross-platform effort, the company and its third-party developers can only work to improve the experience in the system.

A great example of the current inconsistency in macOS is the variety of ‘About’ boxes in default and third-party apps. Sometimes this variation can be frustrating; other times it can add personality. Let’s look at a few examples.

The default ‘About’ box generally looks something like Safari’s below.


Top-quality macOS citizens, such as Pixelmator Pro and Ulysses for Mac follow Safari’s simple, default design.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 5.20.47 pmScreen Shot 2019-05-28 at 5.21.08 pm

Of course, iTunes does its own thing.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 5.22.38 pm

Slack, as a somewhat controversial Electron app, still manages to keep consistent with this design, however it does not honour the activation of dark mode in Mojave.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 5.21.31 pm

Reeder 4 for Mac, whilst an entirely new app that respects Mac conventions like keyboard shortcuts, has its own ‘About’ box design which is completely inconsistent with other apps. That being said, it is clean and includes nice credits to the creators of the app.

Screen Shot 2019-05-28 at 5.21.47 pm

Pastebot also includes a different type of ‘About’ box and is yet to support dark mode on Mojave, however, like Reeder 4, it also includes a nice list of credits.

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Mactracker takes its focus on Apple history seriously and even extends this philosophy to its own ‘About’ box, going into more detail about the make-up of the app.

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Perhaps the worst example that I have ever seen, Microsoft Teams, (an Electron app like Slack) opens a line of descriptive text within the app window rather than as a separate window. In fact, the app doesn’t even support multiple windows, which is dreadful in macOS.

Whilst other inconsistent ‘About’ boxes may be frustrating or out-of-date to some, at least they can be interesting or offer some personality and variety to the interface. Teams flies in the face of macOS design sensibility and convention.

The lesson to take from this is that design consistency, whilst aesthetically pleasing and particularly great for accessibility, can be bent a little bit in macOS to add variety and personality. With the exception of Teams, which disrupts the macOS norm, each of these developers can their own special something to their ’About’ boxes, along with the design of their apps.

As we approach the era of Marzipan and truly cross-platform apps for macOS and iOS, we should be positive and enthusiastic about the change that is coming. Apps will look different; their ‘About’ boxes will certainly be different… but new and perhaps even better ideas about interface design should rise to the top.

Furthermore, with easier development tools from UIKit, we will hopefully see more developers keen to develop for the Mac platform. In an ideal world, we’ll all receive great, new interfaces over time that are consistent overall, yet still bring their own special something.

If you’re still not convinced by this and fear a horribly inconsistent design future for the Mac, check out this interesting piece by writer Riccardo Mori on the history of vintage Mac ‘About’ boxes. Things have always been a little different and there’s certainly nothing to fear.

Accessibility for Everyone

Image source: Apple (2019)
Image source: Apple (2019)

Apple has been at the forefront of accessible hardware and software design for years with both macOS and iOS. Whilst numerous features (particularly in iOS) were included from the beginning, many new ones have been added over time, in response to the needs of an ever-expanding user base.

To highlight the company’s efforts, Apple Australia’s home page is currently linking to a comprehensive section on accessibility, with the heading: Technology is most powerful when it empowers everyone. This is in celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

Whilst accessibility features are tremendously useful for people with disabilities, medical conditions or special needs, I could not agree more with this key term in the heading: everyone. When I read down this page, I see features that I use all the time:

  • The speak-screen function, whilst useful for the visually impaired, has been a great language-learning tool for me, as I highlight articles in German to be read out through my AirPods at whatever speed that I want;
  • Safari Reader, as a tool for improving legibility with larger, sans serif San Francisco, has been a great way of cutting out advertisements and reducing strain on my eyes while browsing the Web at night;
  • Siri, although a tool for people who may not be able to touch a display or use other input mechanisms, frequently enables me to interact with devices when my hands are full, whether on iPad Apple Watch or HomePods;
  • Type to Siri lets me define words or make calculations quickly in public with my iPhone, if I don’t want to speak aloud; and
  • The system zoom and dynamic type functions have obvious use cases, however I’ve found them to be genuinely useful for expanding parts of interfaces that cannot be adjusted with the pinch-to-zoom feature.

I could go on but I’ll stop there.

Why am I carrying on about this? It’s rather simple: when we design for the majority, we actually miss really important things. It takes a willingness to listen to the needs of minorities and the marginalised to make technology accessible. Features that may seem niche, obscure or even useless, once baked into the operating system, can have enormously positive consequences for all users.

The term ‘diversity’ is thrown around a lot these days, particularly by organisations that are looking to reassure customers and shareholders of their corporate social responsibility. When we push past this though, we realise that diversity is not just about gender or cultural background. Diversity, in its modern usage, is about different ways of thinking and approaching problems. People with different skills, circumstances and abilities can bring new things to the table and address issues that no one else might have considered.

Looking at this accessibility page, I’m grateful for these technological enhancements and thank the people out there who advocated for such improvements. With their creativity, contributions and feedback, everyone can benefit.

As long as Apple continues to look beyond the majority, the tools that we use every day will only improve.

The Royal Spotlight on Apple News

When Apple News first launched with iOS 9 in 2015, I was enthusiastic about its potential to deliver a variety of high-quality news sources and stories, in contrast to the algorithmic, sensationalist tripe that is surfaced by Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

Key to Apple News’s strength, supposedly, has been the focus on human curation in its Spotlight section. For some time, I used the app to follow various Australian and foreign news sites. I enjoyed it and admired the idea of human curation. Sure, it couldn’t be perfect, however it did sound great that someone—a real person—would be ensuring that people are exposed to diverse stories and views.

More recently, after Apple’s albeit impressive services event, I have been less enthusiastic about Apple News. The focus on News-app-specific addresses, rather than URLs on the open Web, has made me less comfortable with it. I’ve now moved to the new Reeder 4, relying on open RSS feeds. Consequently, News has been sitting in a folder for some time now.

Still, wanting to keep an open mind, recently I thought that I should open it to see what was happening in Spotlight. I had forgotten that everyone was in the grip of ROYAL BABY FEVER. Here are a few screenshots from Spotlight on one day last week.

Apple’s editorial team took the term ‘spotlight’ way too seriously. I have absolutely zero interest in the royal baby and the monarchy that continues to rule (technically) over Australia. Now, I understand that this may seem to be an issue of subjectivity—many people are indeed interested in the royal baby.

However this is just one baby on our planet. How many other children were born on that same day? For that matter, how many died from poverty around the world? Is this really news or is it a tacky human-interest story, swept up in romantic, monarchistic ideals from centuries past?

Of course, you may be thinking, ‘…but Martin, this is the point: it wasn’t algorithmically personalised, so you just shouldn’t tap on it if you’re not interested’. I think that’s besides the point. If this is the standard of news presentation and journalistic ‘curation’ that Apple envisages for its News service, as thousands of arguably more important stories swirl around the globe, then that’s a concern to me. Apple shouldn’t want its Spotlight section to morph into Women’s Weekly.

I’m sure that Apple was serious when it first asserted its passion for journalistic integrity, however with the recent announcement of Apple News+, which is a paid service, I am unsure of the company’s ability to uphold this ideal. Unlike podcasts, which until now have remained a relatively open media space, Apple is looking to increase its services revenue in the news space. Can a company that is driven to attract eyeballs and dollars to its News app fulfil its promise to provide diverse, high-quality content? When Apple News+ rolls around to Australia, I may still try it, but at this point I’m not so sure.

macOS 10.etc.etc.

Image source: Intego

On the latest episode of the The Talk Show, John Gruber and John Moltz discussed macOS’s confusing history of version numbers. Whilst it was brief, I thoroughly enjoyed it and had some thoughts to share on the branding of Apple’s beloved operating system.

To frame this discussion, let’s review macOS over approximately the last 20 years: when Apple bought NeXT in the 1990s, the fusion of classic Mac OS and NeXTSTEP became Mac OS X. The new name made perfect sense at the time, as Mac OS X was preceded by Mac OS 9, Mac OS 8 and so on, and brought drastic changes, both in appearance in its technical underpinnings. It was worth the numerical leap.

Of course, at this time Apple also kicked off its somewhat unusual relationship with the Roman numeral ‘X’, which led every Apple fan to cringe as they heard myriad users pronounce the number ‘X’ as ‘eks’ rather than ‘ten’. (We now continue that painful tradition today with the iPhones X, XR, XS and XS Max.)

With each version of Mac OS X came a handy big-cat moniker, such as Cheetah, Tiger and Leopard. A moniker like Tiger made it easier for all users to name each system, without having to remember the decimal point and various minor revisions. Each name was more memorable and gave the system a kind of personality. Furthermore, versions such as Snow Leopard and Mountain Lion, with their added descriptors, told users that they were more minor revisions of their respective predecessors, Leopard and Lion.

With the arrival of Mac OS X Mavericks, Apple dropped the big cats for Californian landmarks and tourist hotspots. A big question arose at this time, however, as Mavericks was version 10.9: what would Apple do for the next version? Surely it wouldn’t ship Mac OS X 10.10! It should go to 11! A ’10’ after the decimal point is essentially equivalent to a ‘1’, which would send the naming of the OS back in time. Of course, Apple broke all code-naming conventions and shipped Mac OS X Yosemite, with version number 10.10. People eventually sort of got over it…

When iOS 11 was on the horizon, many Apple fans thought, ‘Oh yes, now it all makes sense! Apple wants to sync the newly renamed macOS with iOS 11, making macOS 11! It was Apple’s intention all along!’. Even with many Spinal Tap jokes darting around about Apple turning it ‘up to 11’, the company still didn’t do it.

Right now, with macOS Mojave (technically the fifteenth major OS X-style release), we’re sitting on version 10.14.4. This number is a complete mouthful and surely confusing to any newer user, if they ever happen to see it under ‘About This Mac’.

For me, there are two plausible major reasons why Apple has not yet made the leap to version 11 or some other new brand name for its operating system.

The first reason, perhaps, is that Apple hasn’t been bothered to do it. Many tech commentators have complained about the company’s recent lack of enthusiasm in the Mac and its obvious focus on iOS as the more popular system. As Marco Arment has often said on Accidental Tech Podcast, the Mac and macOS have seemingly been in ‘maintenance mode’. Why would Apple bother changing the code-naming convention if it isn’t even that motivated to extend the capabilities of the operating system?

The second possible reason is that Apple has been waiting for a momentous occasion to do this—a new operating system with considerable changes could be enough justification for the shift to version number 11.

Whilst numerous sites are already referring to the next version this year being called macOS 10.15 (and Apple has almost certainly decided to do this anyway), I would argue that this year is actually the perfect opportunity to make the leap to version number 11.

If all the rumours are true, as MacRumors has listed here, we may expect the following from macOS at WWDC in June:

  • the split-up of iTunes into new Music, Podcasts and TV apps;
  • new window-management capabilities;
  • the introduction of Siri Shortcuts as a potential replacement for Automator;
  • the death of 32-bit apps; and
  • perhaps most excitingly, Marzipan apps that are cross-platform (for iOS and macOS) and redefine technically and aesthetically what it means for a Mac app to be a Mac app.

Considering these potential big changes, Apple could show its more devoted users that it really cares about the Mac by giving it a whole new kind of marketing-love. We may not only witness the disintegration of the monolithic media app that is iTunes, but also a fundamental shift in the kinds of app that we can run on macOS and even how we interact with desktop software.

All of these changes sound just as profound, if not more profound than the move to Mac OS X and the subsequent Intel transition. Sure, these were massive changes, but they didn’t have the same kind of obvious, average-user-facing effect that something like Marzipan could have.

I would argue that the habit of naming each system macOS 10.etc.etc. has become almost symbolic of Apple’s lack of clear messaging about the Mac. One change of name could completely reverse that.

So Apple, if you’re listening and it’s not too late, take macOS up to 11 in 2019 and let the world know just how much you love the Mac. Let just one number tell the story.

Apple Music Pings

Image source: Apple (2018)

Earlier this week, Shortcuts specialist Matthew Cassinelli published a quick piece about how Apple News notifications can quickly get out of hand, particularly if you don’t interact with the app regularly and very deliberately.

Matthew’s experience was certainly my consistent with my own use of Apple News. When I used the app—I’ve since turned back to Reeder—I had only selected ABC News (Australia), The New York Times and Vox to send me notifications, however they added up very quickly on my lock screen and in Notification Centre. In some cases, I couldn’t see why certain stories even justified a push notification. To my mind, stories should only be shared as push notifications if they are emergencies or major breaking news.

As annoying as this may be, it does come down to a degree of subjectivity around what is important to share and how frequently you should annoy users. From a usability perspective, not being able to deal with notifications in an easier way is also frustrating.

What is even more concerning to me, however, is the way that the company sometimes handles notifications for Apple Music. Here is an example of a notification that I received recently from the app on my iPad Pro and Apple Watch.

iOS notification for Beyoncé’s album ‘Lemonade’
watchOS notification for Beyoncé’s album ‘Lemonade’

What’s the issue here? The issue is that I did not request any notification about this album or sign up for a pre-order. These two notifications are purely promotional and as others have written, fly in the face of Apple’s own rules for developers. This album was once exclusive to Tidal and although it’s a big deal that it’s now available elsewhere, I did not need or want to be pinged about it.

Many tech commentators are concerned about what it means for Apple to transform into a services company; I don’t share that pessimism. As its products mature, emphasising services to engage with and earn more money from existing users is a predictable and sensible step. I went into further detail about this in my recent piece Apple and the Craftsmen, following the recent services event.

The question must be asked: is Apple learning from its earlier mistakes?

For example, who could forget the outrage over Apple’s insistence that every iTunes customer should have U2’s album Songs of Innocence in their library? For a company that apparently values privacy so much, Apple should understand that privacy is not just about leaving user data alone and encrypted… it is also about respecting users’ space and not forcing promotional messages upon them.

I love Apple Music, its playlists and integration with HomePod, however this has taken a few years of refinement. Apple once introduced another kind of Ping that didn’t go so well; it didn’t seem to learn that lesson when it tried to push Connect with the launch of Apple Music. Personally, I’m hoping that these notifications are a brief services experiment. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we won’t have to endure a whole new world of unwanted promotional pings.

Death by Brand Fusion

Image source: SOHO (ESA & NASA)

Last week, M.G. Siegler wrote a fantastic, punchy article on why Apple should acquire Nintendo. He has written about this before, however the argument has come up again due to Apple’s recent announcement of Apple’s new gaming subscription service, Apple Arcade. Let’s face it: he has a great point and perhaps if Apple had bought Netflix, it would not be trying to enter a highly competitive streaming market with Apple TV+ and original content. Therefore, buying Nintendo is a perfectly sensible suggestion and it would bolster Apple’s gaming efforts at exactly the right time.

Apple has long been accused of not getting games, particularly in the face of longstanding PC and console manufacturers and their respective ecosystems and devotees. Apparently, gaming just ‘isn’t in Apple’s DNA’. With Apple Arcade, the company is showing signs that it perhaps does get gaming and is willing to commission developers to produce high-quality content.

Siegler puts Apple’s general attitude towards gaming and its more recent success in the mobile space well in this section:

In the past, Apple has treated the gaming business quite casually, even though it has seemingly been right there for the taking, given the popularity of the format on iOS devices. Now they’re diving in. And yet they still don’t have such expertise in-house. You know who could get them smart, quick? In that way, it wouldn’t be too dissimilar from the acquisition of Beats to get Jimmy Iovine and team in the mix.

It was the reference to Beats that caught my eye in Siegler’s article. When Apple bought Beats, it surprised many devout Apple fans, largely because of the perceived cultural mismatch of the two companies. Sure, Apple has apparently always had ‘music in its DNA’, but Beats was a company and service that was generally obsessed with bass and made less-than-premium headphones. Although both companies shared a passion for music, how could Apple have bought a firm that made such brightly coloured plastic products?

Over time, people came to understand that the acquisition was more about the absorption of personalities like Iovine and Dre and the fusion of streaming technology and smarts into Apple’s product offerings, as iTunes and digital music purchases die a slow death. Apple used the Beats brand as it needed.

Interestingly, as a consequence of this purchase, the Beats brand has been suppressed somewhat, although not yet entirely killed. Since 2015, we have no longer heard the name Beats Music, instead we hear Apple Music. Yet Beats headphones and other audio products persist for the moment, in order to retain the coolness and cachet that the brand has held among consumers. Apple realised a number of years ago, as Spotify was on the rise, that the days of white earbuds in the iTunes era had waned. Apple needed outside help to re-inject brand coolness into its music offerings.

With the success of AirPods since then, Apple has shown that the white earbuds can indeed make a comeback and that it does not really need the Beats brand on the hardware side either. AirPods are now absolutely everywhere. Over time, I believe that Beats will die and the brand will vanish. In the near future, we may perhaps even see very much the same Beats products simply redesigned or recoloured to fit the more accepted Apple aesthetic.

Looping back to gaming, I agree with Siegler that it would have enormous benefits for both companies, taking Nintendo stories and characters to a stratospheric level on mobile devices and cementing Apple’s position in the gaming market. Who knows? Apple could even try in the console again. How about the Apple Pippin II?

On the other hand, considering the way that Beats has been integrated, I think that this poses a very interesting question for how the Nintendo brand would be handled over time. Let’s be clear: Nintendo is a massive and truly beloved brand that has more history, IP and relatability across demographics than Beats ever did as its own company. Nintendo is a cultural icon in its own right.

Still, it is not Apple—not everyone is into gaming but everyone is into smartphones.

For those who love Nintendo and would be keen to see its hypothetical acquisition by Apple, thereby integrating it into a broader subscription offering such as Apple Arcade, there must be the willingness to accept that one day, Nintendo would probably die.

Some may argue that Nintendo is such a strong brand that Apple would have to keep it around. At first, that would certainly be the case. Apple would take advantage of the Nintendo brand and associate its service with their popular games and characters. Nintendo fans would be happy to see their favourite characters flourish and Apple fans would be pleased to see even more cool stuff available to play on their devices.

How would this death occur? It’s fairly simple. Years into the future, assuming that such an acquisition and combined service were successful, Apple may gradually reduce the emphasis on its Nintendo brand and perhaps even remove the logo or any reference to the name from its marketing materials and the App Store.

Steadily, those gamers who knew characters such as Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda as Nintendo characters would lose that strong association (or more bluntly, die) and a new generation would come to know them as Apple game characters. In addition, new characters may even take their place. This is what we’re gradually seeing with the Disney purchase of Star Wars, with investment in new films, TV series and games. Sure, Darth Vader isn’t going anywhere, but he may no longer be the centre of the Star Wars universe for future generations. These are not just transactions, they are cultural shifts.

What was once a beneficial brand fusion for both Apple and Nintendo would become a brand and gaming market victory for Apple. In the end, this would not really matter and is the very nature of acquisitions. If Apple had indeed bought Netflix years ago, as I suggested in the first paragraph, you might have seen the creation of something like the name fusion of ‘Apple Netflix’, but over time, that would have become something more like ‘Apple Flix’ or even the new moniker of ‘Apple TV+’. In the early days of the iPod, did Apple release Apple SoundJam to respect the lesser-known MP3 software or did it rebrand it as Apple iTunes?

Those who wish for such an acquisition but also hold such strong brand relationship and sentimentality with that which is acquired should perhaps be careful of what they wish for. Change is inevitable and whilst consumers tend to view corporations as static entities with tangible offerings, corporations are really just stories—intersubjective realities that transform themselves over time, both in response to consumer demand and without even realising it. Apple was once Apple Computer and entirely dependent on the Macintosh. That company is now more successful that it ever has been… and yet now almost unrecognisable. Nothing is forever.

Apple and the Craftsmen

Image source: Apple (2019)
Image source: Apple (2019)

On 25 March, Apple invited celebrities and members of the tech and entertainment press to the Steve Jobs Theater for a range of special announcements. What made this event a little odd, however, was that it was entirely focused on services. There were no hardware announcements and the only software that was demonstrated on stage were existing (yet refreshed) apps as the delivery channels for new services.

I’ve read numerous articles and listened to various podcasts that have all meticulously analysed Apple’s new offerings: Apple News+; Apple Card; Apple Arcade; Apple TV Channels; and Apple TV+.

Aside from the lack of hardware and software announcements, many analysts, commentators and journalists have been perturbed the lack of any pricing information and the delay in public release, with the exception of Apple News+. Furthermore, many were bothered by Apple’s decision to have celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon onstage to discuss their projects, rather than show off trailers and original video material for Apple TV+.

The most common question that I have heard online is this: if Apple has almost nothing to release right now, be it a full service or pricing, then what was the point of this event?

Some have come to what is perhaps the most natural answer to this question, in that Apple needs to show Wall Street that it has a considerable new revenue source, beyond the iPhone. Still, people persist in asking why these announcements couldn’t have been made when more concrete information could be shared.

I agree with the assertion above that Apple is keen to reassure and impress Wall Street. I do believe, however, that it is deeper than this. Wall Street was not the only audience during this event. I posit that there are two major cultural reasons that underpinned Apple’s decision how to hold this event, even without completed services or full pricing announcements.

The first reason relates to how Apple sees itself in relation to various other tech players in the global (but really US) market. Apple has always seen itself as a tastemaker and a inventor of tools for the masses, enabling and connecting with creative prosumers and professionals alike—consider the #ShotoniPhone and Behind the Mac campaigns. They either feature content created by customers with Apple devices or famous people using Apple devices. Apple wants to reinforce this connection to humanity and creativity in a world where people are increasingly losing trust in faceless tech corporations, most notably Facebook.

Underpinning this notion of trust in modern tech, we need to look at a more philosophical definition of the term ‘technology’. A recent episode of ABC Radio National’s podcast The Philosopher’s Zone, titled Techne-logy featured Western Sydney University academic Jason Tuckwell, who explained the root of the word ‘technology’. He defined the root ‘techne’ as‘skill’ and discussed how Aristotle defined the word technology:

‘Aristotle tried to think about technology in a way that’s a little bit unfamiliar to us now… and how he tried to think about it was essentially in the terms of a craftsperson… Technology is a way that human agents change the world around them after their own design… Aristotle had a complex notion of causes and one of his original contributions was to think that purpose or intention was required to explain how things come into being, if you like. If you’re going to be a shipbuilder and you want to make a good ship, you need buoyant material and you need a skill to shape the craft, so that it will move through the water.

Apple sees itself as Aristotle’s ‘craftsperson’ (building the collective ship of hardware, software and services) and continually aligns itself with a range of other creative craftspeople who add further buoyant material and skill to the mix.

This event was about Apple showing the world (as transparently as possible) that Apple is a trustworthy, transparent, technological craftsperson that empowers myriad other content craftspeople. Consider each of the services that were presented:

  1. Apple News+ — This service was sold promising tool to rejuvenate journalism and human curation in an age of fake news and mysterious algorithms. Named journalists were identified as the content craftspeople, feeding quality content to Apple’s new service. They proudly discussed their passion for their work. Furthermore, Apple promoted specific publications, rather than focusing on a feed of algorithmically-driven articles;
  2. Apple Card — Apple happily promoted its two partners, Goldman Sachs and Mastercard, as its financial craftspeople and specialists. Along with its budgeting and monitoring tools in the Wallet app, the presentation of Apple Card gave consumers the impression of transparency and individual power over their financial lives. There doesn’t appear to be any shady tech happening in the background and people will be more willing to trust their finances with Apple, knowing who is involved;
  3. Apple Arcade — Similar to the Apple News+ video, Apple took the time to showcase committed game developers who enrich the App Store and push iOS devices to their graphical limits. This was perhaps the greatest display of creative craftspeople;
  4. Apple TV+: Rather than showing trailers for complete and yet-to-be-finished shows, Apple used decided to show off its star power. Bringing people like Spielberg and Winfrey on the stage showed the company’s commitment to the American entertainment industry and its creative craftspeople, in an era when such entertainers and producers are sceptical of the power of Netflix; and
  5. Apple TV Channels — Whilst this is almost identical to services such as Amazon Prime, Apple’s intention here was to highlight the range of quality creative content by other studios and channels and make itself appear as a convenient, one-stop-shop for consumer choice.

It is the fourth point above—star power—that brings me to the second reason that Apple chose to host the event:

because it could.

Apple not only wanted to show how its work with various creatives and firms fits into the current culture of tech, it wanted to show that it is a cultural institution in its own right. I believe that this is what many tech writers and commentators missed during this event, with their typical focus on Apple as a product company. Apple is broader and more multifaceted now than it ever has been before and it has enormous brand power. Whilst iCloud was its first step, with these new services, Apple has officially jumped into the world of intangible offerings.

Whereas tech commentators are often happy to accept the need to address multiple types of consumer during the WWDC opening keynote each year, for example, they seemed less certain about this event. Yet, funnily enough, they answered their own questions about the event in many of the podcasts that I listened to, stating their intention to probably get something like Apple Card or Apple TV+ anyway, because of their long-running Apple purchases or the services’ easy integration into the ecosystem.

Apple doesn’t need to announce pricing or display content early, because it has such a devoted fanbase that will most likely pay or subscribe anyway. All of those writers, podcasters and YouTubers who were incredulous about or critical of certain aspects of Apple’s event, inadvertently end up promoting the very brand that they have critiqued. This very blog piece is a sign of Apple’s unbelievable cultural capital. I’ve now spent quite some time discussing it.

Truly, Apple is no longer just a corporation—this event’s purpose was to tell the story of Apple and its craftspeople and show just how invaluable its technology is to various markets and art forms. The featuring of creative celebrities onstage was nothing new; Apple associated itself with those who ‘think different’ back in 1997. Pricing and release dates don’t matter; it’s the story that counts, and people have already bought it.

Of course, as I stated before, this event was largely about showing Wall Street that Apple has other ways of making money. What is the purpose of a corporation other than to make money? Wall Street, however, was not the only member of the audience. This audience was made up of people with varying interests and backgrounds, hence the spread of service marketing messages across gaming, journalism, television, film and even finance.

In a global tech market and culture that is often about racing to the bottom or chasing market share, at this event, Apple showed us that it continues to be a global tech culture unto itself. It plays by its own rules.