Apple hopes sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Solid upgrades and clean roadmap without disruption.

Tim Cook uses videos to communicate Apple’s brand message, and quotes from pop stars and bloggers to validate it.

All Steve Jobs needed to do was walk on stage.

The magic might be gone, but Apple’s clarity of purpose and starkness of design remains. Mobile devices and desktop computers remain on separate development tracks, with integration focused on creating similar user experiences for particular apps and content, rather than trying to converge into a unified operating system.

“We’re deeply committed to the category”, said Cook, about desk and laptop development. “We’re not slowing down on innovation”.

Apple’s CEO was speaking at the company’s holiday selling season kick-off event this morning in San Francisco. He was followed by presentations on the new Mavericks OSX release and upgraded MacBook laptops and Mac Pro desktops.

Apple’s iLife and iWork suites were upgraded – particularly urgent for iWork, which is nearly five years old. All six apps – iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, Pages, Numbers and Keynote – are now available on both iOS and OSX. The apps are not identical, but functionality is similar (although it’s not clear how close the iOS feature sets are to OSX versions) and content can be swapped back and forth, without file format conversions it was said. The iCloud version of iWork was also upgraded, with live collaboration features added.

The show closed with new iPads, a full sized iPad Air and an upgraded mini. Both upgrades are significant – the new full sized version masses 450 grams, 190 less than its predecessor.

Some hardware prices are lower, the software and operating system upgrades are free.

From a kremlinological perspective, the absence of design guru Jonathan Ive was interesting. He appeared in a video but not on stage, despite his reputedly unifying – and growing – influence within Apple. No one doubts Cook’s calm, corporate talents, but it took a driven personality with disruptive vision to lead the market. Reliable quality is only half the story. For Apple to be Apple, it needs unpredictable magic too.