Tech

Shira Ovide is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering technology. She previously was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal.

Here's an easy prediction: One day next month, Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook will prowl a darkened stage as part of the hype-building for a rectangular slab of glass and circuits. It will be a meticulously rehearsed event that's made to seem like a guy is casually talking to his buddies about a life-changing book he just read. Except with Keynote presentation slides.

Steve Jobs honed this pomp and circumstance, and now everyone is doing an imitation of the consumer electronics three-ring circus. Samsung Electronics Co. on Wednesday did one for its new Galaxy Note 8 smartphone. Expect more this fall in the high season for slideshow-filled gadget showcases.

But 10 years after the debut of the first iPhone, why are we still doing this? The technology industry's favorite event could use some disruption.

Pomp and Circumstance
Apple has spent nearly nine hours on staged product events since the start of 2016
Source: Apple event website

I understand why tech companies hold these events. Gadget fans hang on every canned word. And these Tupperware demonstrations generate oodles of free publicity from news organizations (including this one) eager to track every moment.

But companies do a version of the Jobs event for just about anything. A Google research division showed prototype "smart jeans" in a 2015 on-stage presentation. Amazon.com Inc. CEO Jeff Bezos invited a crowd to Seattle for a 90-minute speech about a smartphone that essentially died within months. Since the beginning of 2016, Apple has hosted five staged product events with a combined run time of nearly nine hours. 

And the form and style feels so familiar and rote that it's ripe for parody. My personal favorites: the "30 Rock" episode complete with pitch-perfect Jobs-style visuals from Tina Fey in a black turtleneck; and Vice's video compilation of tech executives demonstrating completely relatable human activities they do with their gadgets. 

I confess I don't have fresh ideas for reinventing the tech product launch. The Apple event style is so ingrained in my brain, I can't imagine anything else. It's actually helpful to see demonstrations of the new features of consumer electronics or software.

Simply holding these events less frequently, toning down the hype and making them shorter wouldn't hurt. (That's what my editors say, too.) Apple's main product demonstration at its developer conference in June felt rushed but had about the same running time as "Wonder Woman."

I'd much rather watch the summer blockbuster. Gal Gadot didn't have any Keynote slides. 

A version of this column originally appeared in Bloomberg's Fully Charged technology newsletter. You can sign up here.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Shira Ovide in New York at sovide@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Daniel Niemi at dniemi1@bloomberg.net