Sunday, January 24, 2010

T minus three days, and counting

This is the last of these countdown pieces I'll be posting, at least for this go-round. It's time to calm the anticipation and cultivate attentiveness, so as not to miss a single nuance of Steve Jobs's presentation on Wednesday (which I won't be able to see for another day or two after that), and patience enough to allow Apple's very upbeat event to take the back burner long enough to give President Obama's State of the Union Address our full attention. Were the country as a whole doing as well as Apple, we might anticipate an evening of mixed levity, as Obama addresses Congress, but, while there is progress to be reported, the prevalent mood is likely to be more somber, and to appear even more so in contrast with the Apple event earlier in the day.

This isn't Apple's fault. If anything they're leading the recovery.

Nor is the swarming buzz in anticipation of Wednesday's event their fault. As Joel Johnson, writing for Gizmodo, explains the buzz is a side-effect of Apple's refusal to show prototypes or to announce products before the company is ready to commit to their production and ongoing support. They may selectively leak information, real or false, to prevent a consensus from forming around descriptions that too closely resemble products they aren't yet ready to introduce, and to manage expectations which can leave people disappointed when the real products arrive, but the energy that whips up the buzz derives from their hard-earned reputation for delivering great products. People expect great things from Apple because that's what experience has taught them to expect, so they're naturally curious what's coming next.

Anticipation of Wednesday's announcements will also briefly take the back burner tomorrow, after the end of trading for the day at NASDAQ, as Apple executives report the company's financial results for the previous quarter, while trying not to give away any surprises they've been preparing for Wednesday. It's a dance they know well and perform deftly, so if they do drop any hints about upcoming products on Monday it will be especially noteworthy.

Personally, it will be a great relief to finally hear what Apple has in store in the way of touchscreen devices and how they will handle apps written for them. The iPhone OS is a great platform, and if it turns out that platform is being expanded to encompass larger devices, or subsumed into something that does, that will be wonderful news. If, on the other hand, these devices will run what is essentially Mac OS X plus UIKit, that too would be wonderful news, subtly different, but equally welcome. Either way they'll open up a grand new playground for user interaction, and therefore utility.

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