WWDC 2015 was a big one. New versions OS X, iOS and watchOS were shown off, along with the Beats-inspired Apple Music service.
The keynote itself is interesting for a couple of reasons. While there’s still a lot of news to digest, talking about the art of the keynote is fun, too.
After a rather hilarious intro video, Tim Cook skipped his normal “state of the company” segment, assumedly for the sake of time. The cynical voice in my head thinks that if he had gone into the numbers, and had glossed of Watch sales, part of the news cycle would have been taken with Watch sales speculation. Whatever the reason, Apple jumped right to its operating system updates.
The OS X El Capitan and iOS 9 segments were tightly done by Craig Federighi, as was the time devoted to the new iPad-specific features. There’s lots to unpack there, especially with the iPad, but Federighi was present in full-force today with just the right balance of boldness and humor.
Like in the fall, Kevin Lynch showed off watchOS. The new version, due in the fall, brings the tools for developers to build native apps. Lynch is soft spoken compared to Federighi, but his segment was easy to follow. I’m not using many WatchKit apps, and while I’m not sure if native apps will make a bigger dent in my workflow, it’s exciting nonetheless.
Much more importantly than product details is the set of presenters we saw today.
As expected, Apple had two women on stage today. Jennifer Bailey, head of Apple Pay, walked through the service’s new features and success and Susan Prescott, Vice President of Product Marketing, introduced and showed off Apple’s new News app. Both were excellent additions, bringing a new feel to Apple’s stage presence.
There’s no way around it; Apple’s work to promote diversity may be some of the best in the industry, but that has not been reflected on stage during the company’s events. Apple is behind its peers in this area, but I think Cupertino is well aware of the fact.
As important as this is, in five years, I expect we will all remember the Apple Music segment the most clearly.
Coming after a overly-dramatic “one more thing” slide from Cook, the Apple Music segment was awkward, poorly-paced and too long.
Jimmy Iovine wasn’t great on stage. He stumbled into a iPhone keynote joke, and clearly didn’t understand why people were laughing. He made a multi-line joke about playing music during sex that was just … awkward. However, his story about meeting Steve Jobs during the early iTunes days was nice to hear, and there’s no doubt that the guy is an industry leader.
Stage presence issues aside, Iovine got through his section without giving a clear explanation of Apple Music. If the keynote had ended after his segment, I’d have very little idea about what the product actually does. That’s the entire reason for this sort of event, and by that simple metric, Iovine wasn’t a successful speaker.
Sadly, however, that wasn’t the end of the Apple Music section of the keynote. Drake’s stage time was short, and while he was wearing a bad-ass six-color Apple logo jacket, I also think his time was a bit of a dud. He explained some of the tools for artists to connect with fans from within Apple Music, trying to show the benefits of Apple Music for artists. Like Iovine’s time, it wasn’t immediately clear what Apple Music can do in this regard.
Lastly, Eddie Cue demoed the new iOS Music app for what felt like an eternity. The app seems dense, and maybe even confusing, but again, Apple didn’t make it very clear what’s going on with the product. It’s a mashup of streaming, iTunes Match and YouTube.
Another big issue with Cue’s time was the pacing. The executive played a lot of music samples while showing the app, adding extra minutes to an already long keynote. Many people I watched the keynote with were ready for Apple to wrap up just a few minutes into Cue’s demo.
The truth is that events like this seem crazy hard to pull off well, and while Apple generally does a great job, this year’s was a bit of a mixed bag. The pacing and length of today’s keynote was a bit of an issue, but the announcements were solid. The first 90 minutes were as good as Apple can be on stage, but the music section was just a wreck.
Sadly, it can be hard to separate those things in the days after an event like WWDC. I certainly don’t think Apple Music will be hampered by its introduction, but it could be hitting the ground running in a stronger way if the complaints weren’t present.