Apple Will Never Surprise Us Again

by James R. Stoup Sep 15, 2006

I have bad news for everyone, we have officially reached the end of an era. Light a candle, sing a song and call your mother because today is a day of mourning. From hence forth Apple will never surprise us again.


Don’t expect any more surprises, no more rabbits-out-of-the-hat. The magic is dead and gone, so if you would, turn out the lights when you leave, please.

Why am I so morbid? Why such dire predictions? I will tell you why. The giant moment of realization hit me today as I was reading up on the reactions to Apple’s latest special event. The main stream media, pundits, bloggers and random hacks (oh wait, I mentioned bloggers already) have all seemingly come to the same conclusion that this event just wasn’t very exciting. Most of the responses sounded a lot like this:

New iPods? Eh, seen it before.
Cooler Nanos? Got one.
But there in color! *yawn*
And there are games too. Who needs it?
Movies? Knew that was coming last year.
iTV? Wake me in January.

Now, I grant you, there wasn’t any anouncement that would cause rioting in the streets, but these were all very nice products. This leads me to ask the question—What exactly was everyone expecting? Oh wait, thats right, the iPhone. Ladies and gentlemen, please get a grip on reality (hard as that might be) and listen to me.

Apple is a very innovative company. In fact, I would say it is the most creative company around. But it can only revolutionize the industry so many times in a 5 year period. We understand that, right?

We understand that Apple can’t create something completely new every 6 months that redefines an industry, just so you won’t get bored. Hey, if you are tired of hearing about what is coming next stop reading Think Secret.


  • It is not apple that is fooling you, mozart11, it is the hype and buzz in the blogosphere. Apple evidently uses a different definition of an event to you. Which is fine: these events are a good - no, a superb way of getting the news out their about their new products. They are not the ones making claims about the events; the numerous commentators are.

    If you don’t think that the launch of a full-blown integrated movie download store that lets you watch movies on the go, on your computer or on your TV is a major event, then that’s fair enough, but that is merely your opinion and I beg to differ.

    The problem, in my view, is expectations are unreasonable. As has been said several times, even Apple cannot produce truly new products more frequently than every few years. And I don’t quite see why people have such difficulty adjusting their expectations, when they have no trouble accepting this simple fact.

    Benji had this to say on Sep 15, 2006 Posts: 927
  • I’m with mozart11.  Live by the sword; die by the sword.  If you want to create a media-frenzied cult of Apple (and make no mistake, this is ENTIRELY Jobs’s creation), then you run the risk of being destroyed (or criticized) by your own creation.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 15, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • The problem, in my view, is expectations are unreasonable. As has been said several times, even Apple cannot produce truly new products more frequently than every few years.

    Poor, poor little ol’ Apple. 

    Boo.  Effing.  Hoo. 

    Victims of the unreasonable (and according to tinfoil-hat-wearing MacGlee, deliberately malicious) blogosphere.

    Just where did little Stevie Jobs get his reputation for being the mad marketing genius, when CLEARLY he just wanted to announce a couple of little product upgrades with no hype or expectations, just a vague invitation sent to media all over the world to come to Cupertino.  Y’know, so they can keep it close to the vest and NOT speculate about what it could be about.

    Surely Apple is the victim here.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 15, 2006 Posts: 2220
  • There is an interesting psychological dynamic that has arisen here.  In classical conditioning, when a trainer is first starting to work with a subject, the trainer rewards every instance where the desired behavior occurs. (I.E. the mouse presses bar and gets a biscuit.) But reseachers have discovered that one reward for one behavior actually reduces the training efficiency.  The subject gets bored and stops seeking the reward. A better ratio, once the subject has learned there are rewards to be earned, is to reward every 5th or 6th or 10th instance of the desired behavior.  As a result the subject displays the desired behavior more frequently in anticipation of maybe the reward will come this time.  (This is the same principle that makes gambling and gaming so exciting.) And the trainer can mold those behaviors more effectively by dishing the rewards when desirable variations on the behavior spontaneously arise.  (This lowered reward to behavior ratio also means the trainer doesn’t burn through the rewards as quickly.)
      Now look at what is going on with Apple’s events.  The behavior Apple desires is attention and buzz and press.  The reward they have to offer is cool new tech.  Early in their comeback,  when Steve first came back to Apple, Cool new tech was only announced at Macworld in January and in July.  Maybe at WWDC.  And the New products came announced in bunches with multiple things announced at once. Minor product revision announcements would come in bland press releases in between the big conferences.  We “mice” became conditioned to expect cool new tech whenever Steve took the stage. 
      Now that we have made the association “Steve speaks- we get toys,”  Apple has started having special Steve speeches multiple times through the year, frequently unassociated with any conference.  We get geared up every time like it is Christmas and maybe only one thing gets announced or its just a product revision but it keeps Apple in the spotlight.  And maybe we’re disappointed a little but that surely means that the big reward will come the next time Steve speaks, and we show up in droves.  We are like the mouse that keeps pressing the bar in new and inventive ways waiting for the biscuit to drop.  We talk about iPod strategy and Intel switches and BootCamp.  We tell our friends when the next event is coming.  We dish on the rumor sites.  We contemplate the leaked photo fakes of unannounced products.  We keep giving Apple attention hoping the next event is going to be the “Big Event.”
      I’m not pointing this out to indicate that Apple is playing us for fools,  but they are using an entrenched psychological principle as a marketing tool.  No other company is able to do this because no other company has the history of secrecy and the track record of dropping the pleasure bomb of the “Next Big Thing” on a semi-regular basis.  If Apple didn’t produce the reward at least periodically (eg: original iMac, original iPod, the iTunes store, etc.), then none of us would pay attention.  But now they have our attention and by dishing out the rewards in a sparse and measured fashion, they get a lot more bang for the buck out of their product announcements.

    0g1dnew had this to say on Sep 15, 2006 Posts: 1
  • A skeptical consumer is what they’re getting now.  -Mozart

    I don’t think >60 million iPod customers can be called skeptical, do they? If those people are happy using their ‘Pods then count on them to ride the Apple buzz train for years to come.

    So there are a few people that have been disappointed from the last two “events” that they promised themselves to not again raise their hopes up like they will go out the next day and ransack the closest Apple Store uptown like a child let loose at Toys ‘R Us on Christmas Eve.

    For most loyal fans, Tuesday’s “Showtime” event was inevitable. Apple needed to refresh the iPod lines good enough to keep the lines flowing and cash registers ringing until Macworld. There was no need to dramatically alter the current video iPod design since that is barely one year old.

    Those very dissuaded people who promised themselves will again go out of their way just so they can hit the rumor mills and those damn Digg news clips come Macworld.

    Mac PR events are, admit it, are like a good high. The rumor mill is just the ticket to get the heart pumping with anxiety for that next great Apple contraption.

    And yes, Macworld San Francisco will again be buzzing with all kinds of rumours weeks in advance both realistic and vice versa. It is all up to your senses to sift through all these or you can just turn off your broadband connection and the boob tube..err..pixels.

    Robomac had this to say on Sep 15, 2006 Posts: 846
  • But now they have our attention and by dishing out the rewards in a sparse and measured fashion, they get a lot more bang for the buck out of their product announcements. -Og1

    I apologize for not reading your well written input re: inherent to Mac geek’s psychological tendencies of gambling the next “big thing”. Very well read and enjoyed.

    So, there is a deep psychological reasons for this. I knew it! Why didn’t I study Psychology more than reading those damn blogs and rumour sites? I guess it is more fun to read Mac articles after all, even when they are mostly farse and unrealistically told.

    Like what I was saying in my last post. We will all be lining up again to push that lever for Macworld will (we swear) will be the next big biscuit for us to chew on. Yes!

    Robomac had this to say on Sep 15, 2006 Posts: 846
  • Expectations are too high because the boat to the future tech has too many leaks.. Apple seems resigned now to battle the leaks, so now it’s leaking its own products to deflate the overhype machine..  Seems like a proper adaptation to the situation to me.. by deflating the conjecture, nobody can be disappointed anymore and fewer people will be reading Think Secret.. but that leads us right back to Apple being able to surprise us again with what they didn’t choose to preview or what key pieces of information were conveniently left out..  JUST LIKE OS X Leopard… only 30% of the feature set was shown…

    Xapplimatic had this to say on Sep 16, 2006 Posts: 15
  • I was disappointed by think secret but not by Apple.
    Rumors of an iPhone, widescreen iPod, movies at iTMS, a tablet Mac, and the digital hub.
    Well, we got the iTV, the movies and updated iPods (including a cool shuffle.)
    I think it was plenty for a press session.
    If you want a wide screen device, that can play music, video, surf
    the net and even plays games and that cost the same that an iPod? Get a PSP!
    Or just wait for the next big thing.

    thetnt had this to say on Sep 16, 2006 Posts: 8
  • I think we have reached that point long ago. People mention that the iPod introduction was a revolution, but iPod refreshments are not. Fact is, people even yawned when the iPod was introduced! “What, an MP3 player?”. Or the iMac with the sunflower design. It might have been a revolution, had not Time magazine published a picture of it one or more days before the event.

    I have one solution: don’t read Mac rumor sites. Today, one site is again claiming that the iPhone will come out early 2007. You know what, just forget about that iPhone. If it comes out, fine. But don’t tell us before each Apple event that now is the time for the iPhone; people will get disappointed with the actual show, and eventually the rumor site will be right as an Apple phone will probably arrive *someday*.

    tombeck had this to say on Sep 16, 2006 Posts: 3
  • Apple phone will probably arrive *someday*. Even though it won’t be a surprise anymore.

    nana had this to say on Sep 18, 2006 Posts: 63
  • iTablet anyone?

    VCH had this to say on Sep 19, 2006 Posts: 4
  • 0g1dnew - great post.

    With the benefit of hindsight, the importance of “Its Showtime” becomes apparent.  US$50M additional income per year to Disney for NO MARKETING COST and NO MATERIAL COST and NO SUPPLY COST.  Just legal costs I guess!  grin

    It was an important announcement - and perhaps, in time to come, we will see this announcement as the beginning of a major change in the way movies and videos are distributed.

    If you wanted more toys as well, you are just being greedy…

    And, BB, you haven’t been taking your nice pills have you…  Die by the sword - dear oh dear,,,

    Apple has a very large consumer base today.  You cannot expect every announcement to be designed to play to “toy hungry” applephiles…

    sydneystephen had this to say on Sep 21, 2006 Posts: 124
  • And, BB, you haven’t been taking your nice pills have you… Die by the sword - dear oh dear,,, -Sydney

    Hah! hah! That’s the funniest I’ve heard from the great city Down Under…

    You do have a good point in Apple has to bland their PR launches now and in the future for ALL Applelites and not just the “Die by the sword” fanboys… wink

    Just noticed, I didn’t know Sydney is now an American city (look at your flag).

    Robomac had this to say on Sep 22, 2006 Posts: 846
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