With the release today of Apple’s “smallest iPod Shuffle ever,” the
pioneering tech bellwether continues to wean us off its charismatic founder,
Steve Jobs. Until recently, the new Shuffle would have been unveiled as
an appetizer during a bigger media banquet one of those wonderful
little trinkets that Jobs would show off at the start of, say, a Macworld
But that was then and this is the post-Jobs Apple now.
With the chairman and CEO on sick leave until June, the company has been
working hard to carry on with business as usual a tough trick since business
was usually carried on the back of Jobs. He was the front man, the face of
Apple, its every innovation incarnate. Even a trifle like the new Shuffle,
with its clever way of “speaking” the names of tracks and playlists to ease
navigation, would have been his to unveil. Not this morning.
The Apple Store went down briefly, then came back up with news of the new, new thing: “The first
music player that talks to you.” Uncharacteristically, Apple’s p.r. folks,
normally a reticent bunch, carried out a coordinated media blitz at dawn,
offering up Apple execs to reporters for briefings. The scenario was similar
to last month’s refresh of the company’s desktop Macs, which were also announced
without the usual fanfare.
The new Shuffle costs $79 and replaces the one that cost $49. That’s
potentially a big driver to Apple’s bottom line. Veteran Apple analyst Gene
Munster of Piper Jaffray thinks the higher price tag carries higher margins
for Apple, increasing its revenue and profit. That’s yet another reason Jobs
would have delivered the news and taken the victory lap.
Greg Joswiak, who oversees iPod and iPhone marketing for Apple,
says the non-Jobsian approach is nothing new. “We’ve always done
a mixture” of product releases, some without a lot of fanfare or big-tent releases, he says.
“For this one, it just made sense to do it this way. We’ve done a lot on our
website to make sure customers understand how it works.”
It is, of course, entirely possible that even when Jobs returns, this
faceless way of doing business makes more sense than the Jobs/Apple way.
Apple’s stores generate their own buzz, after all, despite these days of
economic Armageddon. Besides, Apple’s products continue to be so cool, they
get us to write about them. Even in the absence of Jobs.
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Read “Tim Cook: The New Steve Jobs”