The tech world was caught off guard by Apple, Inc. CEO Steve Jobs pulling out of a keynote speech at the annual Macworld conference. As it was put in so many articles, the speech tends to be something huge that the technology world looks to. Even the networks slip in the latest announcements from the keynote into the evening news.
The question on everyone’s lips has been, “Why?”
Well, first off, he didn’t pull out of the keynote, per say. One of the hallmarks of Jobs’ keynotes the past few years has been the slew of stories around this time of the year saying he hasn’t confirmed he’s giving a presentation, even though it’s virtually assumed by anyone attached to the event.
This year was no different. Apple announced in a press release that “Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, will deliver the opening keynote for this year’s Macworld Conference & Expo, and it will be Apple’s last keynote at the show.” At no point in the press release is Jobs or his assumed absence mentioned.
Call me crazy, but I think this was the plan all along.
Back at the Worldwide Developers Conference (or WWDC for short), Apple made a brief mention of Snow Leopard, its next major operating system release. For those who haven’t been keeping track in the past seven years, each release of Mac OS X has a codename which is feline-related (Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard).
Each release has involved a few radical changes and additions to draw people into upgrading from their current system. Tiger had a powerful new search method called Spotlight and a place to run small applications called widgets on Dashboard. Leopard brought a revolutionary backup system called Time Machine which allows for hourly backups to be made and easily sifted through if a hard drive crashes.
Snow Leopard though was different. The only major change will be something called Grand Central which changes the way processes are handled by the operating system and I could go on about, but I want you to stay awake instead. The entire idea behind this upgrade is to tighten up the code in the operating system (i.e. trim the fat)
Let’s backtrack just a little bit away from Apple. For the past couple of years, housing prices had been going through the roof and everybody was getting easy credit. There were all sorts of prognostications of doom and gloom, especially with the addition of skyrocketing gas prices.
And then the bottom fell out. Panic swept the markets and companies left and right saw their stocks tank overnight while the Dow gave back hundreds of points of gains a day.
But Apple had announced back in February that it was packing $18 billion in cash to ride out any tough times on the horizon.
Now look at Snow Leopard. There aren’t any massive changes happening, it’s a perfecting of what already exists. A retooling in a bad economy to make sure everything is humming properly.
An operating system upgrade can bring all sorts of improvements and breathe life into the software, but it can also drive hardware sales. After all, those new software toys are going to need a better computer to run on than the last one. The problem is, people are hurting for cash right now and getting buried under debt. The last time I checked, priorities don’t do in the order of computer, food, clothes.
Apple has been ready for this downturn and this is a part of their strategy. So what about Macworld? Tune in for part 2 (hopefully) tomorrow.