Opinion: Apple’s secret sauce | CNN

Opinion: Apple’s secret sauce | CNN

Jeff Chiu/AP

The iPhone 15 Professional is displayed after its introduction on the Apple campus, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, in Cupertino, Calif.

Editor’s Word: Jeff Yang is a frequent contributor to CNN Opinion. He co-hosts the podcast “They Name Us Bruce,” and is co-author of the bestselling e book “RISE: A Pop Historical past of Asian America from the Nineties to Now” and writer of the forthcoming “THE GOLDEN SCREEN: The Motion pictures That Made Asian America.” The opinions expressed on this commentary are his personal. Learn extra opinion on CNN.


The room goes hush because the lights go down. The stage brightens with a single spot — and out walks the long-lasting chief, the shepherd of the flock, the purveyor of desires. After which, the story unfurls, chapter by chapter, with clear charts, huge numbers, temporary captions and whirling and zooming photos of know-how that draw oohs, aahs and infrequently, standing ovations.

I’ve by no means been current at an Apple occasion in particular person, however I’ve watched each one within the Web period through livestream or after-the-fact video, and have invariably been blown away by how effectively Apple has mined not simply the intersection of know-how and the humanities, as founder Steve Jobs was regularly identified to brag, however the convergence of substance and hoopla.

There are many very actual world-changing improvements that Apple has unveiled over the a long time — the Mac, the iPhone and the Apple Watch amongst them. However Apple holds its occasions at the very least twice a 12 months for customers and builders, and all too typically the merchandise, providers and concepts that the corporate unveils at them are snarked upon as follow-on fare with incremental tweaks which have little actual influence on usability or efficiency.

And but, even seasoned tech observers — I’ll depend myself on this bunch — can’t keep of their seats once they’re revealed.

Watches with “Double Faucet” gesture recognition? AI pet recognition know-how for the brand new iPhone 15 digital camera? Titanium encasements for the brand new 15 Professional and Professional Max? USB-C charging? (Lastly!) Let the group roar! (A legit cheerworthy second, although: Apple’s newly bolstered dedication, introduced with the assistance of Octavia Spencer enjoying Mom Nature, to having its units be completely web zero local weather influence by 2030. Inexperienced Apples for the win.)

So what’s Apple’s secret sauce? Why has the corporate been in a position to maintain such persistent ardour and loyalty? And the way has it been in a position to maintain pleasure ranges so enviably excessive, provided that, like each firm, Apple has had its share of infamous flops through the years? (The Newton, the Dice and the misbegotten Apple gaming platform Pippin spring to thoughts.)

A giant a part of it’s Apple’s relentless dedication to showmanship, leaning right into a crucial set of ways through the years to make sure that its occasions are Occasions, with a capital E.

They’re rigorously deliberate, choreographed and rehearsed

Jobs would follow his shows for weeks earlier than donning the black mock turtleneck and hitting the stage, and his successor Tim Cook dinner has adopted Jobs’s work ethic and formalized it as coverage. The corporate levels every occasion just like the Normandy invasion, with executives reportedly setting apart two full weeks to follow their shows.

Whether or not it’s a music participant, a magnetic pockets or a brand new model of cable connection, even the best Apple improvements get a degree of reverential therapy that Hollywood icons can solely dream of. And presenters are cautious to not overshadow the units, standing with composed faces, talking in rigorously flat, measured tones, and making gently symmetrical gestures. They’re not protagonists on this story; they’re humble non-player characters, providing up magical instruments to assist the viewers of their journey.

They winnow difficult know-how right down to key options that audiences can readily perceive

There may be just a few numbers and benchmarks in Apple’s product shows, however they’re rigorously curated — and sometimes cited as multiples (10 occasions sooner; twice as lengthy) or comparisons (thinner than a pencil). However the actual sleight of hand in how Apple simplifies tech lies in how effectively presenters residence in on a single, clear concept that brings to life what the expertise might be for the tip consumer. The iPod wasn’t an “MP3 participant.” It was “a thousand songs … proper in my pocket.” And the iPhone? It wasn’t only a telephone. It was the web in your pocket. (Apple is aware of that one of the simplest ways to extract cash is to be in individuals’s pockets.)

However finally, what makes Apple Occasions magical is that this: Apple Occasions are purpose-built to engender surprise — sure, identical to within the title of in the present day’s occasion, “Wonderlust.” Surprise is, merely put, “thriller” plus “pleasure” — an entirely sudden shock that triggers a sudden jolt of pleasure and inspiration.

The “sudden shock” aspect of the surprise algorithm is why Apple locations such a phenomenally excessive premium on secrecy. The web impact is to drive the fan base right into a frenzy as occasion day approaches, priming them to deal with regardless of the firm showers upon them as pure gold.

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It’s straightforward to be cynical about Apple’s finely tuned hype machine. The workers on stage are undoubtedly earnest of their exhortations; the boast amongst Apple’s old-guard acolytes was that they “bleed six colours,” like the corporate’s previously multi-hued emblem. However for any public firm, the colour that issues most is the inexperienced of money, and Apple is liable for gushers of that. On the finish of the day, the present the corporate places on isn’t leisure or training. It’s self-promotion.

And but, for the hour or two that Apple Occasions final, they nonetheless handle to entrance us; to tug us into their story; and to make us really feel a way of awe on the care and energy, the eye to element, the whimsically sudden easter eggs that Apple merchandise at all times supply.

Surprise is one thing now we have too little of in our lives, and that feels transformative once we expertise it, even within the service of unit gross sales. Surprise slows down the world. Surprise helps us really feel human. And as researchers have found, surprise has the tendency to make us extra beneficiant towards others — opening our pockets simply sufficient to buy an iPhone 15 Max Professional, maybe.

No surprise Apple is price almost $3 trillion.

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