Apple CEO Steve Jobs is a master showman, and the “stevenote” his greatest spell.
Showstopper: Steve Jobs holds up the Macbook Air at Macworld 2008. Photo: Matthew Yohe
The colloquial term for his annual keynote speeches, usually given at events such as the annual Macworld Expo or the Worldwide Developers Conference, stevenotes are often where new Apple products (among them the iPhone,iPod and iMac) are first revealed to the world. Jobs’ mastery of the presentation, however, transforms mere speeches into pop culture artefacts, and mystifies an audience of largely reasonable individuals into giddy, excitable converts at the altar of personal electronics.
Consequently, stevenotes have a strange, almost chaos theory-like effect—stock prices vary wildly after each presentation, and much cheering and whooping follow even the most minor of announcements.
So, geeks and journalists were aghast when Apple announced on 16 December that Jobs would miss Macworld 2009, held from 5-9 January. There were rumours of health complications and later, Jobs left on a half-year break from work. Experts think this heralds the end of stevenotes.
From all the dramatic flourishes, maddening suspense and furious speculation to the pulse-quickening thrill of Jobs’ trademark “one more thing...” coda, we draw up a timeline of the best (and rare worst) of Jobsian showmanship.
1983 FALL SALES MEETING
Jobs’ Fall 1983 stevenote at an Apple sales event introduced Apple as “the force that can ensure freedom from an IBM-dominated world”. The now-legendary “1984” advertisement, directed by Ridley Scott, was previewed and the original Macintosh unveiled.
1984 MACINTOSH LAUNCH
Now a YouTube classic, the image of the bow-tied Jobs unveiling the Macintosh at an Apple shareholders’ meet is a textbook example of sheer showmanship.
The next 13 years would be the dark ages of the stevenote, spent in the murky depths of NeXT obscurity, before Jobs returned to a beleaguered and broken Apple in 1997.
1997 MACWORLD BOSTON
The return of the stevenote was a near-disaster. Jobs announced, amid much booing, an alliance with Microsoft (Internet Explorer became the Mac’s official browser, and in what would go down as perhaps the most disappointing Macworld launch announcement yet, Office 98 was announced for the Mac).
1998 MACWORLD NEW YORK
The 1998 stevenote was a remarkable return to form for showman Jobs—flashy, expensive products and an almost masterful command of the adoring and constantly cheering audience. The original iMac and the Powerbook G3 were unveiled, and Apple’s return to profitability was announced in perhaps the first “one more thing...”
Photo: Masashige Motoe
1999 MACWORLD NEW YORK
The original iBook was unveiled, with a trademark Jobsian flourish for seemingly minor features—in this case, the laptop’s apparently revolutionary “handle”.
Apple’s Airport Wireless service was revealed in a “one more thing...”
2000 MACWORLD SAN FRANCISCO
The first stevenote of the new century consolidated and clarified Apple’s strategy for the years ahead. The stylish, robust OS X operating system was shown, and the toaster-like Powermac G4 Cube was launched (it went on to become one of Apple’s rare flops).
2001 CUPERTINO EVENT
In what is now inexplicable, the original iPod was launched at a nondescript, oddly somnolent event in Cupertino, California. While Jobs, with his solid, reasoned defence of the device, appeared convinced of Apple’s decision to make a music player, the audience was strangely silent and tepid.
2001 MACWORLD SAN FRANCISCO
It was a more sombre affair, with Jobs concentrating on hardware upgrades to existing laptop lines and unveiling the “Superdrive”, which could read and write DVDs. The then seemingly unimportant iTunes was also launched and Jobs called it “the hub” of their new digital entertainment strategy.
2003 MACWORLD SAN FRANCISCO
The 17-inch and 12-inch Powerbook were unveiled, and a long-standing source of annoyance within the Mac community was resolved when Safari ousted Internet Explorer as the official browser. Apple’s presentation suite Keynote made its appearance.
2004 MACWORLD SAN FRANCISCO
Jobs, with a ragged beard and looking rather unwell, unveiled the ace up Apple’s sleeve—the small, mid-capacity multicoloured iPod mini—and music software GarageBand was the latest addition to the iLife suite (which included iTunes and iPhoto).
2005 MACWORLD SAN FRANCISCO
A much healthier Jobs launched the iPod Shuffle, and unveiled the Mac Mini, which got loud cheers when its ultra-low price (by Apple standards, that is) of $499 (around Rs24,500 now) was announced.
2006 MACWORLD SAN FRANCISCO
Intel CEO Paul Otellini joined Jobs on stage to announce Apple’s historic shift to Intel processors. The first Intel Macs were unveiled, as was the Macbook Pro, in a “one more thing...”
2007 MACWORLD SAN FRANCISCO
Photo courtesy: Apple Computer
“This is a day I’ve been looking forward to for two-and-a-half years,” said Jobs at the start of his 2007 stevenote—proceeding to pile on the hype and hyperbole for the launch of the iPhone, a device that had been awaited eagerly for so long that journalists immediately dubbed it the “Jesus phone”.
2008 MACWORLD SAN FRANCISCO
The 2008 Macworld saw logical updates to Apple’s existing products; iPhone went 3G and the Macbook Air was pulled out of a manila envelope in a classic Jobs moment.
2009 MACWORLD SAN FRANCISCO
Apple announced that this would be their last appearance at the cult conference. Jobs declined to speak and was replaced by Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice-president of worldwide product marketing. On 14 January, Jobs announced that he was going on a six-month leave of absence.