I miss Apple's reality distortion field

Without Apple's patented reality distortion field, the company launches a new iPhone 5, but resembles many other tech companies.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor
Tim Cook on how well Apple products work together in a "solution." Credit: James Martin, CNET

Apple's iPhone 5 launch with new iPods and an iTunes overhaul highlights the new era at the company that revolves around incremental updates, design prowess, and control of an entire user experience. But something is missing: The Steve Jobs reality distortion field.

Jobs' showmanship was brilliant. He could take an incremental update---or a feature that has been seen somewhere else before---and make you think it was brilliant, amazing and beautiful. I knew it was a game, but it was one I played willingly. I'm going through Apple keynote withdrawal.

Now I'm beginning to wonder if Amazon does better Apple keynotes than Apple does. This riff isn't a knock on Apple per se, but discipline is lacking. First, Apple saw most of its iPhone 5 features leaked ahead of time. Then, there's a question of editing. Would Jobs have combined an iPhone 5, iPod and iTunes revamp, which happens to resemble Microsoft's Zune service, in one shindig?

Probably not.

Without the showmanship and Jobs' reality distortion field these Apple announcements look like really nice upgrades---for Apple users. A 4-inch screen is nice, but I already have one on my Android device. LTE is nice too, but I have that already. Apple execs today don't have me salivating over the iPhone 5. Jobs would have told me I had to give a crap and I would have.

More: Apple's iPhone 5 upgrade cycle secured with global LTE, 4G support Apple announces iPhone 5: What you need to know | The Apple iPhone 5: Now or later? | iPhone fantasies, Android phones realities | What could go wrong with the iPhone 5 launchTech leaders vacillate on iPhone 5, with growing anticipation of Windows 8 | Samsung vs. Apple: Are LTE patents the next battleground? | All ZDNet iPhone coverage | All CNET iPhone coverage | Techmeme | Apple statement

The mesmerization routine is gone. Apple has solid engineering and gave you the iPhone you should have had last year.

Apple CEO Tim Cook will tell you that the company is firing on all cylinders. And it is. Apple's reality distortion field isn't at 100 percent these days, but the financials are. Apple's lock on an ecosystem is in place too. And oh by the way Apple will sell a zillion iPhone 5 devices around the world.

Cook said at Apple's powwow via CNET:

When you look at each of these, they are incredible industry leading innovations by themselves. But what sets them apart, and what puts Apple way out ahead of the competition is how they work so well together. Only Apple could create such amazing software hardware and services and put them together into such a powerful, integrated solution. Apple has never been stronger, and that's because of the dedication of our employees... they are doing the best work of their lives.

Cook is right to some degree, but he said the one word that makes me cringe: Solution. The word "solution" is what enterprise vendors say all day long. Solution is the word companies to sell you an integrated stack of stuff. Jobs would have never used a word like solution. Solution didn't sell and wasn't magical. "Solution" is used when you can't put in English what your products actually do. In Apple's messaging a word like solution is the equivalent of lobbing a nuclear missile into a force field. Perhaps the force field---reality distortion field in Apple's case---holds, but it'll be damaged.

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