WWDC 2017: I miss Steve Jobs and his 'Reality Distortion Field'

The modern Apple keynote is packed with Darth Vader and special effects and TIE fighters and explosions and weed jokes, and there's not a moment to catch a breath.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
I miss Steve Jobs and his 'Reality Distortion Field'

Yes, Darth Vader made an appearance at Apple's WWDC 2017 keynote.

Yesterday's WWDC keynote made me nostalgic for the Steve Jobs days, with his laid back style and calming 'Reality Distortion Field.'

See also : Apple transformed the WWDC keynote into a big hardware sales pitch

Keynotes of past were tranquil. Peaceful. Even Zen. The excitement was limited to a new product or feature, and the event was carefully paced so that everyone had time to absorb the information, and take a breath before moving on.

We were teased with new products and given more than we expected, but not so much as to feel overwhelmed or overcome.

Pricing was discussed, but in a low-key, discreet, and tasteful way.

But not anymore.

Yesterday's keynote was less Zen and more a Marvel or Star Wars movie. There were spaceships and laser blasts and TIE fighters screaming across the stage, volcanoes and lava, and even Darth Vader made an appearance.

And the pacing was breakneck, reminiscent of a Michael Bay Transformers movie, with everything coming at you at a furious, non-stop pace. There wasn't a moment to catch your breath and take in what you'd seen a second ago before a new presenter was flinging more stuff at you.

I think the only time I relaxed during the entire keynote was during the five seconds it took me to down a Red Bull.

But it wasn't just the style that was different; the content was also noticeably altered.

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It used to be that Apple didn't unveil products during the WWDC keynote. WWDC is a developer conference; as such, Apple has focused on things that are of interest to those building apps for its various platforms. Sure, there are plenty of examples where the presentation was kicked into the weeds, but these were the exception, not the norm.

But not anymore.

Now the keynote is the place to hit developers over the head with new products. Product update after product update was unveiled, along with several new products, even products that had no direct relationship with developers (such as the HomePod). Now Apple can save on the expense and effort of having launch events for products by cramming them into the WWDC keynote.

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I wonder how much of this is driven by the fact that there's really not enough that's new and exciting about Apple's products to demand a launch event. Even new products such as the iMac Pro and HomePod were done to death after about 10 minutes.

It was crass and tasteless and so unlike past keynotes that I'm led to the conclusion that Apple is so worried about hardware sales that it transformed the keynote into a cringeworthy sales event.

OK, maybe we're not at "Steve Ballmer monkey dance" levels of cringe yet, but Craig Federighi's quippy segments, with their not-so-subtle weed jokes, are getting close.

If this is the reality of an Apple event from now on, it makes me long for the 'Reality Distortion Field' that Jobs wielded so expertly. He had an effortless onstage charisma that went beyond special effects, scripted jokes, and frantic pacing.

He sold you stuff without you realizing it. Now, you can smell the desperation, almost as if everyone on stage is on commission.

I miss you, Steve.

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