Off to the Apple event this evening, and to marvel at the company's ability to make the smallest changes seem so important. Nobody else could do this, but by swapping in a bigger hard disk, upping the brightness of the screen, making a few changes to the software and dropping in some new headphones, Steve Jobs reckons he's done enough to summon around 1,000 journalists and partners from across Europe to a conference centre in Blackfriars. That's linked by satellite to the main event in San Francisco, where Jobs is strutting his stuff in front of the same sort of number of Americans — and, this being Apple, we all turn up.
As the event is after work, and since our consumer newshounds are also there, I can enjoy it purely as spectacle with no need to take notes or file copy. For fun, I do make contact with one of my more rabid Mac fan friends via IM during the event — he's also on an IRC channel hooked to San Fran, so he's getting it at the same time as I am. But it's good to talk.
The response of the crowd to the unveilings is mixed: the new iPod Nanos and especially the new Shuffle are well received, the online movie store has been so widely trailed and is so poorly stocked that nobody gives it a second thought, and pre-announcement of the the iTV box — it streams your videos to your TV — is lacking in the essential details that will make all the difference.
Up in the press reception and hands-on session afterwards, a wandering radio producer asks me what I thought. "I'm not sure," I said. "Let me think about it..." "It's OK, you're not on air." he said. "Yes," I said, "but..." Another member of the worshipful company of hacks leaped in and gave his much more forthright opinions to fill the gap. I must sharpen up my instant punditry skills.
As I left, a tiny frisson of hope kindled. I could see that the PRs at the door were handing out small packages to the departing throng — could it be that Apple was preparing to undo decades of tradition and hand out those lovely little silver Shuffles to the masses? Perhaps as a mute apology for not really having very much to say, but making such a fuss about saying it anyway?
Nah. Ten free downloads from iTunes.
"But my iPod's full," I said. "No chance of an 80GB upgrade?"
I was out in the cold night air before you could say Cupertino.