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Thoughts on Apple’s Media Event…

I'm writing this on the way back from Apple's "It's only rock and roll, but we like it" event in London. I'm using an Intel MacBook while I listen to the new Dave Matthews Band album on my iPhone 3G. Don't say I'm not an Apple fan.

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I’m writing this on the way back from Apple’s “It’s only rock and roll, but we like it” event in London. I’m using an Intel MacBook while I listen to the new Dave Matthews Band album on my iPhone 3G. Don’t say I’m not an Apple fan.

Why do I feel it necessary to promote my Cupertino-coveting credentials you may ask? I mention it because what I’m about to say isn’t the sort of thing you expect to hear from an Apple fanboy.

Tonight’s media event was nothing short of a waste of time. I appreciate that attending a smaller, less glamorous and certainly much less live version of the San Francisco event takes a little of the gloss off things but, even if Steve Jobs sat me down in my favourite living room chair, poured me a herbal tea and explained to me personally what each new release meant (which would take all of two sips) I still wouldn’t be impressed.

I was over the moon to see the great man return to fronting Apple’s events and, in doing so, show a level of genuine emotion that hasn’t been seen live since his return to Apple. It made me wonder if he was a changed man. Have the perfectionist persuasions and my way or the highway mentalities subsided and revealed a Steve aware of his own mortality? I couldn’t possibly say because I’m not going to ask him and I’m certainly not going to pester his PR team about it. His health is up to him and, some may say, his board. I’m more worried about the health of Apple’s once untouchable marketing and PR.

The thinner CEO aside, what about the measly offerings the crowd were fed on today? Apple is a victim of its own success and of Jobs’ magic on stage. When Apple has an average product, he makes it great. A really good product is a revolution. Today he had nothing to offer and neither did Apple. You cannot expect to gather (and this is no exaggeration) the world’s press together to sit in a room and hear information, 75% of which they already know. On top of that you add a couple of flourishes to iTunes and its Store and a truly extraordinary choice of upgrade in the iPod department and you have, a waste of a lot peoples time.

This is where I get confused. I’m not one to listen to too many of the rumours pre-event (unless I created them) but I did hear that there was some kind of manufacturer cock-up with cameras on the iPod touch. If I were to go “Colombo” on this case I’d suggest that it really felt like something was missing from today’s presentation. The iPod touch upgrade (double the storage and reduced price for the smallest model) seemed such a weak announcement given the amount of time that was dedicated to its skills, its apps and its impact on the market. They even wheeled out the developers (again) as a tidy little time waster. All this for technology that hadn’t actually changed bar one larger hard drive. It’s also worth noting that Jobs exited the stage at this point to hand the task of breaking this rather unsubstantial slice of news to Apple’s “delivery boy”, Phil Schiller. One day he’ll have his moment, for now he gets the dirty work.

So should there have been a camera in the iPod touch? It seems like there should have been. As an iPhone 3G owner I’m pissed not to have video recording capabilities on my phone but I’ve come to accept that I don’t own the high end iPhone any more. But what about the iPod touch, where does it sit in the Apple’s product lineup? Surely it’s the top end iPod and not a lesser iPhone. In which case, should touch users not be annoyed that the nano now does video but their considerably more expensive top of the line iPod doesn’t? It all seems a little strange to me.

So I’ll say it again as the train rolls back into my home station completing over 10 hours of sitting, watching and waiting that I’m never getting back. This event was a waste of time. Apple had its high with the iPhone and subsequent 3G model and even impressed with the Jobs-less iLife announcement (the last truly exciting keynote) but to pull all the press together for such a non-event as we witnessed today seems crazy. The company has to remember, as it no doubt does when it balances the books, that it’s a major player on many fronts now. Not everyone at these events is a die-hard Mac journalist anymore, they’re international journalists for the big hitters in news media and not all of them are so easily spellbound by anything short of miraculous technology. Even the hardcore Mac press, myself included, will find it hard to shout about anything from today’s “unveiling”.

Maybe there was a problem with a planned iPod touch camera, maybe Jobs is just getting back into his presentational stride but maybe, just maybe, we saw the death of the Apple “media event” today. With so many great keynotes still lingering in the memory, so many rumours of great things to come, rather than show us how to shoot video from the worlds coolest portable media player, Apple simply shot itself in the foot.