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Apple’s launch extravaganza muted by Covid-19



CEO Tim Cook waves as he arrives on stage during a previous Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose, California.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Apple will start its annual flash of new products and updates next week, but the launch will be different this year.

On Tuesday, Apple will stream a product launch from its Apple Park headquarters in California. However, if this is in line with the announcements made at the Apple developer conference in June, large portions of the presentation will be pre-recorded. CEO Tim Cook will perform in front of an empty theater. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, guests were not invited to the Apple campus to watch the launch live.

This fall will be an important test for Apple, which uses its annual product launches to generate excitement for its new products ahead of the crucial Christmas quarter.

In the past few decades, Apple̵

7;s highly polished keynotes have become cultural icons. Millions around the world tune in, late-night TV presenters parody the way Cook and other Apple executives speak, and high-profile celebrities and business people have even attended the shows on the Apple campus.

They are energetic stage shows and fun listening to new high-priced devices. Last year, nearly 2 million people signed up for part of the iPhone 11 launch on YouTube.

Some of that energy is lost in the transition to a virtual event – like a live crowd that was missing from Apple’s June stream. However, Apple can ensure that the recorded videos are error-free, that the products are ready to ship, and that customers can still view the presentation online.

There’s also a test next week for Apple’s newest senior vice president. In August, Apple announced that Phil Schiller, the company’s top marketer and one of its most influential executives, would serve as an advisory “fellow” with the company, although he is still listed on Apple’s senior management page.

Greg Joswiak is now Apple’s senior vice president of marketing, and while he’s a 20-year Apple veteran known to corporate watchers, he has had limited public access, despite having made more appearances at Apple product events recently would have. If the event goes smoothly, a preview of a new Joswiak approach to Apple launch events can be previewed.

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Apple may not release new iPhones

The Steve Jobs Theater in Apple Park in Cupertino, California.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Tuesday’s launch event may not even have new iPhones – Apple could save the 5G iPhone reveal for a later event.

Apple hasn’t commented on what it launches on Tuesday, but analysts and a report from Bloomberg suggest the first event will focus on new Apple Watch and iPad models. The slogan in the media that invite you to stream is “Time Flies”, an apparent reference to the clock.

“While Apple has announced the new iPhone product line this time of year in the past, this time around the expectation is that iPhone launches will be delayed and the event will focus on iPads and Apple Watch,” JPMorgan analyst Samik Chatterjee said in a note Wednesday.

Holding the iPhone event separately and later would mean a postponement for the company. Since 2012, Apple has announced its new iPhones in September. However, the devices were not always put up for sale immediately after the launch event. In 2017, a revised, more expensive version of the iPhone, the iPhone X, went on sale in early November. The new design has reportedly been difficult to build and in short supply. Apple has also held launch events in October for a few years to bring out products that there was no time for in September.

However, an event without an iPhone is not a complete surprise. Electronics manufacturing has been disrupted by the pandemic, and Apple employees have been working mostly from home since March. Restrictions on international travel have made it very difficult to travel to China to solve factory problems.

In July, Apple CFO Luca Maestri said in a conversation with analysts that the company expects iPhones to be available in October or maybe later. “As you know, we started selling new iPhones at the end of September last year. This year we plan to have the offer available a few weeks later,” he said.

The iPhone is also becoming less and less important for Apple. In the final quarter that ended in June, only 44% of Apple’s sales were from iPhones. A year earlier, the iPhone accounted for 48% of sales, up from a whopping 64% in June 2015.

Meanwhile, iPad sales rose 31% in the June quarter and were well above expectations due to the pandemic. An updated model with a better screen and more power could appeal to large numbers of people looking for computers to work and entertain themselves at home.

The Apple Watch is a central part of Apple’s “wearables” business, one of the company’s fastest growing units. Chatterjee expects the new watch to have additional hardware sensors, making the updated version more appealing to people interested in digital fitness.

No feeling on the red carpet

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Whatever Apple releases, it is sure to make headlines around the world. Most problems with a remote conference have workable solutions. Apple will continue to spread its message – Apple fans and customers can follow the event live on YouTube on Tuesday.

Rather than having hundreds of people from multiple countries touch and take pictures of new devices immediately after the event, Apple can inform reporters and social influencers about review units for further coverage.

But Apple’s events have value to the company, aside from pure marketing considerations. They’re a key finish line for Apple’s annual development cycle and a point of pride for the company. For most Apple designers and engineers, a goal is to have a senior executive showcase a feature or project live at a launch event.

They’re also usually an opportunity for Apple people to interact with people like celebrities who may be considering growing their business with the iPhone maker. Hollywood kings like JJ Abrams, Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey were in attendance at a launch event for Apple TV +, its streaming service, in spring 2019. Power players are also taking part: David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs, was in the house to launch the Apple Card partnership in 2019. Former Disney CEO Bob Iger showed up at an event in 2017. NBA star Anthony Davis was at the start last year.

Top-class musical guests were also part of the show. In 2018, Lana Del Rey debuted a new song at an Apple launch event in Brooklyn. Sia made its appearance when the iPhone 7 hit the market in 2016.

Celebrities and influencers often pose with Cook and other executives for photos that were uploaded to Instagram after the show ended. The feeling at the kick-off events is usually less computer convention and more red carpet.

That kind of flash and celebrity can’t be replicated in a video stream, but millions of people will still tune in to catch the latest Apple goodies that are the real star of the show.

Fix: Updated to reflect the iPhone 11 launched last year.




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