by Hamed Saber
“We’re starting to do some things differently,” Phil Schiller said to me.
We were sitting in a comfortable hotel suite in Manhattan just over a week ago. I’d been summoned a few days earlier by Apple PR with the offer of a private “product briefing”. I had no idea heading into the meeting what it was about. I had no idea how it would be conducted. This was new territory for me, and I think, for Apple.
I knew it wasn’t about the iPad 3 — that would get a full-force press event in California. Perhaps new retina display MacBooks, I thought. But that was just a wild guess, and it was wrong. It was about Mac OS X — or, as Apple now calls it almost everywhere, OS X. The meeting was structured and conducted very much like an Apple product announcement event. But instead of an auditorium with a stage and theater seating, it was simply with a couch, a chair, an iMac, and an Apple TV hooked up to a Sony HDTV. And instead of a room full of writers, journalists, and analysts, it was just me, Schiller, and two others from Apple — Brian Croll from product marketing and Bill Evans from PR. (From the outside, at least in my own experience, Apple’s product marketing and PR people are so well-coordinated that it’s hard to discern the difference between the two.)
Handshakes, a few pleasantries, good hot coffee, and then, well, then I got an Apple press event for one. Keynote slides that would have looked perfect had they been projected on stage at Moscone West or the Yerba Buena Center, but instead were shown on a big iMac on a coffee table in front of us. A presentation that started with the day’s focus (“We wanted you here today to talk about OS X”) and a review of the Mac’s success over the past few years (5.2 million Macs sold last quarter; 23 (soon to be 24) consecutive quarters of sales growth exceeding the overall PC industry; tremendous uptake among Mac users of the Mac App Store and the rapid adoption of Lion).
And then the reveal: Mac OS X — sorry, OS X — is going on an iOS-esque one-major-update-per-year development schedule. This year’s update is scheduled for release in the summer, and is ready now for a developer preview release. Its name is Mountain Lion.
Yep, Apple gave a complete event, just like Jobs did for hundreds if not thousands via the web, but for just one person.
I really wonder how efficient this might be but it certainly offers something quite different for this sort of an announcement.
Because if done well, this sort of presentation can be tracked much better for identifying who gets the information out to the widest targeted groups. Apple chose Gruber because his site is very influential and followed.
Gruber is a thought leader and is listened to by many people. Thought leaders are those who move ideas from the edges to the mainstream. They are listened to by the vast majority of people in a community.
If you convince a thought leader of something, it becomes much, much easier to convince the group. This could be another instance of Apple’s genius.
Instead of hosting large events where many people may hear about the information but few are actually able to accomplish change, hold one-on-ones with well informed thought leaders and they will accomplish the change for you.
That, after all, is their role.
Wow. It will be interesting to see if that is what happens.