Every time Apple introduces new products at one of their keynote events, there is this inevitable comparison with the late Steve Jobs. I've written about it before and really thought we'd be done with it. Everyone on the team at Apple has now found their role in these keynote presentations. Apple's keynotes are different now, but they're still recognisably Apple.
Last week's keynote was bigger than usual since, for the first time since Steve Jobs' death, Apple introduced an entirely new product category. And, inevitably, the "Steve would have done it differently" comments came up again. Sigh.
Yes, I too believe that Steve Jobs would have done many things differently when introducing the Apple Watch. But he's dead. He's not coming back. Tim Cook runs the company now. He runs it differently in subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle ways. And that extends to the keynote events.
Don't try to be Steve Jobs
Tim Cook is not a bad presenter but he's not Steve Jobs. Most importantly, he doesn't try to be like Steve Jobs, and neither should he. Or anybody else, for that matter. There are many books and articles out there that promise you to become a presenter like Steve Jobs by following a few simple rules. I understand the idea of "click bait", but I'd say these articles are operating under a wrong assumption: You are not Steve Jobs. You will not become like Steve Jobs by following advice from a book or article, and neither should you.
Steve Jobs was a rather unique figure (and let's not forget that he also had his negative sides). What worked for him only worked because of that unique combination of feats and weaknesses. If you try to imitate him, you will only make yourself look silly - or desperate.
Of course, there is a lot that we can learn from the way Steve Jobs presented. I'm only saying that you shouldn't try to imitate him, because you will fail.
Tim Cook has understood this. At the Apple Watch event, he was genuinely himself and quite obviously happy with finally being able to show this new product to the world. He was also visibly very proud of it. He did show his emotions and even allowed himself a few spontaneous gestures (the raised arms or "rock star pose" when he came back after the introduction video for the watch is not something he'd usually do).
Tim Cook has found his own style, as I wrote before: He's the master of ceremonies at Apple's events now. He provides the context and the overall story arch. And then he lets those that are responsible for the individual product take over. As such, he doesn't follow the rule that Guy Kawasaki came up with (thinking of Steve Jobs): "Real CEOs demo." Tim Cook doesn't do demos, not even of the Apple Watch. He did take his time, though, to explain the thinking behind the device. Then he handed off the demo part to Kevin Lynch.
Real CEOs should demo, at least a little
Would it have been better if Tim Cook had demoed the device himself? Actually, I doubt it. Steve Jobs had a lot of fun showing all the little details that the new products had. Somehow, I can't see Tim Cook in that same role; and neither can he, apparently, so again he's not trying to imitate Steve Jobs but find his own style.
I do think that it would have helped to make a more personal connection with the watch, though. Yes, he was wearing it and he mentioned that he's controlling his Apple TV with it. But that's not very convincing - every CEO of every other company would have said something similar about their new product. I think he should have found one convincing personal use case and demonstrated or at least explained it to the audience. After all, this is supposedly Apple's most personal product. What does it say if their CEO can't come up with a personal example?
That is something that Steve Jobs was good at. So again, the lesson is not to try and be Steve Jobs but to learn from his presentation style - and then find your own style.
(The photos are screenshots from the podcast video, available via iTunes)
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