So far this year, Apple has introduced two new updated laptops, updated iPad Pros, a new iPhone, and there was even a bump to the Mac Mini. Oh, and Magic Keyboards for everyone. And, we haven't even gotten to the most highly-anticipated release, the 5G iPhone. Under normal circumstances, several of those releases would have warranted one of Apple's famous product launch events.
This year is, as we all know, anything but normal.
Instead, every one of those products has been introduced with a quiet morning press release. Of course, you could argue that a company like Apple doesn't really need a high-profile product launch in order to introduce something new. There's more than enough attention paid to the company that any new product is going to get plenty of coverage.
But the product launch is about more than just revealing the design and hardware details of the latest iPhone or cutting edge Mac. It's about the brand. That's why it's worth looking at how the company is adjusting to a world where gathering a bunch of people in a room to look at the newest iGadget just isn't going to happen.
Take, for example, Apple's announcement Tuesday that its Worldwide Developer Conference would be held on June 22nd entirely online. We already knew about the online part, we now also know the date. But the online part is actually a pretty big deal.
Traditionally, Apple has used events like WWDC to introduce new macOS and iOS features, as well as some of its memorable hardware devices. Last year, for example, it gave us the high-end and high-powered Mac Pro, to the delight of creative pros everywhere. (Once they got over the price tag.)
In that way, Apple isn't unique. Its goal is the same as yours should be--to delight customers. Of course, Apple has other ways of doing that, with its iconic retail stores being the most obvious example. Then again, the vast majority of those stores are currently closed worldwide.
So, in the midst of a pandemic, like every company, Apple has had to figure out how to adapt. Here's what seems to me to be the most obvious lesson: Don't try too hard. Right now, your business faces challenges you could never have imagined, and the way you work has been turned completely upside down. The goal shouldn't be to figure out how to do business as usual. The goal should be to figure out how to keep things moving and preparing for what comes after this pandemic.
That's exactly what Apple is doing. While its product launch events are effective, they aren't entirely necessary. I'm sure Apple wishes it could have invited tech journalists and YouTubers to the futuristic Steve Jobs theater for the usual slideshow, but there's actually an interesting twist to the releases this year--genuine surprise.
Usually, everyone knows when a product is about to be released because Apple sends out invitations to announce the launch event. Now, however, Apple just quietly drops the announcements in the morning with a press release. In fact, those of us who cover the company end up doing most of the work for Apple, at least as far as letting people know what's happening.
It turns out, it appears this is working just fine for the company. That's probably because, now that I think about it, surprise is a close cousin of delight.
I don't know if Apple will go back to big event product launches when this is all over, but that's not even the point. The point is that the company isn't trying too hard to manufacture something that simply isn't going to happen. And when that's the case, it's not worth losing sleep over what you can't control. Instead, focus on how you can surprise--and delight--your customers, both now, and in the future.