Boring.

That's the word I'd use to describe Apple's keynote on Wednesday, where the technology giant announced the newest iteration of the iPhone, among a host of other incremental improvements.

As an avid Apple user and fan, I look forward to these keynotes. And don't get me wrong--the new iPhone looks great. The AirPods, Apple's attempt at bringing innovation to wireless earphones, are promising.

But there was something missing.

Think back to the days of Apple's late, legendary founder, Steve Jobs. When Jobs delivered a keynote, it was a completely different affair. Jobs commanded attention. He was charismatic. Riveting.

Love him or hate him, you were interested in what he had to say.

But when I watched Wednesday's program, I felt like I was watching a rerun. Of an old episode. Of a once great TV show that had had long since entered decline.

In fact, I fast forwarded through much of it. (I purposefully didn't watch it live, so I'd have that option.)

So, what made the Jobs-led Apple so different?

There are many intangibles Jobs brought to the table that have now gone sorely missing. But more than anything else, it boils down to one, single quality.

Unparalleled Passion

Jobs surely had excellent presentation skills, but by far his greatest advantage in speaking came from the inside:

It was his passion.

Jobs loved his company's products. He loved the iPod. He loved the iPhone. He loved the iPad.

He truly believed these devices were capable of changing the world.That enthusiasm was contagious. Jobs wasn't afraid to put it all out there, and people loved him for it.

Contrast that with Wednesday's keynote.

There they were, the usual suspects: Tim Cook, Phil Schiller, and other members of Apple's leadership team repeatedly telling us how "amazing" and "incredible" these new products are.

But I didn't believe them.

Why? Because they didn't believe it, either.

It's not that they were just going through the motions. I believe they were desperately trying to get excited about these devices ... but deep down, they weren't.

And why should they be? It's easy to get lost in today's mixed bag of technology. I'm sure Apple's already working on the next version of everything it released this week, if not two versions in the future. (I'm a little surprised they don't forget which model they're actually talking about.)

Jobs, on the other hand, had focus. Apple was certainly working on iPhone 2 when he released the original iPhone, but we didn't know it.

Jobs stayed in the moment. And so did everyone else.

Of course, it's not easy to maintain passion over the years. But Jobs could. Moreover, he had a remarkable ability to inspire focus, while keeping the fire burning in others.

As a young CEO, he put it this way:

There needs to be someone who is the keeper and reiterator of the vision. A lot of times, when you have to walk a thousand miles and you take the first step, it looks like a long way, and it really helps if there's someone there saying, "Well we're one step closer. The goal definitely exists; it's not just a mirage out there."

So in a thousand and one little, and sometimes larger, ways, the vision needs to be reiterated.

I do that a lot.

Parting Thoughts

Of course, Apple didn't become the company it did on Jobs's passion alone.

Those early products really were revolutionary. And even at an early age, the former CEO demonstrated more than a few qualities of effective leadership. (Just check out this inside look into how he ran his meetings.)

Jobs had great vision, and great timing--he figured out where we wanted to go before we even had an idea. And then he steered the ship to help us get there.

Many will say that even if Jobs were still alive, it wouldn't make a difference for Apple. They argue that innovation has limits. (Electronic parts can get only so small, after all.)

I disagree.

I think that eventually, Jobs would have gone back to the drawing board. He would have reduced the number of keynotes. The team would find new problems to solve.

Jobs would have changed. Apple would have followed.

And if there's one thing the company wouldn't be, it's boring.

Published on: Sep 9, 2016
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