No, Apple doesn’t need to be at CES →

Jeremy Horwitz for Venturebeat on Apple’s CES presence:

My position: Apple’s 2009 withdrawal from trade shows may have been justifiable back then, but the overall impact has been negative. Additionally, Apple’s related decision to move most of its product launches to a single quarter each year has damaged the brand, despite the strength of Apple’s sales and stock. However, unless certain highly improbable changes are made at CES, this particular trade show is not the right venue for Apple. Instead, the company should leverage its incredible retail infrastructure to do something different.

Not sure how it has damaged the brand, specifically. He goes on to address Apple’s ‘boring calendar’:

On a highly related note, Apple never formally said that it was going to stop staggering major new product releases across the year, but that’s effectively what happened: Since Tim Cook took over, Apple has announced almost nothing of significance until WWDC in June, and the vast majority of new products are released during a narrow window from mid-September to early November.

And:

Some people have suggested that fewer events are the natural result of maturing products — version 1 deserves a splashy event whenever, but no one will care to show up for the “special” debut of a slightly slimmer version 2, or a waterproof version 3, which could arrive via press release. That’s Apple’s problem to remedy, partially with more breakthrough products, and partially with developer engagement and marketing to show how seemingly small changes — say, adding a game controller and games to the Apple TV — could disrupt an entire industry.

Alright, here we go. Products are ready when they are ready, even if they are delayed (e.g. Apple Watch, AirPods, HomePod). Furthermore, Apple isn’t the same company it was ten years ago, where they could release more throughout the year at a much smaller scale. Everything they make now has to be produced in massive quantities. Care and precision is key and extremely difficult, as we’re seeing by delayed products.

Jeremy’s proposal on changing things up:

Perhaps Apple’s “goodbye, Macworld” press release had the best idea of them all: Since Apple’s retail stores see millions of visits per week, why not bring them all together once or twice a year for global-scale special events?

Live from Apple Park’s Steve Jobs Theater, the company could simultaneously broadcast a keynote to all of its retail stores, complete with a window of limited hands-on time with new products for press and customers. Imagine the lines and the local media coverage; they would be off the charts, and diversify the voices offering perspectives on new Apple products.

The full list of reasons why this would never happen is a big one, so I’ll cut it down to a top few:

  1. Apple would never allow just anyone who shows up to have hands-on time with unreleased products, whether they be hardware or software. It’s a huge part of their M.O. — one that I don’t see ever changing. Allowing first-look experiences for YouTubers in a controlled environment is as close as we’ll ever get to this idea.
  2. Just imagine the damning press and social media calamity if someone were to record a device failing, malfunctioning, or worse.
  3. Having these events would send a confusing message to the uninitiated, perhaps encouraging the idea that all announced products will be available for purchase immediately following the keynote.
  4. Shutting down a large portion of the store, if not all for approximately two hours is a terrible idea for the world’s top retailer in sales per square foot.

Apple doesn’t need to be at CES and they don’t need streamed events to their own stores. Here’s what they really need to do:

  1. Keep making exceptional products.

That’s it. There are definitely areas of improvement that will get them there, such as:

  1. Making better hardware for pros. This includes fixing the host of concerns with MacBook Pros. They are already on the right track with iMac Pro, to be followed by a new Mac Pro.
  2. Dialing in the supply chain for increasingly-complex components. Notice how fast iPhone X caught up with demand? Good sign of improvement, wouldn’t you say?
  3. Increasing software Q.A. efforts to cut down on bugs and security holes.

As long as Apple continues to focus on making the best products for their customers, something tells me they’ll be alright with skipping a trade show.