When Steve Jobs was roaming the halls at Infinite Loop, Apple security around a new product launch was tighter than Spandex on an Olympic speed skater.
On Oct. 16, the world's most successful consumer IT product company indicated that it may be losing its touch on keeping secrets. Turns out that the launch of the iPad Air 2, the iPad Mini 3 and the first Mini-Me Mac—sorry, Mac Mini—wasn't much of a surprise to many people. In fact, people were talking about how Apple itself had leaked some information to certain media members about the launch prior to the official onstage announcement.
This appears to all be quite a switch from the Jobs reign of years gone by, when many Apple employees intentionally avoided their CEO while walking down the halls or entering an elevator, afraid that the tempestuous genius would ask them a question they might not be able to answer.
Colbert as 'Chief of Secrecy'
To its credit, Apple poked fun at itself Oct. 16 by announcing in tongue-in-cheek fashion that it has hired comedian Stephen Colbert (pictured) to be its "Chief of Secrecy"—"posting" the news to a faux Website called InfiniteScoop.net.
"Get back to work!" said Colbert in a call to CEO Tim Cook onstage. "Do you know what I see when I look at my wrist? MY WRIST." Laughter from the audience.
For those who don't follow the humor, his reference was to the Apple Watch, which won't be in stores until February.
Cook ostensibly was glad to have Colbert helping out. "I hope he can do a better job than I've done [when it comes to handling secrecy]," Cook said with a smile.
Can't Argue With the Numbers
"Loose lips sink ships" didn't affect Apple at this launch—not that a single launch event, especially one that doesn't introduce a major new product, matters that much in the long run. But Apple was in a jovial mood, and it's no wonder why: The business numbers continue to be impressive indeed. For example:
-- 163 million iPhones have been sold in the last four quarters; 35.2 million in the last quarter alone;
-- 225 million iPads have been sold—about a third of them, 70 million, in the last year;
-- 675,000 iPad apps are now available in the App Store;
-- sales of iMacs are up 18 percent—the rest of the PC industry is down 5 percent; and
-- Apple Pay goes into general availability on Oct. 20, and 500 banks are now ready for it.
Apple enthusiasts stay on top of upgrades. Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of Software Engineering, said that 90 percent of customers are using an OS that's a year old or less and that 48 percent of the installed base is on iOS 8.
Now come the not surprisingly new and improved devices: the new iPad Air 2, the iPad Mini 3 and the first Mini-Me Mac—oops, my apology again—the Mac Mini.
Of course, it's always amusing that only a year ago, the regular iPad Air and its brothers and sisters were the "greatest devices in the world." Now they're merely discounted also-rans in comparison to the shiny new devices.
Next year, the iPad 3 Air will eclipse everything that was introduced Oct. 16, and we'll go round and round once again with the positioning.
Of course, the iPad Air 2 is lighter, thinner ("Can you even see it?" Cook, holding it sideways, asked rhetorically), has a better camera, has a more powerful processor and has more new apps to download. It has the new Retina display. They now come in Space Gray, silver and gold, if you choose.
Of course, the iPad Mini is less expensive and fits a certain market. The Mac Mini also will find an audience. Apple has its basic product lines and is slicing and dicing them to find more and more possible customers. But there was nothing as newsy as the announcement of the Apple Watch and Apple Pay from the September event.
Apple TV? Current Apple TV users are crying out for an upgrade. But there wasn't a word about that one on Oct. 16.
Apple's hardly worried, however. As long as those iPhones, iPads and Macs keep going out the door, and all that profit keeps rolling into the Infinite Loop, the company can afford to take its time on another new product.