12 Questions About Phil Schiller’s Macworld Expo Keynote: How My Guesses Last Week Jibed With Reality

By  |  Tuesday, January 6, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Phil Schiller Macworld Expo keynote imagesI say that I don’t do Apple predictions anymore, but I’m not above musing about upcoming events and expressing opinions about what could happen. Last week, I did just that for Phil Schiller’s first and last Macworld Expo San Francisco keynote, in the form of a dozen questions and attempts to answer them. Now that it’s come and gone, let’s review the questions I asked, the tentative stabs at answers I provided last week, and what actually happened.

Without any further ado…

1. Will Schiller make reference to the unique nature of his keynote?

What I guessed: Yes. But only to joke briefly at the start and break the tension, which will be oozing through the room when the keynote begins.

What happened: Nothing that I remember other than a very oblique thank-you to the audience at the start. Certainly no wacky schtick or self-effacing humor. And if he mentioned Steve Jobs at all, I’m forgetting it at the moment.

2. Will he get all defensive about Apple’s abandonment of Macworld Expo as of 2010?

What I guessed: Nope. It would be startling if he mentioned it at all.

What happened: No direct reference, but a pretty clear dig when he bragged about the number of customers who enter Apple Stores each week, said “I’m sorry,” and pointed out it was equal to a hundred Macworld Expos.

3. Will he announce anything interesting?

What I guessed: Possibly. Everybody’s assuming that nothing any more pulse-pounding than a refreshed Mac Mini will be unveiled, but I’m not so sure. Steve Jobs might be avoiding the show as much because it’ll be a downer as because there’s nothing of note to talk about. Apple clearly wants to shine more limelight on execs other than Jobs. And hey, it’s not inconceivable that even a new Mac Mini could be cool.

What happened: One Apple fan’s snoozer is another’s blockbuster. News today included the end of iTunes DRM (overdue), the new 17-inch MacBook Pro (presumably once meant to launch with its smaller counterparts and with a sealed battery that will be, ahem, controversial), iWork and iWork.com (which are niche products in the Apple world), and iLife 09 (pretty neat looking). There were more things that people reasonably hoped might be announced–new Mac Minis, new iMacs, a 32GB iPhone, a new Apple TV–than were actually unveiled.

4. Will he announce anything hugely newsworthy–on the level of the Intel transition or the iPhone?

What I guessed: Nah. Surely not. Right?

What happened: He didn’t.

5. Will he follow the Jobs keynote format?

What I guessed: No. I’d think he’d want to mix things up to avoid a point-by-point comparison. So the Jobs outline (impressive stats/minor product introduction/bigger product introduction/One More Thing/Acknowledgment of Apple staffers’ contributions/musical guest) will probably not be Schiller’s template.

What happened: It was more Jobsian than I expected, and came pretty darn close to Jobs outline I reference above.

6. Will he pause to gulp bottled water?

What I guessed: Only for yuks.

What happened: I had my head down so I could furiously liveblog for much of the event, but as far as I know, Phil remained parched. Maybe he had a Sprite backstage during one of his breaks.

8. Will he take questions from the audience?

What I guessed: No. Too dangerous.

What happened: He didn’t (but as far as I recall, Jobs never does at Macworld Expo, either–only at smaller events).

9. Will the keynote attract a Jobsian avalanche of press coverage?

What I guessed: Sort of. For one thing, the lack of Jobs is almost as newsworthy as the presence of Jobs. And expectations for Schiller and for the event in general are so low that it shouldn’t be hard to exceed them. I’m guessing that at least some pundits will decide the event wasn’t as bad as they expected it to be.

What happened: There’s certainly tons of coverage of the keynote today. So far, most of the comment on the product announcements I’ve seen has been anywhere from downbeat to extremely downbeat. I haven’t seen much discussion of Schiller as Jobs substitute, but I thought he was OK. (Actually, it wasn’t unpleasant to have a keynote that was low on reality-distortion–though he did refer to the changes at the iTunes Store as “profound.”)

10. Will there be any surprises?

What I guessed: Maybe. It’s not really in Apple’s interest for its final Macworld Expo keynote to be a completely boring downer of an event. If the company can do anything unexpected and upbeat, it might.

What happened: Schiller did treat the iTunes announcements as a “one more thing,” although he didn’t really engage in the kabuki of a real Steve Jobs one-more-thing announcement. (It was more like “Aw, you know we saved one more thing.”) But I’d say the biggest surprise was the appearance of Tony Bennett at the end. He got the kind of response from the audience they usually give Jobs, and was wonderful. (Schiller was received politely. Very, very politely.)

11. Will Apple hold its own independent “keynote” event?

What I guessed: Yes, as soon as whatever wasn’t ready for Macworld Expo is ready to go, and with Steve Jobs. As soon as in the next couple of weeks, and likely by the end of February.

What may happene: I still think this is a likely scenario, although I don’t know how Jobs’s statement that he’s going to spend the next few months reversing his weight loss plays into this.

12. Who will keynote 2010’s Macworld Expo?

What I guessed: It’s gotta be David Pogue. Definitely David Pogue. And you know, he could be great.

What may happen: I dunno. But I’m doing a post-show interview with Macworld Expo show manager Paul Kent later this week–maybe I’ll ask him.

I maintain that what I was doing last week wasn’t making predictions, so I’m not going to give myself a grade. But I will be back with further thoughts about the event…and would love to hear yours. (Thanks, by the way, to the hundreds of people who attended our live coverage today–I had fun, even if this wasn’t the keynote was a little less than historic.)

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