It was the advertising slogan that put Apple on the map, heralding a company with an innovative, out-of-the-box approach to consumer tech that would go on to transform the world.
But after winning the race to become the world’s first trillion dollar company in August, has Apple lost its creative and competitive edge?
That was the question some tech-watchers were left pondering following the unveiling of Apple TV+, a late entrant into the Netflix-dominated online film and video streaming market.
Apple revived its famous catchphrase, which first appeared in 1997, for the star-studded launch at its Cupertino, California headquarters on Tuesday.
The event’s opening film – ‘a think different production’ – was a nostalgia-fuelled catalogue of Apple’s greatest hits, from the Macintosh to the iPhone.
But the words that three decades ago signalled the dawn of the Apple age, this time rang a little hollow.
For all of the secrecy, hype and fanfare around Tuesday’s event – another time-worn tactic from Apple’s arsenal – many were underwhelmed by the launch, which included subscription news service Apple News+, online gaming platform Apple Arcade (a competitor to Google’s Stadia), and a virtual credit card.
“I have always dreamed of being at an Apple event, witnessing the release of exciting innovative products. This is the first event that, if I were there, I would walk out. This is a complete joke. This is not Apple. Steve Jobs would never have approved this,” one disappointed fan wrote on Twitter.
What? No new iPhones, iPads, Macs, self driving cars, flying cars or watches? What? #AppleEvent
— Zemire (@Zemire3) March 25, 2019
Playing catch-up, or the long game?
While some tech-watchers were dismayed by what appeared to be a company going from the cutting edge of consumer tech to playing catch-up with newer competitors in the online streaming sphere, others saw Apple playing the long game.
Rather than challenging film and video streaming supremo Netflix, Tuesday’s launch suggests that Apple has its sights set on the company most likely to usurp its title of world’s most valuable firm, Swinburne University digital media expert Belinda Barnet said.
“People were expecting flying cars and a new iPhone but [the online content-focused launch] could be very significant in that Apple may be intending to take on a company like Amazon,” Dr Barnet said.
I don’t think Netflix is the end game here. Just look at the market cap of the companies to see who the real competitor is.”
While fellow tech behemoths have been plagued by privacy scandals, Apple has remained a “hermetically sealed container”, giving it a crucial advantage when it comes to consumer trust, Dr Barnet said.
“I think they’re taking on the future. They have an advantage that these other companies don’t have. People trust them.”
With the market for digital devices such as iPhones “saturated”, Apple will be looking “to come up with something novel or unique”.
Tuesday’s launch puts the Tim Cook-helmed company in prime position to exploit a gap in the market for “a fully multi-platform content service with complete privacy”, Dr Barnet said.
Unlike Amazon and Facebook, privacy is “core to Apple’s business model and their users know that”, she said.
A company like Apple does know everything about you but has never shared it.
“So their tactic might be to leverage their dominance in terms of data – they certainly know more about you than Amazon does – with privacy absolutely central to their brand as opposed to all these other players.”