Recently, tech fans have been starved of live launches because of the Covid pandemic. The keynote speeches, the long demos popularised by Apple’s Steve Jobs, among other tech luminaries, have all but disappeared. Instead, almost all tech companies have turned to virtual events.
Today Apple is expected to launch several new iPads and other products this way, having previously revealed new iPhones and even given the keynote presentation at its WWDC developers conference. According to Ish Shabazz, an iOS developer, who has taken part in WWDC every year since 2015:
“Last year was one of the best conferences that they’ve had… very few people did not appreciate that format.”
One of the major problems with live events is that there’s only so much space in the conference room. Shabazz says even though he would go to Apple events, he usually couldn’t get into the main room. The tech industry analyst Carolina Milanesi explains:
“You’re catering to the people in the audience. So the people at home that are watching, who are the hardcore Apple fans, don’t feel as included.”
There are other reasons too that tech companies might like a pre-recorded format.
For one, it eliminates those awkward occasions when something goes wrong. In fact doing a live event can also be expensive, and stressful.Not all tech CEOs are natural public speakers. Pre-recorded videos, using autocue and as many takes as you want, may suit some. For the tech companies too, live events, with a crowd, are a chance to get some real-time energy into a launch.
Virtual events also limit how journalists review products.Many companies send the products to reviewers, but there’s often a delay from launch to a product being in the testers’ hands. The tech journalist Steven Aquino says:
“I think Apple would prefer to have in person if they were launching a new iPhone event or something they wanted to show off.”
He believes that companies like Apple will move to a hybrid model, with large parts of their conferences pre-recorded, but with live elements mixed in.