Apple: Where an icon is never just an icon
On Sunday, TechCrunch columnist and Google Ventures partner MG Siegler* argued that Apple should "go back behind the curtain" and curtail its newfound chattiness. Instead of speaking at conferences and speaking out against rivals, he wrote, Apple should return to a Jobs-ian silence that would see the company keep its mouth shut until it had new products to announce. (Never mind that Jobs was a regular speaker at the D conference and had no problem going "thermonuclear" against the competition.)
On Monday, Apple released an application meant strictly for the few thousand members of the press and developers attending its annual developer conference. The application features a "flat" icon and the same design as last year's version of the mostly-irrelevant application so, naturally, it has been heralded as an harbinger for Apple's sweeping update to iOS 7. Yes, you read that right: An application that will never make its way to the general public and is useful for just a few days out of the year is being used as proof that Apple will remove all of the faux leather from its software.
On that note, here are some other sweeping generalizations we can make out of today's news:
The HTC One is finally coming to Verizon! Verizon must have bought HTC. I mean, come on -- HTC went months after the One's announcement before saying that the device would be available on Verizon, AKA "the only carrier that doesn't hate people quite as much as mole people hate the sun." Obviously the only possible explanation is that Verizon offered up boatloads of money for the Taiwanese phone-maker, which has posted ever-depressing quarterly results for some time now.
Vine launched on Android! Twitter must be preparing its own version of Facebook Home. Look, everyone knows that Twitter is guaranteed to do two things by the end of this year: Finally IPO and release a competitor to Facebook Home. It clearly could't do either of those things without releasing Vine for Android first; the application must be a trojan horse that will lead to Twitter Casa, or whatever the hell they're gonna call it. Besides, everyone knows you can't take control of Android unless you have tons of stellar applications available for the platform first, right?
Samsung "accidentally" announced the Galaxy S4 Zoom! The company must be developing smart binoculars. It makes sense. The Internet of Things is the future. Wearable devices are the future. What could possibly be better than a pair of smart binoculars that -- get this -- hang from your neck when you aren't using them? The Galaxy S4 Zoom ain't a phone, it's a goddamn Internet of Things-wearable-computing hybrid that will make peeking at that kinda-hot neighbor lady about 500 times more efficient.
All of these things are worth getting totally excited about and are equally likely. I have proof, damn it! Just look at those bold, glorious links! The historical accuracy! The notes about recent trends and the hottest buzzwords! Hey, if an application meant for developers and the press are indicative of a sea change in one of the world's most popular operating systems featuring some of the most well-regarded design this side of Dieter Rams, this shit's as good as gold.
It's really not, but that's the point: Apple couldn't go back behind the curtain if it wanted to. The company has been too talkative for too long, and has become too integral an aspect of modern computing -- and its stock too spectacular a sideshow -- for it and its executives to do anything besides offer a comment or two, visit a conference, or just generally interact with the public.
The company is criticized for being too open -- or even apologetic -- but is also probably the single most carefully-scrutinized company in the world. Almost everything said by Apple CEO Tim Cook is examined and criticized by thousands of people. Other executives, like BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins or Acer chairman JT Wang, only face such scrutiny when they declare the death of tablets or argue that Windows RT is a dud.
Would Apple be better off if it decided to resume the silence favored by its lauded co-founder? Maybe. But if it's going to ever make its way back into that silence -- back behind the curtain, to steal Siegler's metaphor -- it's going to have to reach a point where it isn't expected to make drastic changes to its most important bundle of software, simply because it updated an application that happens to look a bit flatter than others.
* MG Siegler is an investor in PandoDaily through his involvement with CrunchFund, of which he was a partner before joining Google Ventures