As Android fans, we’ve become accustomed to seeing Apple introduce new devices and features that appear eerily similar to what Google created first. It is not to mention that Android has borrowed a few things as well. However, it appears that Apple has taken another element from Google in recent years: a willingness to have fun. WWDC proves that Apple has replaced Google as the fun tech giant.
Consider five years ago, when we were all playing a game of guessing the next dessert name for Android, and the unveiling of each new Android statue was a big deal. A crew of skydivers jumped out of a plane above San Francisco ten years ago, setting off a series of acrobatics to get a Google Glass to the Google I/O stage. Those were the strange, outlandish things that sparked much of Google’s current adoration.
Google’s keynotes (Google as the fun tech giant)
There are plenty of Google supporters who regret the loss of the whimsy that was once a hallmark of the company’s unique personality and culture. That’s not a new finding; many of us sensed things had changed even before Google announced the cancellation of Android’s dessert names. While that decision appears to have been reversed, the statues are no longer the works of art that people used to stand next to, and none have gained physical form since Android 10.
Google’s keynotes have become more planned, practiced, and short in recent years. I have no qualms about that—but they feel too much like business as usual. There will be no more stunts, bizarre live demos, unveilings, or events just for the sake of having fun. Even when there are tremendous potential for comedy, such as when LaMDA introduced. And we had dialogues with Pluto and a paper airplane, they deliver with. However, an unpleasant segment quickly followed a Michael Pea’s exploration of the new quantum computing complex. It did about as well as a high school instructive film. But it demonstrates that Google is still attempting to be amusing.
This brings us full circle back to Apple. The brand is most known for its superbly designed lifestyle commercials starring celebrities and deeply invigorating music tracks from newly discovered bands. However, that isn’t the persona we see during on-stage product announcements— ok, the music is still present. For years, Steve Jobs presided over the show with a warm and accessible demeanor, making the occasional joke but maintaining a genial and low-key demeanor. Despite switching to a speedier and more methodical style over the years, that tone has stayed; yet, after witnessing WWDC 2022, more than ever before, I hear people commenting on how much funny Apple has gotten.
Make no mistake: this week’s keynote was not a Marvel movie with perfectly spaced gags. But it did have its fair share of jabs, corny transitions, and ridiculous acting. Whether you were laughing at Apple or with Apple, that two-hour presentation almost certainly caused you to smile.
Apple’s keynotes (Google as the fun tech giant)
In reality, this isn’t unusual for Apple’s keynotes, especially for Craig Federighi, Senior Vice President of Software Engineering. During these events, Federighi has taken on the role of principal showman. Despite a slightly awkward first appearance on stage, he went on to rickroll the audience, earn the moniker Hair Force One, use Siri to take some subtle barbs at the competition. He devote a few of minutes to self-aware comments about the bloated dinosaur that was iTunes.
Apple is also incorporating acted parts and amusing side tales to spice up the experience, which makes sense given the company’s decision to move to pre-recorded keynotes in the wake of the pandemic. The start of the WWDC 2021 got mixed reviews. Possibly because it was a strange blend of a musical routine, a tech thriller scene, and Tim Cook and Craig Federighi impersonators dressed as rockers. It wasn’t the first time an over-the-top prank drew a few laughs. But there was no harm in it, and plenty of people appreciated it. The same can say of the show’s many scene transitions, which have become increasingly intricate in the previous two years, with some of them bordering on farce. It took some time for me to adjust to these gimmicks, but I’m beginning to enjoy them.
Traveling VW minibus
Apple has been making fun of its macOS names for the last decade, just like Google did with Android code names. It started with a basic Sea Lion joke in 2013. But in 2014 and 2015, Apple’s marketing team and their traveling VW minibus created a growing comedic plot about Apple’s marketing team and their traveling VW minibus. There were also references to drugs. It slowed down a little in 2016. But when High Sierra was announced in 2017, it took full advantage of the opportunity to make stoner jokes. The announcement of Mojave in 2018 was equally low-key, and no jokes about Catalina were made in 2019; nevertheless, there were plenty of gags about iTunes seconds later. The legendary tales of the drug-fueled marketing squad only grew more dramatic in 2020, 2021, and now in 2022. Craig isn’t the only one who has made jokes about the moniker; Josh Shaffer, in his SwiftUI demo, predicts that Flying Squirrel will be the macOS operating system of the future.
Apple’s latest product marketing escapades
“That takes us to Apple’s latest product marketing escapades. They’d been on a high since their M1 and M2 naming coup, and it’s safe to say that they fatigued. The team packed back into its macOS named microbus. It drove down Highway 1 after their required three-month rejuvenation retreat in Monterey, their chakras now in perfect harmony. They came to rest where spectacular surf meets rich alluvial plains in picturesque Ventura, chasing the vivid display of colorful California wildflowers.” — Craig Federighi, World Wide Developers Conference 2022.
Apple, like Google, is having a good time with its keynotes. As a result, watching WWDC is more entertaining than watching I/O. However, we can see it in the daily antics, or lack thereof. Remember when Google hid messages in websites and APKs for users to find? Not to mention the fantastic easter eggs that appeared in practically every program. We know the art form hasn’t died since Google I/O has staged comedy shows in the past. It has never shied away from pairing Chet Haase and Romain Guy.
More fun with Google
There’s nothing wrong with doing things seriously. And many business clients would undoubtedly prefer to work with a more serious Google. If Apple can get away with on-stage jokes about getting high, there has to be room for a bit more fun during launches, especially from a company like Google Play.
There’s a lot to say for letting go a little, especially now that international events have everyone on edge. Apple may not have nailed every joke or selected the finest gimmicks. But it has discovered ways to incorporate more humor into its events, and people seem to love it. I believe what I’m getting at is that Apple’s efforts to entertain the audience remind us that laughing is good for us. Most of us miss the days when Google was more likely to laugh with us.