As if Tim Cook didn’t have enough on his plate. Not only is he following in the footsteps of one of the most revered chief executives of all time, one who is now safely ensconced in the ground where he can never tarnish his image as the greatest technological innovator of his generation; not only is he attempting to better the most successful consumer device ever created – he’s now responsible for the entire US economy (JP Morgan reckons Apple could add up to half a per cent to the US’s fourth quarter GDP figures, a mind-boggling eighth of the total predicted growth).
There couldn’t be any more pressure if you strapped a grenade to his pelvis and told him it would detonate if Apple’s share price didn’t increase (a bit like in the film Speed but, presumably, without Keanu Reeves). You could sneak into Cook’s room at night and leave a mannequin dressed as a clown inches from his face and he wouldn’t even blink when he woke up. He’s got bigger things to worry about. The fate of western civilisation as we know it is in his hands, for god’s sake, he’s not going to break a sweat over a creepy clown (and I should know, I’ve tried it. Seriously, it’s unsettling how calm he stays).
And so he was on stage, as he heavy-breathed his way through figures on just how many iPhone and iPad units Apple has sold and how the iPhone 5 really, really, is the best phone Apple has ever made. And it is, of course, the best phone Apple has ever made, but then it would be counterintuitive to release a worse phone. Even I know that, and I don’t work in Silicon Valley.
But I have the same slightly empty feeling I had following the launch of the 4S – is it new enough? Does is add enough new bells and whistles? Apple is the archetypal victim of its own success. It re-invented the wheel. Several times. The iPhone 5, though, is a really, really nice wheel, but it’s still round. Maybe this is as good as it gets. Either way, perhaps Apple should have called it the iPhone 4SS.