Everyone misses something in this pandemic. Getting on planes. Hugging their faraway loved ones. Yelling and screaming in a crowded stadium.
Professionally speaking, I really, truly miss going to Apple events. There was a string, dating back to the late oughts, when I rarely missed one. In those days they were in or near the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Before the event started, I’d sit as far forward as possible so I could crane my neck to see which top Apple executives and what business/political/cultural luminaries were seated in the front row. Was that Al Gore? Of course. He’s on the board. (Still is.) Could that be J.J. Abrams, up from Hollywood? In fact it is.
If I was feeling bold I could wander up to schmooze with these personages until I was shooed away by a PR person. Otherwise, I could watch the bonhomie—lots of backslapping and broad grins, like the first day of summer camp—from a distance.
Music would thump from the speakers, and then, at precisely 10:00 a.m.—you could set your watch to it, in the days before the no-need-to-set-it Apple Watch—the lights would go down, and Steve Jobs, or later Tim Cook, would walk onstage to thunderous cheers. Thinking back, it reminds me of the bleating sheep in Animal Farm, which I just re-read. (“Four legs good, two legs bad!” “iOS good, Windows bad!”)
I’m taking you on this trip down memory lane, of course, because Apple held an iPhone event Tuesday. Attendance of an Apple product launch has been democratized. Anyone can watch Tuesday’s show here. If you’ve never been to an Apple gathering, this is a great development. It’s got the same pump-up-the-heart music, the same slick videos, the same strained, middle-aged corporate exuberance.
As for the substance, well, it was fine. The new iPhones look good, the prices have held steady, and someday, probably not as far away as the critics say, 5G will be exciting.
But it’s just not the same as being there in person. Nothing is.
Naturally, I’m going to miss Fortune too: This is my last day. I apologize if I didn’t respond to the wonderful notes so many of you wrote in response to my posts at Fortune, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Medium. I’ll try to be more active than usual on social media once I resume writing so you can follow my efforts. Until then, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Robert Hackett.