Excruciating self-congratulation has always been part of Apple’s brand, but the company took this to new levels at today’s iPhone event.
"Jesus, Gandhi, Me." That's how comedian Bill Burr described the self-serving marketing of Apple and Steve Jobs.
The company has not stopped making big claims in the Tim Cook era. As Apple's SVP, Angela Ahrendts, put it, "Apple Stores will transform from simply commercial spaces to locations where the company will develop 'communities,'" James Vincent paraphrases in The Verge. Apple went on to describe how classes, movie nights, concerts, and other events will turn their stores into gathering places akin to town squares.
Vincent was not convinced. "The company has always been defined in part by onanism and self-congratulation, but has managed a certain degree of self-awareness. This year, it jumped the shark."1
Even the auditorium the event took place in was framed as a mausoleum. It’s the last creative project touched by Jobs’ genius, we were told, and look how it shelters the faithful, called here to see the latest relics the great man bequeathed to the Earth.
And then things got really crazy.
After Tim Cook had finished his opening tribute, Apple SVP Angela Ahrendts got onstage and announced that the company would be calling its stores “town squares” from now on. (Never mind that Cook referred to them as “stores” just moments before.) Those shops you go to to buy a Mac or haggle over a broken phone screen should, and will be, much more than that, said Ahrendts: “They are gathering places.”
She went on to describe how Apple Stores will transform from simply commercial spaces to locations where the company will develop “communities”: host concerts, lead workshops, offer up meeting rooms, and teach everything from coding to photography to music-making. Apple frames these disciplines as modern equivalents to the Medieval trivium — an essential educational resource that makes a person a person.
Above all, said Ahrendts, Apple wants its stores to be places to hang out. Places you go to because everyone needs somewhere to be other than their home and office. We were told to “imagine movie night" in an Apple store, and shown how the company’s latest space would “transform [Chicago’s] riverfront." Like Uber moving into public transport and Google bringing back the company town, Apple, too, wants to reconfigure civic life around itself and its ideals.