Apple WWDC Gets Mixed Advance Reviews

Apple’s World Wide Developers’ Conference kicks off in San Francisco today amid some buzz that the company is losing its buzz along with its stock value (20% since last year’s get-together).

Fast Company’s Luke Dormehl argues that “a certain middle-agedness has crept into their marketing,” although he puts it all into a context that directly contradicts the headline on the piece (“Why Apple Needs a Brand Overhaul.” As Dormehl’s story points out, “having recently been named the world’s most valuable brand for the third year in a row, it would be foolish to suggest that Apple requires anything so drastic as a branding overhaul.” 

That said, Networked Insights founder and CEO Dan Neely, also writing for Fast Company, says that his company’s data showMillennial and teen iPhone purchase intent dropping sharply -- a development that he says is a result of the company’s tin ear to social network chatter and failure to capitalize on “data-driven marketing.” You can crow all you want about a product’s features on the stage of the WWDC but customers increasing have their market-moving say offstage. 



“Across the social web as the unveiling took place, socially active influentials were homing in specifically on the features that mattered to them most,” Neely writes about the rollout of the iPhone 5. “Social analysis painted a clear picture of the key elements that would be driving consumer purchase decisions for Apple and its competitors. Conversation about features like screen size, battery life, and connection speed all spiked immediately on the social web.”

As for the WWDC itself, “rumors abound,” as usual, and Huffington Post has put together a slide show of the lot of them.

More cleverly, Matt Hickey has devised a bingo card on to accompany its live coverage of the event, which begins at 1 p.m. EST today. You can X-out the rumored developments as they unfold for real in real time. Or don’t. Entrees include: “iRadio” (done deal); “preview of iOS 7 and OSX 10.9 (99.9% likely); “new, cheaper iPhone” (devoutly to be desired by many but probably not until later this year); “Tim says ‘mind-blowing’” (why not?), and “a photo of someone’s vacation” (who’s got time for those anymore?).

Time’s Harry McCracken, who will also be among many live-blogging WWDC, says that we should not be disappointed that breakthrough hardware devises are probably not part of the equation this week.

“Apple the software company is at least as interesting as Apple the hardware company,” he writes. “The news it does make at WWDC … provides a clearer idea of where the company is going than any particular gadget does. And while I don’t know anything specific about Apple’s plans for 2013, I do know that this is a particularly pivotal year for Apple operating systems.”

Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s Adam Satariano says that the OS changes will be “sweeping” as the company seeks “to reignite desire for its products and blunt the advance” of Google’s Android mobile OS. Apple CEO Tim Cook will kick off WWDC by “unveiling a new version of iOS with a simpler user interface that will scrap design features such as simulated paper and faux-wood bookshelves, according to people familiar with the plans.”

The redesign of iOS 7 also puts the vision of Jony Ive, Apple’s SVP of Industrial Design, center stage, as Mark Gurman wrote about in 9To5Mac several weeks ago. It represents a radical departure from the “texture-heavy (skeuomorphic) interfaces heralded by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and former iOS chief Scott Forstall.” It’s also being called “Black and White and Flat All Over?” 

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is among those who feel that all of the low expectations leading up to the event this week could pay off for investors. “The only thing that's been discounted next week is the ho-hum,” Munarriz writes. “Anything that Apple says or introduces that comes off as new or potentially game-changing would naturally breathe new life into the dormant Apple stock.”

How often does one see ho-hum and Apple in the same sentence. We shall see shortly.

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