It's been a year since Jobs' last 'Stevenote'. And the Apple team is running smooth and strong.
It's going to be a few years before we really see how Tim Cook does things his way at Apple. But what the company showed off Monday at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference seemed as impressive and consistent as it ever was under Jobs.
No, Apple didn't unveil any major surprises. But that's not fair to expect: Those only happen every few years.
What Apple did do at WWDC was show that it's at the top of its game in every aspect: Software, hardware, design, and efficiency. And that's a great sign.
Take the new MacBook Pro, for example. It's not the sort of once-per-decade device like the first iPhone. But it shows that Apple is pushing the limits on display resolution, hardware design, value, and quality as no other company in the computer industry. While the PC industry is still copying last year's MacBooks, Apple is pushing ahead, bit by bit, with a new high-end notebook that's only a few hundred dollars more than its entry-level version.
Or iOS 6. There's no holy-crap mega-feature this year. But expecting something like that is fundamentally misunderstanding how Apple works. Instead, it's a solid update across the board, with highlights including Apple taking maps into its own hands and dipping its toes into the mobile payments field with the forthcoming Passbook app. And it's set to launch this fall, a year after the last version.
Oh, and another new version of OS X for Mac - just a year after the last one. Remember when Apple had to delay versions of Mac OS X because it couldn't make them and iOS at the same time? As John Gruber describes at Daring Fireball, "Apple has — dare I say finally — become a company that can walk and chew gum at the same time." That's crucial, because things are only going to get busier and more challenging at Apple, especially as it plans to increase its efforts in TV and entertainment.
The skeptic's take might be that most of what Apple announced today was probably already planned while Steve Jobs was running Apple, and that the company has a few years left before it really has to start thinking on its own. But that's not really true or fair. Under Tim Cook, Apple has already patched up one shaky, important relationship, in Facebook. And it's shipping, delivering quality products on time. You can't really plan that in advance.
Apple now has to continue to execute, and will probably have to work harder than ever. Of course, no one can predict the future, or how the company will change over time. But at least based on today's performance at WWDC, things are looking good.