The Secret Behind Apple's Hype Machine

Apple continually whips up the kind of buzz most companies could only dream of. How?

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What's the secret behind Apple's genius for generating buzz? That's the question New York Times columnist David Carr tackles in his latest piece examining the breathless hype around Apple's rumored tablet computer. (For proof of breathlessness see Wire coverage here, here, and here.) On Wednesday, Apple's CEO Steve Jobs will unveil the device in a move that may, for sheer enthusiasm, trump President Obama's State of the Union address. Carr has three theories on how Jobs does it.

First Apple's obsessive secrecy:

However miraculous the thingamajig turns out to be... it can't be more remarkable than the control that Apple and Mr. Jobs have over their audience...Even as the media and technology worlds have anticipated this announcement for months, Apple has said not word one.

Second, Apple's track record. Although it's not immune to flops (Apple TV and the Cube), more often than not, Apple doesn't disappoint:

Apple has delivered on Mr. Jobs's showmanship. People remember the debut of the iPhone three years ago, and Apple's promise that it would change everything. It promptly did, so who wants to miss out on the reveal for the next big thing?

Third, industries outside the tech world have a giant stake in the new device:

Another media dynamic is in play: shared interests. Because the tablet is said to create a new digital reading experience, offering publishing companies a kind of do-over, many media types see the tablet as a life preserver in the midst of the tall waves. Already, the prospective challenge has pushed Amazon to open up its Kindle reader to applications and sweetened royalty arrangements for certain kinds of content.

Now a fourth factor should be added to Carr's list. A report from influential tech blog TechCrunch says Jobs has claimed the device "will be the most important thing I've ever done." Tech blogs erupted in yet another round of pre-Tablet frenzy. In case your finger's not on the pulse of the hype, here's a flavor of the excitement:

  • This Is 'Surreal,' writes tech blogger Greg Sterling: "People are going absolutely crazy with expectation...if Jobs actually said that statement then perhaps this device will live up to the unbelievable hype it has to contend with."
  • It's the Jesus Tablet A tech blogger has named his site "Jesus Tablet" in honor of the device and posts rumors and updates: "In true Apple style, it will be a device we didn't know we needed, but can't believe we got along without. When the house is on fire, we'll grab the dog and the iPad. It has house-fire potential"
  • It Can't Not Be Great, says Chuck Rogers, a business consultant and Apple fan boy: "We've got just about one of everything [Apple releases], and I would be amazed if they actually came out with something that I wouldn't find useful in some way,...I've got two Apple TVs in my house. I've got a Mac mini that's feeding video to my TV. I've got two iMacs. I've got a MacBook Pro, 17-inch, and my wife has a MacBook."
  • So Awesome, It's Scary, writes Keith Kleiner at Singularity Hub: "The Apple tablet is going to be a revolutionary device and I can't wait for it to come into this world. Nevertheless, I am fearful of the powerful grip over our lives that it will deliver to Apple. Google, if you are listening, please save us from a one player market and give us a device and a platform that is every bit as good as Apple's but free of its walled garden. You are our only hope against Apple hegemony!"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.