One of the hallmarks of a Steve Jobs keynote was the "one more thing" he often unveiled at the end of a presentation. This closing flourish depended on the element of surprise, and so it only worked because Apple was an extraordinarily secretive company.
Tim Cook has pledged to continue that legacy. "We're going to double down on secrecy on products," Jobs's successor as chief executive said at a conference last year.
But if Tuesday's announcements are any indication, Cook hasn't succeeded. In her rumor roundup, posted a few hours before Cook's keynote, our colleague Hayley Tsukayama predicted that Apple would unveil iOS 7, the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C. She reported that the new iPhone would include a fingerprint scanner.
She even got the colors right. She knew Apple would add gold to its traditional white and black color options for high-end phones. And she wrote that the company is "expected to release the 5C with a variety of candy-colored backs."
Indeed, the biggest surprise during the presentation was a negative one: The price for the iPhone 5C was higher than analysts had predicted. Hayley suggested that the iPhone 5C would cost about $500. Other analysts predicted that the price would be closer to $400. The actual price was $549.
This seems like a sign that Apple is becoming a normal company. In normal firms, product announcements routinely leak to the press ahead of their official release date. Many deliberately leak product details to sympathetic journalists. Without Steve Jobs's charisma and obsessive attention to detail, Cook simply may not be able to replicate the almost cult-like secrecy of Apple under the late co-founder.
In the short run, this probably won't matter. If the new products are good, plenty of consumers will buy them. But without the element of surprise, Apple's keynote ritual will likely lose much of its luster in the long run. Why should anyone hang on Tim Cook's every word when they can read all the details of Apple's product plans in the previous day's Wall Street Journal?