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I remember the last time I was inordinately excited to attend one of Apple’s signature product events. It was the first week of October 2011, and Apple (AAPL) invited the press, partners, and assorted VIPs to a “Let’s Talk iPhone” gathering at its corporate headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. Only a few people knew it, but Steve Jobs would succumb to cancer the next day, and he lay ill at home during the event.
The company’s new CEO, Tim Cook, hosted the event, memorable in retrospect for two announcements. One was Siri, Apple’s then-revolutionary digital assistant. The second was a let-down. Apple fans expected an iPhone 5 but instead got an iPhone 4s. It seemed important at the time.
I had a lot riding on this event because I was about to finish my book about Apple and I badly needed the scene for the last chapter of my book. It didn’t disappoint. All the glory of a Steve Jobs event—the precise starting time, the gorgeous slides, the anticipatory vibe—were present but for the master himself. The product launch happened in Apple’s Town Hall auditorium, which Cook noted had been the site of debuts for the iPod in 2001 and a redesigned MacBook Air in 2010.
I bring all this up because Apple sent out invitations Wednesday for an event widely expected to unveil an iPhone 8, a new high-end design. So much as changed in nearly six years. Cook, a tentative speaker who had toiled in the shadow of Jobs for years, has grown into a confident world leader and global ambassador for Apple. The company rarely surprises its fans anymore. Apple sites—they used to be called “Mac” sites—are replete with details of expected features for phones, the Apple Watch, Apple TV and new software.
But something is new. This will be the first Apple launch in the Steve Jobs Theater on the new Apple campus. (Apple’s traditionally cheeky come-on line in its invitation: “Let’s meet at our place.”) It’s a campus Jobs was intimately involved with designing before his death. The company may have become more predictable since Jobs passed from the scene. It certainly has become more valuable.
A product launch in a brand-new venue more than anything marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. I’ll be there.