Imagine your typical Apple (or Microsoft, or Google, or Facebook) keynote. You sit in a big hall, Steve Jobs (now, Tim Cook) comes on stage, quickly mentions a few sales updates of the latest Apple products and then it's on to the products. Usually, it's the CEO himself that will demonstrate a few features of the product and then he'll call some of the other team members to demonstrate more features of the products and in the end, if you have any questions about the product, be it about its intended market share or whether the screen has IPS, you will not be left unsatisfied. You will walk out of the product launch knowing what exactly the product does and how it functions.
Steve Jobs presenting one more thing
Now come closer home. Avinash Bali already described the Indian launch for the game Ra. One. What can you expect at an Indian product launch? For one, definitely a lot of spectacle. Many shining lights, perhaps some heart pounding music and even executives in suits coming in to the event as if they belong in a James Bond or a Men in Black movie. Sometimes, if you're lucky, you'll even have a punch happy Bollywood star. While this is all fine and dandy (and certainly helps you remember the event), when it comes to the actual product being launched, there's so much more ground we need to cover. For one, when the executives present the products, in their 'keynote' they talk about which sectors they're aiming the products at, how they expect to grow as a company because of the product and more information that is important to the business journalists, but leaves the tech journalists unsatisfied.
So then, the tech journalist raises his hand and asks a question, “How are the specs of this device helpful to the audience you're catering to?“. The executives start getting flustered. Their moustaches start twitching and their already sweaty black suits are getting even sweatier because it's India and even in an air conditioned room, you're going to be a swimming pool in a suit. “Uhh, it has a USB port which helps with connectivity on the go, so it's great for the businessman,” says Mr. Executive. Tech journalist isn't happy. “What about the screen? And the built in memory? And what processor does it use and what other connectivity options exist on your device?” Blank stares from the executives. Mr. Executive looks straight at the tech journalist forcing a smile saying, “Let me bring our tech person on stage and he will explain the tech facts to you. We're the businessmen, we're not familiar with all the tech facts“. I kid you not, I have heard that last line being said by an executive at an event launch!
What's doubly aggravating is that while the product launch presentations happen, the people usually on the stage are the businessmen. Not even one spot is reserved for their tech guy (mind you, they sometimes fly their tech guys in from other countries and he's STILL not special enough to get a seat on stage). After the Q&A session, the journalists are set loose to play with the products and that's when they really learn what the product is all about (sometimes a very different picture than what Mr. Executive paints it out to be).
Why do we have such unprofessionalism at Indian events? Why is it only about business and not about the product itself? Why does the tech guy not get a single spot on stage, yet in the moment of trouble, he's the one that's called on? I can't help, but wonder how many problems are there in this situation. For one, it almost seems like the driving force of a product is really its price and 'reputation', so businessmen and marketing executives are more important than the tech guys who will actually talk about what value the product has. For another, the business executives don't know the tech aspects of the very products they're selling. What is stopping them from getting more in tune with their products? Do they not believe in their own product? Finally, it might actually be somewhat the fault of journalists, too. At most events, the majority of questions in the Q&A session usually comprise of enterprise-related information. Maybe tech journalists are just jaded and want to move past the Q&A session to the products to find out for themselves, which is why they don't raise their hands. But that could send a message to the executives that the tech journalists don't care.
At the end of the day, what I remember about most events is how I don't even remember what product was launched, but I remember the visual pomp that the event was covered with. And after a while, even that will become redundant because how many different stunts can you possibly have? On the other hand, I can remember how and when Zuckerberg demonstrated the new Facebook Timeline because he knew his product and talked about it with simplicity. I remember how the iPad 2's higher processing power was demonstrated using iMovie and GarageBand. Moreover, Steve Jobs was called one of the greatest product launchers ever and Indian executives have a lot to learn from him. India might just be a place for business for a lot of companies, but more credit has to be given to the tech enthusiasts of this country. They are, at the end of the day, buying your product!