Apple's second major event of 2009 without CEO Steve Jobs at the helm was much more interesting than its first, and shed a bit more light on what Apple's presentation strategy sans Jobs might look like.
Jobs, of course, is on medical leave until June, and therefore wasn't present to host the iPhone 3.0 software event on Tuesday. So Apple's Scott Forstall, senior vice president of iPhone software, did the majority of the talking during Tuesday's event, accompanied by vice president of iPhone and iPod marketing Greg Joswiak and senior vice president of marketing Phil Schiller.
Unlike January's Macworld event hosted by Schiller, Tuesday's event had actual major news, the first time Apple has rolled out major news without Jobs present in recent memory. One of the key questions around Jobs' medical leave was whether or not Apple could continue to pull off its signature marketing bonanzas without Jobs, perhaps the most dynamic public speaker in the tech industry.
Forstall is no stranger to the stage, having played prominent roles in the demonstration of Mac OS X Leopard in 2006 and the iPhone 2.0 software event last year. With Tuesday's performance, he established himself as Apple's iPhone spokesman for some time to come, perhaps even after Jobs returns.
It's not that he was dazzling, or distorted everyone's reality. In January, everyone's attention was on the fact that Schiller, and not Jobs was before them on stage. On Tuesday, Forstall kept the focus on the new software by demonstrating an ability to smoothly explain complex topics (and gloss over shortcomings) with confidence and a sense of humor.
Most members of the public would be hard-pressed to name more than a handful of executives at any tech company, but Apple has for almost a decade made Jobs its single-most visible executive as part of its marketing strategy. Now, with Jobs sidelined, other Apple executives are having to step up.
Jobs is irreplaceable as a public speaker, salesman, and leader, but Forstall showed Apple COO Tim Cook that he can be counted on to be the public face of the iPhone.
Now all Apple has to do is find someone who can do that for both the iPod and the Mac.