Apple Discovers a New Stage for Its Fanfare: Brooklyn

For the first time, the iconic company brings one of its keynote announcements to New York—to a rousing reaction

CEO Tim Cook at the start of today's show. Said he: "New York is home to one of the most vibrant creative communities, so it's only natural that it would have a special place in our hearts at Apple" (Image courtesy of Apple via keynote video)

The event being planned for the Brooklyn Academy of Music was so hush-hush for awhile that BAM staffers were using a code name: Acme. By this morning, however, the secret was out. Crowds were lining up by the hundreds to see the latest announcements from a company that knows how to put on a show: Apple.

It was a historic event, the first time the company has staged one of its keynote product announcements in New York City, so it became almost as much a celebration of the location as the merchandise. “I am moving to New York!,” Apple CEO Tim Cook declared after a Brooklyn-sized roar from the crowd.

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Brooklyn Academy of Music, site of the event, was festooned in Apple iconography

That’s not likely, since Apple has just finished building its new, $5 billion “spaceship” headquarters in California, but the company’s newfound affinity for Brooklyn as a creative hub was expressed early and often. The show included several nods to local culture, ranging from a performance by singer Lana Del Rey to a demonstration of a video game pitting the Brooklyn Nets vs. the Golden State Warriors on a new iPad Pro.

“I think it’s a really big deal that Apple chose Brooklyn for a launch event. So much of the creative class is here in Brooklyn,” said Regina Myer, president of the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, who said she was suitably wowed by Apple’s audio-visual mastery: “A flawless presentation.”

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After the announcements, attendees trooped over to the lobby of One Hanson Place for some hands-on time with the updated devices

Cook and his colleagues unveiled a wave of product upgrades aimed at boosting its sales of computers and tablets, including the first redesigned version of the MacBook Air since 2010, sleeker and more powerful versions of the iPad Pro, and a five-times-faster iteration of the Mac mini desktop computer. All of the upgraded products carry higher prices as well, to keep Apple’s legendary profits chugging along. Last month, the company announced new versions of the iPhone (the XS, XS Max and XR) and its smartwatch. Among today’s announcements:

While iPhones now bring in two thirds of Apple’s revenues, an all-new version of its best-selling laptop, the MacBook Air, shows an abiding commitment to its Mac line. (Cook said that 100 million Macs are now in use.) The new version features Apple’s high-def retina display and Touch ID for the first time. It’s also thinner, lighter, and has less overall volume because its 13.3-inch screen extends nearly to the outer frame. The new MacBook Air starts at $1,199, up $200 from the current model.

Demonstrating the high-def display of the new iPad Pro, video-game makers showed a closeup of Nets star D’Angelo Russell

The top of the line iPad, the Pro model, has been revved up in multiple ways. Amid sagging sales of tablet devices, the new iPad Pro seems designed to compete with PCs and even gaming consoles. In two display sizes, 11 inch ($799) and 12.9 inch ($999), the new model packs more speed, power and memory into a smaller package. Other new features include Face ID, which debuted on last year’s iPhone X, and an updated Apple Pencil that attaches magnetically to the side of the device.

Sustainability was a big theme as well. The frames of the new MacBook Air and iPad Pro will be made from 100% recycled aluminum, creating a new custom alloy that Apple says it has engineered “down to the molecular level.” The MacBook Air is built with 100% recycled tin and 35% recycled plastic as well.

As part of its move toward sustainability, Apple makes the frames of the MacBook Air from recycled metals

In keeping with the overall theme of creativity, representatives from software companies showed what the new devices can do. Adobe reps demonstrated the graphic capabilities of the forthcoming Photoshop for the iPad, due next year, using the Pencil device to zoom in and out of an illustration at high speed. Take-Two Interactive Software touted the high definition of its NBA 2K game version for the iPad, displaying a close-up of star player D’Angelo Russell in such detail the audience could see the finer points of his tattoos and beads of sweat on his head.

Apple’s ballyhoo in Brooklyn today could well be a harbinger of things to come, with more events of national import occurring in the borough, said the downtown partnership’s Myer. “We’re going to have the venues to bring more and more great events to Downtown Brooklyn,” she said, citing the planned refurbishment of the LIU Brooklyn Paramount Theatre and a 1,000-seat auditorium in the new building at the New York City College of Technology (City Tech).

While waiting for the event to start, a group demonstrates with their smartphones why Apple has such a hold on its devotees

Companies may come for the crowds as much as the venues. Philip Elmer-DeWitt, who has been covering Apple since 1983 and publishes the Apple 3.0 blog, said today’s crowd “whooped and hollered” more than he has seen recently at Apple’s West Coast events, which have become “sort of ho-hum.”



“It’s a feather in Brooklyn’s cap, that they’re doing it in Brooklyn rather than Manhattan. It’s more their vibe,” said Elmer-DeWitt, given Apple’s attachment to creativity. “Apple dropped the word so often in the presentation it should have been a drinking game.”

Steve Koepp is the editor of The Bridge. Previously, he was editorial director of Time Inc. Books, executive editor of Fortune and deputy managing editor of Time.