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Screenshot from Apple video

Apple's reputation for launching products that transform entire markets could become a casualty of its transition from selling gadgets to peddling "services" — the company's catch-all label for the grab-bag of TV, news media and gaming bundles it announced Monday.

Why it matters: Apple's genius under Steve Jobs lay in focusing on a very small number of unique products, but its new offerings are scattershot additions to already crowded media marketplaces. Some may prove hits, others may flounder — but none of them looks poised to "change the world," no matter how many times Apple and its partners repeat that phrase.

Between the lines: Apple's event featured one speaker after another — from CEO Tim Cook and other Apple execs to Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey — lauding what Cook called "the power of creativity" to "move us and inspire us, surprise us and challenge our assumptions."

  • The formidable array of directors, actors, musicians and other artists who are contributing their work to Apple TV+, the new premium content service, are fully capable of doing those things.
  • But so are many of their peers currently working for Netflix, Amazon, and other content studios.
  • A distributor is a distributor: Consumers are no more likely to choose a show based on which streaming network it's on than to choose one based on which broadcast network is offering it. Ditto for movie studios and book publishers.

Reality check: Apple is touting privacy and security as differentiators for all its offerings. Each of its product intros ritually promised not to sell users' personal information, and each pledge evoked cheers from the crowd in Cupertino.

  • Privacy controversies for Facebook and other online giants have raised public concern, leaving Apple an opening.
  • But there's little evidence so far that entertainment consumers will make choices based on privacy concerns.

Other catches:

  • In the Jobs era, Apple made a point of not announcing products till they were ready to ship. But many of the media offerings unveiled yesterday lacked basic details on pricing, timing, and lineup — and won't be available for months.
  • Apple's new "services" focus will rise and fall on the ability of the company's developers and designers to write great, reliable software. In recent years, Apple's hardware designs have continued to dazzle while its software has often languished.
  • Apple's phones and computers are premium brands for which people pay premium prices. But the world of services is one of monthly fees that get sliced into slivers by multiple stakeholders.

The bottom line: Apple's "services" pivot is already making the company fresh billions, and it will likely make more over time. But it also risks bringing Apple's lofty brand down to earth.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Dave Lawler, author of World
1 hour ago - World

Biden holds first phone call with Putin, raises Navalny arrest

Putin takes a call in 2017. Photo: Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty

President Biden on Tuesday held his first call since taking office with Vladimir Putin, pressing the Russian president on the arrest of opposition leader Alexey Navalny and the Russia-linked hack on U.S. government agencies.

The state of play: Biden also raised arms control, bounties allegedly placed on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine, according to a White House readout. The statement said Biden and Putin agreed maintain "consistent communication," and that Biden stressed the U.S. would "act firmly in defense of its national interests in response to actions by Russia that harm us or our allies."

Biden signs racial equity executive orders

Joe Biden prays at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on September 3, 2020, in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. PHOTO: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed executive orders on housing and ending the Justice Department's use of private prisons as part of what the White House is calling his “racial equity agenda.”

The big picture: Biden needs the support of Congress to push through police reform or new voting rights legislation. The executive orders serve as his down payment to immediately address systemic racism while he focuses on the pandemic.