Eighty minutes into Wednesday’s Apple media event, I found myself watching a hypothetical little girl use the new Apple TV to hypothetically shop for a $188 dress to wear to a family wedding. It was the middle of the workday, and, like legions of others, I’d tuned in to see Apple’s leadership perform a 140-minute commercial for the company’s fall product line. The whole thing was — as all Apple events are — a preposterous, dizzying spectacle from which to draw almost infinite conclusions about consumerism and innovation and popular culture, and it was also loud and familiar enough to make us forget exactly why we were watching. But we’re watching, of course, for the slick product demos and for the dulcet, soothing, al-you-min-i-um-gilded walkthroughs — for a glimpse into what may well be the honest-to-god future.
It’s instructive to look at this vision of the future — Apple’s vision of the future — in relation to the one that its biggest rival, Google, is trying to sell. At Google’s annual developer conference last May, the company outlined its quest for complete control of your digital life, a plan undergirded by Google’s seemingly boundless ambitions. Internet balloons, connecting the next billion in the developing world. Driverless cars. Pants that can make phone calls. Google’s vision of the future takes place in, well, the future, with demos for products that will change the world in years to come. It’s both awe-inspiring and, at times, a bit unnerving.