Apple Shows Off New Steve Jobs Theater at Annual iPhone Event

By Christina Passariello Features Dow Jones Newswires

CUPERTINO, Calif. -- Apple Inc. Tuesday accompanied its annual ritual of new product revelations with a different kind of unveiling, the first public look inside the Steve Jobs Theater on the tech giant's new campus.

Continue Reading Below

Apple welcomed nearly 1,000 guests to the glass-walled auditorium named after Apple's co-founder at the $5 billion Apple Park, which has been under construction for years. Work on the site reached a crescendo in recent months to ready it in time for the iPhone event, amping up anticipation for a product launch that is critical to Apple's future.

This year's event is expected to feature a pricier new smartphone dubbed the iPhone X with advanced new features to mark the product's 10th anniversary, as well as two updated versions of last year's iPhone 7, a new version of the Apple Watch and other items.

In recent years, Apple hosted its September event in rented venues around the Bay Area because it had outgrown its longtime headquarters nearby Apple Park. That drifting from its roots coincided with what some observers have called a period of relative stagnation in which Apple had no new breakthrough products, and made incremental changes to its cash cow smartphone. Apple hopes that centralizing its teams on the campus will lead to closer collaboration -- and the iPhone event is the grand kickoff.

"We've been waiting for this for a long time," says Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Creative Strategies who attended the Tuesday event. "Will [the campus] make a difference to how Wall Street sees Apple? Of course not, but there is excitement and the atmosphere will be different."

The Steve Jobs Theater is situated on a hill on the new campus, overlooking the main ring building that is designed to house Apple's core divisions. Outside, the smell of the fertilizer mixed in with mulch permeated the air from the landscaping that has taken place this summer.

Continue Reading Below

From the exterior, the theater's metallic carbon-fiber roof appears to levitate over the 20-foot-tall glass cylinder. The stage, seating and other exhibit space where guests can play with Apple's new devices all are located underground.

Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple with Mr. Jobs in the 1970s, was one of the guests Tuesday. His immediate reaction was, "Wow, this is not normal," he said. He said the design reflected Steve Jobs's Apple, capturing his design instincts.

Its primary use will be for product launches, said Dan Whisenhunt, Apple's head of real estate and development. It also will host seminar talks, small concerts and meetings led by Apple executives that can be simulcast everywhere on campus.

The last two September events have taken place at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, a larger space that allowed Apple to invite 2,000 people, including school groups. While the smaller Steve Jobs Theater means cutting the guest list in half, "this venue gets us back to the sweet spot," Mr. Whisenhunt said.

Tripp Mickle contributed to this article.

Write to Christina Passariello at christina.passariello@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 12, 2017 12:52 ET (16:52 GMT)