Why not every time, Apple?

Just like John Gruber asked, I wondered why this time Apple was streaming the event live, but doesn’t every time as well. But I think I have the answer – it’s complicated.

You see, I do live production, and it’s already tough with tried-and-true technology, and things go wrong for big companies that specialize in it, like EPSN, NBC, CBS – literally everyone has had stuff go wrong. And that’s on systems that are designed only for that.

Now add the internet. A “collection of tubes” is a pretty generous metaphor, given that my experience is that it’s a bubble-gum-wrapped collection of madness that should work, but fails in spectacular and interesting ways, every time you least expect it. And while is very good at managing what it does when sending out pixels and bytes over the internet, it’s had issues crop up, too.

The math on this is difficult, but it basically adds up to “if the event is too big, we can’t risk streaming it”. The risk is because when you do the live streaming and something fails, the story shifts from the announced devices to the faulty webstream. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least that the first headline about the event included a snark about it being launched on the technology used in MobileMe. Yes, it would be that bad.

Which means that the iPhone events, given that the product sells out FIVE MILLION DEVICES IN A WEEKEND, is probably too risky to live stream. The amount of people that are interested and invested in learning more about the rumors that they’ve been hearing and pushing for months on end, the sheer volume of data needed for that is staggering to think about, and the chance that it would fail to people who have a megaphone increases to the point that it’s almost certain.

That’s a risk that isn’t worth it. Everyone will go see the event afterward, if they want to, but the danger of having their streaming technology destroy the story is too high for some events. When you’re fanatical about your press, you only take gambles you know you can win.

Which means, for me, that until Apple is ready to live stream their massive, everybody-is-watching-with-baited-breath events, that live video on the web is still nascent and still a pain in the ass. I can’t wait for that to change!