There was a moment on Thursday – shortly before everything went horribly, hilariously wrong – when it seemed like the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch event might be a classy, dignified affair.
As media hordes from around the globe waited for the big reveal, a jazzy soundtrack piped through the speakers at New York's Radio City Music Hall. Besides a 10-minute delay, everything looked fine.
And then the show started.
For what was an hour but felt like six, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. subjected the world to an inexplicable, shrill mess of hammy Broadway shtick, brutally tired mother-in-law jokes and over-caffeinated tap-dancing child actors. Why any of this insanity was necessary to announce a phone – a well-known and by all accounts perfectly adequate phone – is a mystery.
Most of the press event featured a Samsung executive playing the role of straight-man next to the night's MC, Broadway star Will Chase. As Samsung highlighted feature after (often very impressive) feature of the new phone, a parade of singing, dancing and all-too-often shrieking stage actors went through little skits illustrating said features, all as Mr. Chase looked on with an attitude that can best be described as sarcastically enthused.
After an hour of technical specification recitation, interspersed with unrestrained scenery-chewing, the event mercifully came to an end. Amidst all the hoopla, Samsung apparently forgot to announce when the new Galaxy was actually going on sale.
Samsung now joins a growing list of bizarre tech industry press conferences over the past few months – including a Sony PlayStation launch event that treated the audience to exactly zero images of the PlayStation, and a Qualcomm CES keynote that featured Big Bird, a guy dressed sort of like Big Bird and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
In fairness to Samsung, a train wreck of a launch is much more preferable to an event that leaves onlookers with no reaction at all. Hopefully, the rest of the industry's big players follow this lead, and every launch event from here on in becomes a surreal, tap-dancing spectacle.