Why the Apple iWatch Won’t Go Straight to the Bottom Dresser Drawer

| Particle Debris

Why is Apple's iWatch guaranteed to succeed? One of the reasons can be found in Apple's recent hires. The nature of those people's professional expertise suggests that the iWatch will be orthogonal to every day technical thinking.

Apple, in my opinion, is looking at 1) previously unexplored utility in wearables 2) health monitoring that makes sense and 3) fashion. The elegant combination of these elements will set the iWatch apart from geeky smartwatches that can tell us the atmospheric pressure in millbars in Hong Kong.

In other words, I expect the iWatch to be a full spectrum device that does truly human, useful things and is a joy to wear and look at. There's an unexplored market for that, and it'll leave the competition gasping. Much of that will be due to the fact that Apple is using first class materials and hiring people who are experts at defining how a product is presented to the customers via marketing that creates demand.

Where else can you buy a product like that? You can go into Best Buy and see all kinds of gadgets. Cameras. Routers. Disk drives. Printers. But taken in isolation, each only does one thing, and often they are a nuisance to configure, connect and keep running. They just sit there until they're asked to do a specific, dumb task.

The original iPod wasn't a spectacular piece of hardware, but it was beautuful and integrated well into Apple's infrastructure. It's utility was amplified by all that it connected to so that the end result, a thousand songs in our pocket, could be achieved. It resided at the top of a pyramid of infrastructure.

And so what Apple choses to display in that display, covered with sapphire, will be more than just a mishmash of disparate data. It'll be something we come to depend on.

For much, much more on this, I want to direct you to an extensive discussion by Sanjiv Sathiah over at Electronista.  When you've finished with "Why the Apple iWatch will succeed (Part 1)," you'll see what I mean.

Next: the tech news debris for the week of Aug 4: Microsoft stuck in the mud with Windows 8.1 and Apple in full afterburner with the next iPad and iPhone.

Comments

CudaBoy

No, it won’t ever end up in the bottom of my drawer because I have ZERO interest in strapping stuff to my wrist. This is a HUGE gamble by Apple in my opinion and here’s why:  Getting people to appreciate very cool ergonomics and form & function for a music playing device i.e. MP3 players was pretty easy because they stepped into a market that was already their albeit young and came out with a “better” MP3 player that the others. Same thing with the phones - Apple didn’t innovate them either - they polished it and put some Apple OS Voodoo in the iOS but frankly Apple has NEVER led with superior hardware - not displays, not battery life, not storage, not speed. Now they are GAMBLING that the kids that dig Apple are all of a sudden going to buy a certain brand of shirt, shoes, socks, underwear etc because it talks to your Dick Tracy wristwatch?  Also, if HEALTH monitoring is the gimmick - good luck on that too. It’s a HUGE stretch of faith on Apple’s part - this watch/sensor thing. Another device for distracted drivers to use…nice. I can see the bug fix patches for that LL Bean shirt now. Knowing Apple they will sell ANYTHING well at first but it also could easily flop a historic flop simply because people just don’t care about that health crap no matter how foo foo “cool” it is - until they are old and sick that is.

John Martellaro

CudaBoy: You address all the issues Apple has had to grapple with ever since we first heard about this rumored product.  I’m looking forward to your reaction when it ships!

CudaBoy

I can’t wait. If this thing has a cool factor off the charts -like razor thin 360ยบ screen that is understated cool, maybe 3D - featherweight, and if it has enough functionality BESIDES dedicated health and sensor equipped clothes then maybe it could be a monster. Unlike phones, pods and pads this is a pretty NEW idea and yes, it will be cool to see Apple’s take. I won’t wear a watch, but what’s the over/under that this piece couldn’t also end up around your neck or literally embedded into your iPhone?

CudaBoy

Remember iPod nano? Will there be an iWatch nano for your ring finger?

geoduck

Nope, ain’t buying it (pun intended)
I don’t see health monitoring as nearly as big a market as some do. Far more people play lip service to being healthier and yet Big Macs outsell tofu by like a zillion to one. The vast vast VAST majority of people just aren’t interested in monitoring their BP sleep schedule and o2 levels. I just don’t see a market there, certainly not on the scale that Apple and others seem to think there is. Frankly I just haven’t seen anything compelling enough to plunk down $50 let alone any of the suggested possible prices for an iWatch, iTime, whatever Apple might call it. And for that matter we are still talking about a theoretical product. There was buzz about Apple producing a phone for like a decade before the iPhone came out. This is all a hypothetical discussion at this point.

Yes I read the linked article by the guy at Electronista and it didn’t change my opinion one gram. I just have not seen anything even close to compelling about a watch form factor from Apple or anyone else. Not the products on the market, not the rumours of the hypothetical Apple product. At this point if I ended up with one, say a gift because I sure as heck would not put my own money down on one, unless it did a heck of a lot more than has been rumoured so far, it WOULD end up in the bottom of a drawer.

Lee Dronick

I will consider buying it or not after it is announced, if that ever happens.

mrmwebmax

+

My jury is out until I see what they unveil. I haven’t worn a watch in years, because my iPhone does all I need for telling time, alarms, calendar, etc. But I sure as heck can’t wait to see whatever it is, and if Apple can disrupt smartwatches the way they did phones.

jimstead

Other than publicity, no wearable device will materially affect Apple on the upside or the downside. Whether they sell zero or max out the most optimistic forecast, it can’t make more than a tiny percentage difference to a $170+ B company.

Pashtun Wally

I see it differently.

What if it’s a sufficiently desirable medical monitoring device that it gets picked up (substantially) as accepted technology by insurance?  Independent of other functionality?  In that case, EVERYONE will be wearing one of SOME description.

The upside for Apple is huge….

skipaq

I no longer where a watch regularly. The exception is a work requirement for my part time job. I have never purchased a high end watch. I did receive a nice gold watch at retirement (really). That being said I will reserve any decision on an iWatch purchase when I see what it is.

I have been an avid runner for more than forty years. There may well be some compelling feature that would make buying two (my wife is a runner too) worthwhile. For anyone to scoff at the exercise market as small shows a lack of knowledge. There are many millions of us.

But that is nothing compared to the health market in general. There is absolutely no doubt that personal wearable health devices are coming. The numbers will be massive. If Apple does this right the potential is more than a pimple bump to its’ financials. If better health monitoring comes with the iWhatevers, they will not be left in your drawer bottom.

wab95

John et al:

Just getting to my TMO reading, having spent my weekend submitting global health crises recommendations; time for fun stuff.

Two thoughts occur having read your primary thesis on the smart watch and bottom drawers, as well as some of the reader reaction to it, specifically the bearish reaction to the, as yet not announced, product.

First, many people, not just TMO readers, but other Apple enthusiast elsewhere in the blogosphere, often look at Apple offerings from a personal vantage point; and not surprisingly, they are, afterall, consumers of Apple products. That said, there seems to be an implicit assumption that all Apple products should be relevant to them, and serve their needs, or else the rationale behind the product, however well-made, is flawed. I suggest, rather, that the assumption is flawed. Not every product is intended for every individual user. This will be especially true as Apple continue to diversify their portfolio of products and services.

One thing we do know about Apple is that they do their research, and think deeply about a problem and only release a product when they believe that they have satisfactorily solved that problem in a way that a) provides best in class user experience, and b) provides a consistent user experience. Without doubt, it (a product) will address the needs of a specific demographic, however large or small. That oneself will be in every demographic, or that demograpic specifically, is another matter, and the broader the range of products, the less likely that will be. There is nothing here.

For example, the iPod Touch; nice device, drool-worthy even. Nonetheless, I’ve never owned one, don’t want one. Is it a bad product? A useless product? An irrational product that should never have been minted? I think not. I’ve seen plenty in the wild, including amongst my professional colleagues. This product, like the company itself, is not about me. If one of their products is useful to me and my work and play habits, and unleashes my potential, well and good; if not, I can move along to something that does.

Second, the protestations about the broadness, or narrowness, of a new device’s appeal, in the absence of that device, is akin to arguing about a product’s outcome in the absence of data. In short, it’s opinion pure and simple, but there’s more. It’s opinion uninformed by experience. I’m reminded of the intense debates I had with mentors and ‘experts’ in computers, back in the early to mid ‘80s about how there was no market for personal computers, how this was a waste, and the majority of people would, and I quote, ‘never’ need them. What I wouldn’t give for a time machine. Today, we cannot imagine running our affairs with to them, that is, our personal affairs, let alone our professions. I recall, too, the protestations and cavilling in pre-lease iPad era, about how this was nothing more than a large iPod touch. Who needed it? It would fill no niche. Today, it’s displacing the venerable PC for many uses and going where the PC never will.

The point is, until we actually see, hold and begin to experiencing how something can be used, most of us simply cannot imagine its utility. We have no prior experience for that product category.

In short, wisdom would suggest that patience and observation, before judgement, is in order.

RonMacGuy

I know a lot of people don’t wear watches anymore, and that’s fine, so the decision to put on a watch now is a tough one for those people, no matter how well it integrates into the phone or how much fitness-related stuff it does.  For me, my situation is different.  I’ve always enjoyed wearing a watch, and when my father passed away 6 years ago I started wearing his gold Rolex daily (that he got from his company for his 25 years of service) as a reminder of him (and also because it’s a hell of a nice watch!!).  Very few people make the connection that it is not only a Rolex but a gold Rolex, and the majority of people don’t even bother looking at a person’s watch anymore, although I still like to look and notice nice watches that other people wear.  Regardless, my issue is this:  I want to be able to access basic phone functions of my iPhone without having to take it from my pocket, and it would be nice to have (but not need to have) some fitness-related monitoring, but I also DON’T want to replace my current watch for obvious sentimental reasons.  So, for people like me, will it ever become fashionably acceptable to have a watch on my right wrist (I’m left-handed and have always worn watches on my right wrist) and ALSO a smart watch on my left wrist?!?!?  Or, will I look like more of an idiot than I already look like by having what is in effect a watch on each wrist?  Any input/suggestions?

wab95

Ron:

There are already people who wear a watch on their non-dominant wrist and a fitness device on the other, present company included. In fact, in some circles, it’s apparently a fashion statement that says you take fitness and personal health seriously.

For me, it’s not a fashion statement, but functionality. I like my Breitling - a gift from a loving wife for completing medical school and successfully entering residency training; but also have found benefit in tracking my workouts to see not only which ones provide the most apparent bang-for-buck (granted, the measures are imperfect) but my progress with some of the more challenging ones. Granted, that type of feedback will be only useful to the more serious and goal-oriented fitness enthusiasts.

The device(s) that Apple will likely roll out, given not only their hires, but the software being baked into iOS 8, indicate far greater utility across a wide range of personal monitoring needs, including the capacity of parents to monitor their child’s health. In its more mature form, this device will, in my opinion, prove as critical in saving life for many as seat belts in cars today.

The watch moniker is as misleading and as much a diversion from core functionality for this class of device as is the phone moniker for the iPhone in describing its primary utility for most clients.

RonMacGuy

Thanks wab95, but as you know the fitness devices of today are typically stylish, bracelet-looking devices.  Not much of a display, and in some cases just a band around your wrist.  Fuelbands, Fitbit, UP24, etc.  My fear is that Apple will go with something more watch-like in appearance, going back to the effect being a watch on each wrist.  Not that it won’t be stylish, but my feel is that they will go with a watch replacement approach and not a supplemental wrist-worn fitness device.  Regardless, as has been stated, it is all a guess now, until we see what Apple potentially may release at some point in time.

Log-in to comment