Apple Watch Has Success Built-in, by Design

One can produce wild estimates of the Apple Watch sales. One can do surveys and discover what people think they're willing to pay. But the real prospects for the Apple Watch lie in Apple's unique ability to capture our heart and imagination.


Opinions about the Apple Watch are all over the map. For example, no one really knows how many will be sold. Here's a compilation by Jay Yarow at Business Insider. The problem with that data is that the estimates are all over the map. Including BI's own estimate of 14.7, the average is 24.2 million with a troublesome standard deviation of 16.3 million. In my mind, that means that the numbers are what we call a S.W.A.G. at this point in time.

Some has declared that the Apple Watch will be a failure, presumably, just for the fun of it. One of the better articles that sizes up the issues related to the success of the Apple Watch is by Chris O'Brien at the L.A. Times. That one is worth reading.

My take is that we can't treat a new product from Apple the same way we would treat a new product from many other companies. That's because Apple has several things going for it that other companies do not.

First, Apple has an enormous amount of brilliant engineering talent that can diagnose and solve the problems that we, as users, are just starting to realize we might have. In other words, we're way behind the learning curve compared to Apple engineers.

Secondly, Apple has a great deal of infrastructure to draw on. For example, Apple Pay on the Apple Watch will leverage off the iPhone already in the pocket. Just the act waving one's wrist next to the NFC terminal will become a cultural icon and will propel sales as the allure catches on. The elegant partitioning of functionality will need to be seen to be appreciated.

Third, Apple knows that this product needs to be a success, and so every little detail, from engineering to marketing will be examined in deep detail. Nothing will be overlooked, and as a result, this watch will capture our hearts and imagination. It's pointless to argue that no one needs it or that it's too expensive. Remember the original iPod from 2001? It retailed for US$399, and we all just had to have one.

Rinse. Repeat.

Fourth, I believe Apple is attuned to the issue that Mr. O'Brien brings up above regarding obsolescence. This is a fashion item. The stainless steel and sapphire version will cost a pretty penny, and to accuse Apple of planning to have us throw it away each year and replace with an updated model with a faster processor is insane. We know Apple will treat its customers better than that.

Fifth, to argue that no one wants to carry a computer on the wrist is like arguing computers are too complicated to replace the simple elegance of a typewriter. It's a stick-in-the-mud notion that fails to recognize how Apple has a tendency to create things that we enjoy owning and come to depend on. The magic of Jonathan Ive can't be underestimated.

Finally, this notion that if the Apple Watch doesn't live up to some artificial sales expectation, defined by the media, then Tim Cook is a failure. That's juvenile journalism at its worst. The Apple Watch will likely do very well thanks to the work Apple has put into it, drive many poorer products out of the marketplace, and make a lot of money for Apple. But it will likely never meet the expectations of the naysayers.

It's January. Soon, the Apple Watch will ship. Let's sit back and observe Apple with joy as it brings a really cool product to market and let it be a pleasing part of Apple's product portfolio.