How to Pretend Apple Watch Is a Failure No Matter What

Apple WatchApple Watch

Apple Watch. Seems like Apple has a hit on its corporate hands. Or a preorder hit. The company sold a million Apple Watches in the first 24 hours—just in the U.S.—according to one piece of analysis. That would make it the most successful new product category launch in Apple's history—so what do you do if you've been talking smack about it for months?

If you're Roger Kay, you stuff a straw man full of nonsensical numbers that will allow you to declare the device a failure no matter what. It's a neat trick so long as no one applies a gram of logic to what you're saying. Unfortunately for Mr. Kay's latest column at ForbesApple Watch Wager—I have plenty of logic lying around.

Mr. Kay's story starts off on Friday, when he reported that an informal poll of Silicon Valley tech execs found none of them intended to buy an Apple Watch. That led him to, "suspect that the watch will underperform from a sales perspective."

I suspect he is wrong.

Mr. Kay added:

The top press all got free demo watches, and they’re mostly positive about it, saying they have 'discovered' what makes the watch so special. But methinks the lady doth protest too much. If they had to pay for it, they would not likely have run out and bought one.

And methinks the lady doth project too much.

The quote above was originally published on April 10th, the same day Apple Watch preorders went on sale and customers could make appointments to see them in Apple Stores. Here we are on Monday, April 13th, and Apple Watch is, as noted above, a smash hit. The debut device reached at least a million sales around the world in the first day. As HuffPo noted, it took 74 days for the iPhone to reach that number, and it took 28 days for iPad to do the same.

That puts quite the damper on the doom and gloom crowd's conviction that Apple Watch would finally be Apple's megaflop, its long overdue comeuppance after so many years of success.

Mr. Kay was challenged on his predictions of failure by readers who asked him to put his own predictions on the line, which he did on Monday. It's how he did so that has me tilting my knapsack off. From Mr. Kay's piece:

Rather than throw my hocus pocus on top of everybody else’s (after all, who actually knows something as intangible as likely demand for a product in a new(ish) category?), I took a look at the ranges that some other people have laid out and used them to set a 'stretch' goal for Apple: 50 million units in the first year. That’s pretty much the high end of today’s forecasts with a few million more units added on.

Here are the numbers he used:

Apple Watch Estimates

In a Fortune survey done on March 2, 2015, financial analysts offered a range of
predictions from 8 million to 41 million for the Apple Watch’s first-year sales

Next: How to Shape Your Apple Watch Predictions to Suit Your Goals

Page 2 - How to Shape Your Apple Watch Predictions to Suit Your Goals


Let's start with the fact that 50 million units isn't "pretty much the high end of today’s forecasts with a few million more units added on." It's a full 21.95 percent above the highest of the high end. It's also more than double the average of the analysts estimates he cited—122.5 percent of the average, for those keeping score at home.

And if Apple does this—sells more than 20 percent above the most enthusiastic predictions, and more than twice the consensus—then, and only then, will Mr. Kay magnanimously admit that he was wrong. From Mr. Kay:

Here’s what I’m going to do if Apple does manage to sell 50 million watches by April 24, 2016, a year from the starting ship date: I’ll get a T-shirt made that says, 'I ♥ Tim Cook' on the front and 'You were right. I was wrong' on the back. In large letters. Credit Ryan Wood, a personal trainer at my health club, for the actual wording. I will wear this shirt and have pictures taken, front and back, which I will post to Facebook’s Instagram with proper notification to my various distribution lists and social media along with a reminder of what this is all about for those who dump their own memory cache periodically to make room for the next crazy thing.

How generous!

I wrote a piece looking at the mental gymnastics required to be a member of the Church Apple Doom, but this takes the cake. Mr. Kay is setting the bar for Apple Watch success in fantasy land and couching that as reasonable so that no matter how well it does, he will still be able to label it a failure.

Apple Watch

The funny thing is that I also have a bet running on Apple Watch with my friend Rocco Pendola. About a year ago I bet him that Apple would sell 40 million Apple Watches in the first full year of availability. I'm going to lose that bet. I was thinking in iPhone terms, not a new product category, and I was thinking about it as a fan of watches. I made a terrible bet, and I'm OK with that.

If Apple sells 2 million units in the first year, it would be a huge success compared to any other piece of wearable computing on the planet. Those kinds of numbers would make the device a blowout hit by any yardstick other than "Apple." At 5-10 million units, Apple will have a runaway success by any sane standard. Apple Watch sales above that will simply be stunning.

But don't look to Roger Kay to acknowledge such success.