Why Some Observers Think Apple Watch Won't Succeed

Most of the connected and astute Apple observers are confident that the Apple Watch will succeed. Perhaps brilliantly. Apple has the savvy, resources, engineering talent and executive leadership to make it a success. So why are there pockets of observers who are sure this new product from Apple will fail? I have been pondering the negative reactions surrounding the Apple Watch before we have even a hint of sales success.



I've been thinking about this for a few days, and I think I can start to explain the negative feelings I've seen published about the Apple Watch. So when I write "they," I'm referring to that small subset of naysayers. Here's my list of reasons in no particular order for those negative articles.

1. They don't understand watch people. There are many elements to owning a watch that are, perhaps, lost on users who are accustomed to either not wearing one and/or using a smartphone as their timepiece. A watch is accessible with a mere glance. A watch has the ability to make a statement about what kind of person you are while all iPhones look alike. (Until you buy a favorite case.)

Also, a watch has that historical, physical manifestation of timekeeping that a smartphone does not, and so it appeals to scientists (especially astronomers), pilots, transportation workers and even business people. If you're not in that mindset of horological enthusiasm, you don't "get" watches.

Also, there is the functional art aspect to a fine watch. The blend of design, colors and fine materials creates that je ne sais quoi feelng of excellence, brilliance and utility all at once.  It's a thing, and not everyone "gets" that either.

2. They don't understand Apple customers with disposable income. Not many Internet writers are highly compensated. For many, if they had to purchase everything they wrote about or reviewed, they'd go broke. The Apple Watch is one of those items where, except for a few notable, high profile authors, Apple isn't going to be bend over and send most authors a freebie. So writing about the Apple Watch could become an expensive proposition. One that that the spouse may veto. The idea that there are people who will buy one without blinking is offensive.

3. They're irked by perceived limits. Some technical writers, in order to make a splash, are all to willing to seize on presupposed limits of the Apple Watch. It makes then sound erudite by going against the grain. To paraphrase, "Um, sorry, it has to be charged every night. That will kill it." Or perhaps, "It's useless without an iPhone. That disqualifies it as a 'real' watch."

Or perhaps they like the idea of cheaper, different alternatives. Or they're fearful that after chalking up US$700 on their credit card, Apple will pull the rug out from under them with Apple Watch 2.0 in 18 months. That's a widely prevailing, tangible fear. See #2 above.

Next page: Reasons #4 through #7.

Page 2 - Reasons #4,5,6,7


4. After years of covering Apple as a beleaguered, boutique Unix company that (they believe) got lucky in the smartphone business, many observers are resentful that Apple would branch out into the the fashion business. They have a fixed notion about what Apple is good at, and they're unprepared, technically and socially, to discuss the coming culture of the Apple Watch. In their minds, Apple may as well have started making diamond necklaces or exotic women's clothing.

5. Writers fall into paid or unpaid bloggership for a variety of reasons. They all have some skill at analysis and entertainment. However, it's a typical conceit that because they have the privilege of covering Apple, they're just as smart as Apple executives. (None of us are.)

In fact, there's a prevailing notion that because everyone has the same rights, everyone is equally smart. (A semester in a general relativity class will disprove that theory.) In fact, Apple executives have a lot of experience, and they're wicked smart. Sometimes, the blogger just doesn't see the logic and evolution of Apple's ways. So they're a bit confused. And because they didn't see it all coming, they're resentful of Apple's success.

6. They have a lack of vision. I tell eager young technical writers to read a lot of science fiction. It's not just for entertainment, but rather to see how smart authors lay out synergy, serendipity and human reactions to technology.

For example, many early users of Twitter complained that they had no interest in telling the world what they had for breakfast. There was no seasoned enthusiasm for the potential uses of Twitter. In the same fashion, I see many writers who don't think about the potential new uses for the Apple Watch that have been built in. Some very smart but non-technical people will likely embarrass us all with their imaginative uses of the Apple Watch.

7. Apple Pay will be one of the killer apps for the Apple Watch. Once people start to routinely buy things by just waving their arm, a social upheaval will take place. This process, which will be celebrated in all kinds of TV and movie entertainment, will be copied by competitors. Because it's such a powerful social meme, the cost will come down in time with competing products, but until that happens, the Apple Watch will retain its allure for many, ensuring its success. Naysayers can't envision that social process.

Time Heals

In summary, I think many naysayers are just a little bit nervous about this new adventure from Apple and don't know quite what to think of it. Some don't like the price of admission to the Apple Watch scene. They're concerned about an investment that might become obsolete. They don't have a technical appreciation for timekeeping and new forms of interpersonal communication. They're allergic to the world of fashion and discussions thereof. Their vision for unexpected uses is limited at this point in time.

Finally, they don't understand why other people would want to spend big bucks on something that they themselves have no personal use for. The only conclusion is that throngs of Apple customers are mindless lemmings.

In time, I think all these reasons will disappear. Just as, today, no one questions Apple's foray into the smartphone business, soon, no one will question the Apple Watch. Just as the iPhone did, the Apple Watch will get better and better and become indispensable.

All will be well.


All Apple Watch images via Apple.