Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Apple Watch: cracks showing?

From this story and similar it's easy to interpret that the honeymoon period of the new product category is over. Apple cynics proven right? Or markets just being fickle? A bit of both.

I'm an Apple sceptic: love their stuff, but not the reality distortion and unnecessary product lock-ins that often accompany it. Overall, they are a healthy part of the technosphere, which is not easy for a behemoth.

Something is clearly wrong with their Apple Watch sales. So they are below expectations, but why not publish them anyway? Apple's profit margins are normally huge on anything they sell, so even if the volumes are lower than expected, it's not like they'll have failed financially, is it? I think the absence of information, in this case, could work against them not just in the markets, as it has already shown, but in consumer confidence. In this internet age, consumers like to to make informed decisions, so any perception of withheld information fuels lack of confidence, and, arguably, is just as easy to exploit by a canny competitor.

But they had to do it. For Apple not to have a watch in this still-embryonic but burgeoning wearables market could have been perceived by the markets as leaving money on the table. And this first offering is pretty decent: all the buttery smooth and shiny user experience features are there. It's just not essential or different enough from the iPhone. I doubt anyone in late 19th or early 20th century had a pocket watch and a wrist watch.

This is the first step on a product journey, a marker. Remember, the first iPhone didn't even have copy & paste. But then Apple defined the category and were so far ahead of the competition they could take their time perfecting the product. This time, the category is already quite crowded and despite their behemoth status they didn't own it. Do they have the agility to evolve faster than rivals?

If you compare the pace of innovation in iOS versus Android, you'll see that since about 2013 Android has outpaced Apple. Android in 2015 is a lot better than Android in 2012, whereas iOS is a bit better. This isn't about which OS is better, but about which OS is improving the fastest.

But Apple is a hardware company. And I think the reasons the Apple Watch is not a giant success are hardware-based, from the basic: battery life; to the sublime Dick Tracy fantasy: a camera. These limitations are understandable to geeks: the science simply isn't there yet. But the average Apple consumer thinks it's all magic anyway, so will expect Apple to crack these things in version 2 or 3. Can they? I can't think when they've ever had this much competitive pressure in hardware. This should get interesting.

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