The Apple Watch, which launches next month and hasn’t been used by anyone besides Apple employees and some select developers, is already being called a flop.
Here’s Mark Wilson of Fast Company in an op-ed published this week:
Before the iPad came out, you’ll recall, a lot of smart people doubted there was a market for what was being billed “a big iPhone.” After all, Microsoft had failed at tablets in the early aughts. And Apple had failed at tablets before that.
But just because a lot of people were wrong about the iPad doesn’t mean that the Apple Watch will similarly rise above expectations. The Apple Watch is Jonathan Ive’s new Newton. It’s a potentially promising form that’s being built about 10 years before Apple has the technology or infrastructure to pull it off in a meaningful way.
As a result, the novel interactions that could have made the Apple watch a must-have device aren’t in the company’s launch product, nor are they on the immediate horizon. And all Apple can sell the public on is a few tweets and emails on their wrists — an attempt at a fashion statement that needs to be charged once or more a day.
Let’s get one thing clear first. The iPhone was a mega hit, a once-in-a-lifetime moneymaking miracle machine. We likely won’t see anything like it — a product or service that literally changes the way we live — for decades. No one should expect a new Apple product to reach that level of success until after we’re all old or dead. The iPad was an extension of the iPhone.
But whenever Apple gets ready to launch a new gizmo, the expectations are higher than they are for any company. Inevitably, someone says it will flop. In the case of Apple’s last two major products, the iPhone and iPad, those people were wrong.
One of Wilson’s main arguments seems to be that the world’s technological infrastructure isn’t ready for a smartwatch. Most retailers don’t accept Apple Pay. You can’t walk into a restaurant and have your dietary restrictions beamed to the kitchen. You can’t use it to enter the subway. And so on.
It sounds like he’s dreaming up some sort of technological Utopia that has to exist before the Apple Watch does. That’s not how it works.
What is more more likely to happen is that sort of stuff will be built around the Apple Watch, much the same way and entire ecosystem of apps and services were built around the iPhone. Think back to 2008 when the App Store first launched on the iPhone. There was no such thing as mobile payments. There was no such thing as digital assistants like Cortana, Siri, and Google Now. There was no such thing as Uber.
All of those things have changed the way we live, but couldn’t have happened unless the iPhone came first.
The Apple Watch is poised ot launch a similar wave of mobile innovation. But it’s going to start out small, just like it did before the App Store with the original iPhone. You’ll be able to get alerts, messages, and directions on your wrist, but Apple is keeping things limited at first on purpose. For example, the Watch won’t be able to run apps natively. Instead, the apps on your iPhone will “push” the data to your Apple Watch.
This is Apple slowly letting developers dip their toes in the water. Who knows what Apple Watch apps will look like a few years from now? I doubt even Apple does. But there’s an opening for creative developers to jump in and create something exciting and unique. The rest of the world can build itself around that.
Wilson does bring up one legitimate concern: Battery life. Apple has only said the Apple Watch will need to be charged nightly. But if it can’t prove at its event on March 9 that the device won’t last a full day under moderate to heavy use, then it’s going to be a big turn off for a lot of people.
In the meantime, it’s unfair to call it a flop.
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