When Apple announced the Apple Watch, it chose a special location: The Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, California.
The Flint Center is where Steve Jobs introduced the original Macintosh. It’s also where he introduced the iMac.
It was not an accident Apple chose this historic venue to reveal the Apple Watch.
When Tim Cook took the stage at the Flint Center, here’s what he said:
It is great to be back in the Flint Center. As you know, we’re just down the road from Apple’s birthplace and home in Cupertino. And we’ve had some amazing history here.
We’ve had some of the most important product introductions in Apple’s history on this stage. On this stage, 30 years ago, Steve introduced the Macintosh to the world. And on this stage, we introduced the iMac, which signaled the rebirth of Apple.
Today, we have some amazing products to share with you. And we think at the end of the day, that you will agree that this too is a very key day for Apple.
Did you get that?
Cook starts the event by talking about two of the biggest products in the history of Apple — the Macintosh, which defined personal computing as we know it, and the iMac, which was the rebirth of Apple.
He then says today will be a “key day” for Apple.
Apple announced the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Pay, and the Apple Watch that day.
So, you might want to argue that Cook was saying he was releasing three great new products, and that’s why it’s a key day.
There’s a problem with that thinking.
Apple has been releasing a new iPhone every year since 2007. The iPhone 6 is Apple’s best phone, but it’s a continuation of what Apple has been doing for the past seven years.
Apple Pay is a big new product. But does it belong in the same category as the Macintosh? No. It’s a great new feature for the iPhone, and it has potential to be a solid business down the road.
The Apple Watch, though, belongs in the same category as the Mac. It’s a brand new computing platform, and it was the star of the show.
Apple spent 55 minutes on the iPhone and Apple Pay. That left it 67 minutes to talk about the Apple Watch.
“We’ve been working incredibly hard for a long time on an entirely new product. And we believe this product will redefine what people expect from its category,” said Cook as he introduced the Apple Watch. “I am so excited, and I am so proud to share it with you. It is the next chapter in Apple’s story, and here it is.”
What are the other chapters in Apple’s story right now?
- Chapter One: The Mac. It defined personal computing, and it’s a $US24 billion business.
- Chapter Two: The iPod. It defined MP3 players, and at its peak was an $US8 billion business, according to the WSJ.
- Chapter Three: The iPhone. It defines smartphones, and it’s a $US102 billion business.
- Chapter Four: The iPad. It reinvented personal computing, and it defines tablet computing. It’s a $US30 billion business.
- Chapter Five: The Apple Watch. Success to be determined.
As you can see, Apple does not play small ball. It swings for the fences. The Apple Watch is its latest swing for the fence.
If the announcement wasn’t clear enough, look at Apple’s website. The Apple Watch already has its own category right next to the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and iPod.
Therefore, if it is not a home run like the iPad, or iPhone, then it’s going to be a flop. There is no in-between for Apple. Especially after Tim Cook called it Apple’s “next chapter” and put the watch’s release in the same category as the announcement of the Macintosh.
Apple created a set of expectations when it announced the watch. Now it has to meet those expectations.
It may not seem fair, but that’s the byproduct of Apple’s business model. Apple moves slowly, and deliberately into new product categories.
Other tech companies like Google and Amazon will quickly try new products to see what works. If one of their products fail, it’s less important because they’re already on to the next thing.
Apple spent three years crafting the Apple Watch. It believes this is the next major personal computing platform.
So, what is success? And what is failure?
Unfortunately, there’s no simple way to define it with the Apple Watch.
You could use unit sales, but analysts are estimates are all over the place. To show how confused analysts are, Morgan Stanley has two estimates! Morgan says Apple will sell either 30 million at the low end, or 60 million at the high end in the next year.
The consensus is around 10-12 million. If Apple sells 10-12 million Apple Watches in its first year on the market, then it will be a success.
But, Apple has already announced that it won’t break out unit sales, so it’s going to be hard to know how many watches it’s actually selling.
How else can you measure success? Well, if you start seeing Apple Watches on everyone’s wrist, then you better believe it’s a success. If developers start flocking to the watch, then it’s a success. If the next billion dollar app comes from the Apple Watch, it’s a success.
If Samsung scraps whatever it’s been doing, and it flat out copies Apple, then we have a sense that the Apple Watch was the right thing.
Basically, if it feels like Apple got it right with the watch then it’s a success. This will ultimately annoy a lot of people, but without numbers to back it up, that’s going to be the best measure.
We won’t know right away, either. We’ll have a good idea in year one if Apple is on to something. Then, we should expect it to grow and grow. By year three, we’ll know if Apple was right or wrong in its bet.
How will we know if it fails? It, too, will mostly be a feeling. But, we’ll see Apple pull back its marketing budget if it’s not working. We won’t see them on people’s wrists. Reviews of the product will be bad. And maybe, in three years, Tim Cook will call it a “hobby” that Apple is still trying to figure out.
If the watch does turn into a “hobby” like the Apple TV, some people will try to argue that that is success. After all, Apple now calls Apple TV a billion dollar business.
Don’t be fooled by those people. Apple set the bar for the Apple Watch very high. Now, it has to clear it.