On Monday, Apple had their Apple Watch Special Event. While we had seen some information about the Apple Watch last fall, many questions were left unanswered. Most frequently discussed: cost.
There was a lot of discussion about the cost of these new gadgets, most predominantly with regard to the Apple Watch Edition. Everyone could feel, in their gut, that it would be expensive. But no one really knew how expensive it would be.
Monday, those questions were answered. Unsurprisingly, the internet is upset.
There’s been a lot of chatter regarding the Apple Watch Edition in particular. Many are begrudging Apple’s supposed choice to focus on fashion rather than functionality. A typical example:
@caseyliss sure, but who do you respect more, a well-known fashion designer, or someone who designs great, useful tools?— Nadagast (@Nadagast) March 12, 2015
Other lamentation is about the price tag. Michael Saji writes in his piece that is passive-aggressively titled Vulgar:
Apple has taken a turn, as MG Siegler says, towards luxury. But I would rather see Apple charge a fair price and make a fair profit.
Later in his piece, he continues:
Luxury is the outgrowth of our desire for fantasy and our discontent with our present, and feeding our materialism will not bring us the contentment we crave, nor will it make the world a better place. I realize now I once thought Apple could do better.
When one says “Apple could do better”, I hear “Apple is doing something that’s not for me, and that makes me uncomfortable.”
No one outside Apple knows how many balls Apple has in the air. Certainly adding a new product category like the Watch will spread that focus more thinly than it has been in the past. Focus has to be spread more thinly when existing staff, like Jony Ive’s design team, is doing the work on something new.
However, none of us know how much bandwidth Apple really has. It seems to me that everyone complaining about Apple’s focus being shifted is doing so on the assumption that Apple was already running out of focus. While that absolutely could be true, it is not necessarily true.
Curiously, no one seems to be complaining about the “regular” Watches — the ones that are clearly made for them. Only the Edition seems to be the target of so much ire. Apple’s foray into fashion, specifically with the Edition, seems to have left many fans upset.
So many people seem to think that because Apple has started to care about fashion, it’s an indisputable inevitability that one day they will only care about fashion.
This was discussed really well on this week’s episode of Topical (Overcast link). Russell spent a moment lamenting:
It could just be a sign of a slow, steady progression to a company that makes products … that I no longer care about.
It’s certainly possible. Jelly succinctly makes my point for me immediately after:
The other possibility here is that it’s not necessarily going to take away from the current direction of Apple but kind of feed back into it.
I wonder if Apple learning more about fashion will positively influence anything that is carried or worn. Discoveries made in the process of making the Apple Watch, and gleaned from Beats employees’ expertise, could lead to great changes in iPhones.
An Apple that stands still will rot. Trying new things is necessary for their survival.
BlackBerry, née Research in Motion, is the canonical example of what happens if Apple stands still and sticks its head in the sand. BlackBerry mobile phones were the mobile phone to get. Business loved them, and thanks to BlackBerry Messenger, lots of kids did too. I’ve heard many times that BlackBerry phones were HUGELY popular amongst teenagers, particularly in Europe.
BlackBerry had dominated the market. There was, it seemed, little to worry about. They just had to sit back and collect money. Things were going really well for them… until 2007, when the iPhone was released:
Apple does not want to follow in BlackBerry’s footsteps. That’s why they are branching out into other industries. Including not only fashion but also, possibly, automobiles.
This is good and healthy.
Apple would much rather be IBM — which started as a company that built scales — than BlackBerry or even Microsoft. BlackBerry is assumed to be circling the drain, and Microsoft is undergoing massive changes in order to avoid the same fate.
Same as it Ever Was
Apple has always specialized in luxury. The difference between Apple of the past and the Apple that produces the Watch Edition is that this luxury is quite a bit less affordable to the average consumer than it once was.
Coming from a position as purveyors of affordable luxury, there are only two places to go.
Apple could either move downmarket, and go toe-to-toe with Samsung and LG. Or, they could
move upmarket, and start making more
expensive aspirational products. I
reckon most Apple fans would prefer the latter. I know I do.
Furthermore, this isn’t the first time that Apple was fashionable. How quickly we all forget these images:
Apple was hugely fashionable then. Just because Apple is now making a product that is unabashedly about fashion doesn’t mean they didn’t consider fashion before.
In discussing this post with my friend Myke, he pointed out to me there are many examples of this in Apple’s history:
- Colored plastic
- White plastic
These were all major trends that Apple heralded. Today, it’s the same as it ever was.
It Will be Okay
No one outside of Cupertino can really know where Apple is headed. I am, like everyone else, just prognosticating. What I fear is that too many people are making judgements about the Apple of tomorrow based on their understanding of the Apple of today.
Ben Thompson sums this up well:
Thus, in order to estimate just how important the Apple Watch might be, it’s essential to step back from the world as it is and consider the world as it might be, and, having done that, consider just how significant a role Apple’s offering might play.
As with all things, only time will tell. My money is on a brighter and shinier Apple than we’ve ever seen before.