Once again Apple has confounded the digibabblists, perplexed their competitors, baffled the analysts, and in general annoyed and irritated all the self-proclaimed digital-first…or is it mobile-first?…or perhaps our proclamation of the day should be wearable-first…experts, pundits and gurus.
And, once again, we approach a product and category as if ex nihilo we have created something new and unique and even godly…as “In the Beginning…”
My readers know that I am obsessed with learning from the past – mistakes, success, abject failure and even just plain no big deal can help us understand human behavior and motivation, and that nothing gets my dander up more than the notion of dismissing it all as irrelevant because Digital or Mobile or now Wearable has created never-before-seen, never-before-experienced, never-before-imaginable dynamics.
Not for now – but worth a quick mention – sharing is in our DNA…it’s why we love the applications that make it better and more efficient; live events have always drawn huge crowds and they have always been the touchstone of interactivity…see the Roman Colosseum; Amazon did not create shopping or the idea of cheap aggregation…read the Amazon Manifesto and the Sears and Roebuck statement of purpose from the 1890s and finally I highly recommend studying the Paris Exposition of 1900 and the Chicago World’s Fair of 1934 to learn about the possibilities of the IoT…you will be amazed.
On to watches, my subject at hand, and my admiration for Apple.
In February of 2007 Apple took a 30-second spot (long-form video content, if you like, digibabble) on the live broadcast of the Academy Awards and launched the iPhone. If you don’t remember it or never saw it – or experienced it (I need to keep my cred) – you must – I have used it as a touchstone to understand Apple, but more so to ground me in better understanding the potential for our world.
Never do you see a product; not once do they tout the technology; not once do they whack you over the head with the “magic”…they don’t have to – they just told you that Apple was launching a Phone…an iPhone to be exact…and you conjured up way more enchantment in your imagination – knowing that it was Apple – than they ever could have by confusing you with digibabble.
Now on to the watch.
While the pundits pundit and the analysts analyze…and we see earnest hand-wringing over whether or not Apple will be successful…they continue to understand people and behavior and have not launched the iWatch or the iWearable or the iWrist or anything close – it’s the plain old Apple Watch….and all that comes with being a plain old Apple anything…and you can check out this piece by Matthew Sparkes, Deputy Head of Technology of The Telegraph.
I also recommend reading a piece from two years ago by Alexis McCrossen, author of Marking Modern Times: A History of Clocks, Watches, and Other Timekeepers in American Life, called “Why the iWatch Will Likely Fail”…“The history of wearable technology says that timepieces are better in pockets than on wrists.”
Frankly, history records the opposite in terms of pockets and wrists, and I do give credit for the small i’s as this is about the category and not Apple in specific and as I suggested, the i’s might just be the clue for why this is different.
Truth is I love watches as much as I love tech – in fact, the best watches are all about brilliant tech, and if you have ever studied a “complication” I’d amend and say beautiful tech…
In fact, I had an early “digital” watch circa 1976 or so before they became cheap and ubiquitous. They were expensive, clunky but were designed to compete with watch fashion – which by the way had not yet entered the renaissance it’s in today. It was cool; I watched it incessantly – both because the changing numbers were mesmerizing and also because it was hard to read the red readout….
And beautiful tech has always been the tip of the spear for Apple. While everyone else had boring brown boxes, they broke the mold; while everyone else had a screen that was designed for techies, they made it accessible for all, and in a twist of their famous 1984 Lemmings spot, the rest of the industry followed them…often surpassed them…but always followed…
And that is why I am not obsessed with the success or failure of the Apple Watch. They will…I’d argue they have…set in motion a chain of partnerships, developments and creative thinking that will enhance our lives and the future.
“Don’t waste time arguing about whether or not they supplant Switzerland” – as the Wall Street Journal has…read John Biggs’ (@johnbiggs) wonderful piece: “If Switzerland Is Fucked, Then the iWatch Is, Too”
Best line…“To suggest that the iWatch will influence Swiss watch buyers is like saying the market for a fine Bordeaux is affected by the advent of a new flavor of Vitamin Water.”
And if you are worried that a whole new slew of behavior – mostly bad, it would seem from the postings – will ensue…never fear!!! Read up on the evolution of the pocket watch into the wristwatch (both wearables BTW) and you will find that people way back when had the same fears and still do today – looking at your watch during a meeting, a personal encounter, social function or the like is considered the height of rudeness. Human behavior marches on….
Perhaps we should all refer back to a 1913 Hamilton Watch ad that described their new product as a tool for moral improvement because it leads its owners to form desirable habits of promptness and precision…
Imagine how we can morally improve by adding unfettered access to our wrists…I shudder….
Or maybe remember that pocket watches made the trains run on time and were the first true democratizers of technology, and that the wrist version was seen as a women’s accoutrement until World War One proved its application in making that tragic endeavor more efficient…
And then, of course, there is the often referenced role that watches played in “illicit” love affairs for all of the obvious reasons, and for all of the same obvious reasons will continue to do so in its latest form as well.
Bottom line – since Walter Dudley gave Queen Elizabeth an “arm-watch” in 1571 (imagine if he had known it was really a wearable), the concept has remained the same…information that adds value to our lives is readily available for us to see…
And now we have more…
I will have one – I have a Pebble, too – but I will never ever give up my other watches as well – no doubt I will find a balance and the appropriate place for each and all…
At the end of the day it’s all about what we do with it that matters – our phone behavior is already rude, discourteous and bordering on out-of-control disrespect…mine too – way too often – nothing new there…but here is the clue…listen:
“Watches are so named as a reminder – if you don’t watch carefully what you do with your time, it will slip away from you.” – Drew Sirtors
Maybe Apple is trying to tell us something and we should listen….
What do you think?