In case you missed it, on March 20th, Good Morning America ran “Inside Apple’s Top Secret Health and Fitness Lab for the Apple Watch”, and for me it confirmed a key fact about the Apple Watch.
It’s not a watch.
The Apple Watch keeps time like a watch. It occupies the spot on the human wrist traditionally used by watches. It expands upon the routine health monitoring technology that has become commonplace in wearables like watches. Consumers may even purchase an Apple Watch with the intent of using it only as a timepiece, like the woman I met last week who swore she would use her new iPhone only as a phone.
But when viewed in the broader context, the Apple Watch is definitely NOT a watch.
So what is it? It’s three separate things, all of which mirror the broader direction of Apple and our society, and none of which you’ll find if you dissect a Watch.
Product Line Extension – The Apple Watch is, first and foremost, Apple’s fundamental value proposition extended to one of the last socially acceptable frontiers on the human body. The Watch certainly has to function as a watch by keeping time and looking good doing it, but only to lay claim to the real estate formerly occupied by watches. Once it’s there, it really only has to do one thing to win us over, and that is to repurpose our desire to reflexively check our phone. If, even a few times per day, we glance at our watch rather than digging out our phones, the battle is largely won, from Apple’s perspective. Without the rest of the product line, the Apple Watch is a Swatch. Want one? No, I didn’t think so. No one else does either.
The Cloud on Your Wrist– Like most Apple devices, the Watch is a tour de force of design and display technology. That said, most of the functionality and data in the apps we love resides somewhere other than our local devices. Positioned as it is in the Apple pantheon of products (iPod, Mac, iPhone, iPad, etc.), services (primarily iTunes), and Apps, the Apple Watch is the Cloud on your wrist. That, of course, is a double-edged sword. For every app that delights us, and there are a lot of them, we become more dependent on a set of devices, services, and data repositories we didn’t even know we needed twenty years ago. Does that bother me? Yes, but then I use my iPad to check a home security camera, scan for texts, and search my Xfinity OnDemand for the latest “Better Call Saul”, and forget about it. Sorry, what was I saying?
Crowd-sourced Ingenuity – Sir Isaac Newton once said “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. Apple recognized early (2007) the value of turning loose the creative energies of independent software developers. As a result, Apple’s products stand on the shoulders of app developers around the world, most of whom are thrilled to have a shot at relevance on the most pervasive platform the world has ever known. We all benefit from this amazing ecosystem, but Apple, and its shareholders, benefit most of all.
The bottom line? The Apple Watch is a pervasive product line extension, a personal portal on the cloud, and the expression of a community of entrepreneurial developers that so far has stopped just short of the invasive “ICK” factor of GoogleGlass.
It just isn’t a watch.