It's News To Me
Apple Watch Fever
March 10, 2015
At Apple’s big unveiling on Monday, we got a better look at the Apple Watch, what the company hopes will be its next category-busting tech product. At the event, Apple also announced HBO NOW, fulfilling the dreams of cord-cutters everywhere; ResearchKit, the open source health study software; and the next generation of its CarPlay system, rolling out with 40 new autos next year. In this episode of The Digital Life, we consider whether Apple has jumped the shark with its new Watch, the implications of CarPlay for the rolling tech boxes that used to be just transportation, and the promise of ResearchKit for the medical research community.
For the rest of us, I don’t think there’s much there. Our smartphones are already pretty convenient and give us what we need. Do we really need to duplicate it on our wrist? I know the last time I wear a watch, this was 2004 I think. The scrapping of the band on my laptop case when I was trying to type and use the laptop was so annoying. I would always have to take the watch off, put it back on.
Finally, one day, I got mad and threw the watch across the room. Having something on my wrist that is conflicting with my otherwise computer use, there’s no value there at all for me. We certainly have moved away from wristwatches culturally as the smartphones have become predominant. I think it’s a really niche thing.
There may end up being some killer feature that leads me to buy it. I don’t see that happening, but even if it did, I can only imagine using it in specific and limited instances not having that big kind of ugly thing on my wrist. I’m really underwhelmed and it goes back to the theme we talked about at the beginning of the year that Apple has just really lost its mojo as the cool lifestyle computing company.
With all of Apple’s prior products and I mean all of them, there is always those two things in combination that gave me the impetus to buy. When the iPod first came on the scene, the incredible ability to put your entire music collection into your pocket, for me as a fan of music, that was a big deal. It really took that Walkman if you’re a Gen-Xer growing up in the 80s, you had your yellow Walkman by your side. It replaced that with something so incredible that you could only dream about it, having access to your entire music collection. Fine, that’s the iPod.
The iPad on the other hand starts replacing things like your television, your laptop if you’re in an entertainment mode. It replaces your sketchpad. It replaces a lot of things. It also just has this must-have feeling to it and it created an entire product category. You could say the iPhone sort of combines all of those things into one.
I’m still trying to figure out what the Apple Watch like where that would fit in my life. I’m certainly a lover of watches as jewelry and as objects d’art. I can really appreciate a fine watch when I see it and wear it occasionally at an important event or something. It looks flashy, but beyond that, I’m probably not as much a quantified selfer as some of the other folks in the studio.
I’m really struggling because I want to want it, but I can’t want it. If you know what I mean.
More than anything, it really just signals the demise of Apple from the standpoint of being a real innovator. Of offering a trailblazing sort of unique solution in the personal computing space. The iWatch is their biggest announcement, the thing they’ve beaten the drum on the hardest since the iPad. What was the iPad, 2010? It’s been five years. They basically had no big announcements.
This one, this is the product that they’re really hanging their head on. All of the hierarchy is genuflecting and acting like this is the greatest thing since slice bread. It’s a really bad sign.
Again, I’m sure from a financial perspective, they’re still going to keep selling products hand over fist, but what we’re seeing is the real erosion of their position as the leader. Five to ten years ago whenever I would be in a meeting with a potential client, not everyone but most of them ostensibly, they’d say, “We want to be like Apple. We want our stuff to be like Apple stuff.”
Those days are going fast and there’s no sign of them coming back. At the same time, we’re seeing really interesting new things from Amazon, from Google, from some other companies. The things that are more likely to draw attention aren’t coming from Apple. They’re coming from other places which is concerning.
I expect the next big thing to come from, frankly, Amazon or Google. I think those are the two big ones, but ironically with the watch … Jon, you and I saw over the weekend there’s a new startup doing a digital watch called Runcible and that thing is really cool. If I want a digital watch, I’m getting that thing. That’s what I’m excited about. They’ve completely outflanked Apple by better understanding the market, better understanding this moment in time. It’s just all very troubling. I don’t know.
I don’t know if this will be an oncoming trend, but it feels like a more personal object. At times, computing objects can feel impersonal which is why people will go and modify them so it reflects their personality. The Runcible seems immediately to have that greater degree of personality and accessibility and things that would make me want to own it. Kudos to them for integrating those aspects into their design.
Apple is completely tone deaf to it and Runcible, this little unknown startup, albeit with a really strong executive team with great background and credentials, is … Yeah, that wood casing, rock on man, that looks really neat. The round form factor, fantastic. That’s something cool. That’s something that better aligns with the whole of who I want to be as a person than the Apple stacking the same crap on top of more.
For me, the price was always slightly reduced and I don’t know whether the carriers are going to have services that relate to the Apple Watch and therefore subsidize in some way, but I think that was a really helpful way for the iPhone to get some additional traction and I just don’t know that they’re going to have access to that kind of capital outlay from carriers with this particular product.
That’s not going to be the case with the iWatch and the problem that they have is now that they’re catering to presumably just more wealthy people. Watches like that market has a lot of really gorgeous high end well designed stuff. By comparison that the iWatch is a really clumsy hacky thing.
I guess maybe they can hope that wealthy people want to differentiate themselves against the masses by being the once who are mobile computing with an iWatch as oppose to an iPhone, but if that’s the bet they’re taking, that’s a long one indeed.
That’s interesting that they are going sort of all the way with that, certainly in a way beyond what other companies have done. There seems to be no doubt that Google will do the same thing and Samsung … Depending if we’re talking about software or hardware side, these companies will do the same thing and go down the same path. It really lifts the kimono a little bit on their strategy of total self, total life computing, because they really had a lot to say about that.
I think as well, the idea that mobile health scales. It’s very difficult to scale healthcare when you’re talking just about clinicians, doctors, nurses, what have you, but if you’re talking about access to your data or methods for tracking yourself via your smartphone, then all of a sudden, you have this digital health capability that can grow quite quickly which is sort of the ongoing promise of mHealth and the digital health movements behind that.
Ultimately, I think this is a good bet that Apple’s taking with the research community and … We have a number of services that we’ve worked on here at Involution that will relate to that community, so I can only imagine that sooner or later, we’re going to be using Research Kit ourselves.
Recently, I’ve been looking and asking myself, “What is the gap? What would it take for me to cut again?” There’s only a couple of things, HBO being one of them. Seeing this move to Apple TV is kind of a big deal because it may be just enough to push me back to being a cord cutter. Boy, that would save us a lot of money every month. That was pretty cool. I was excited to see that.
It’s no longer the content ghetto for the streaming services. All of a sudden, streaming services are kind of the new networks for lack of a better term and they’re experimenting and they’re doing things in interesting ways and they’re really moving the ball forward.
I think as similar to you, the fact that HBO is now cable company free and available to me like a fantastically huge fan of HBO content. I could probably watch it all day. I’m extremely excited. Now, I just need to figure out the ins and outs of live sporting events and you’ve got me as a cord cutter.
It’s fascinating to me the evolution of these tech giant companies. You mentioned Google and Amazon as also being right up there in the mix in this competition and what they’ll really look like in the next decade or so. Time will tell, but I imagine that the Apple and Google and Amazon of today are not going to look anything like their future instantiations.
They have sort of … Mirroring the iPhone lineup; A space gray, a silver and a gold. Man, I cannot freaking imagine walking around with a gold MacBook. That would just be embarrassing, don’t you think?
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