'The Apple iTime Is Destined to Fail' - Seriously?
If an iWatch succeeds, it will be because it offers a natural extension of continuity among other devices. It would need to fulfill the promise of making your life better, richer, more enjoyable or effective. It's a big challenge, no doubt. Still, in no world that I can imagine would its success hinge on me being able to ditch my iPhone in favor of a fancy wristband.
08/01/14 7:10 AM PT
I try hard to ignore the really dumb things people say when they talk out their backsides about tech, and I personally know how hard it is to come up with excellent tech focused opinions -- as opposed to rehashing the day's latest news with an ironic or humorous spin. And here's the "but"... I was absolutely floored by John C. Dvorak's post, "The Apple iTime Is Destined to Fail," published this week by PCmag.com.
I don't follow Dvorak, but the guy has written thousands of articles, and he has a hefty bio that speaks to years of tech-related publishing experience -- which is why I find his piece so troubling.
I think it's an utter failure of imagination at best, but it also may be a willful rejection of reality in favor of click bait, which most every publication is guilty of occasionally, to one degree or another -- and sometimes even writers themselves work up to a frenzy of indignation.
I've probably done it before, and I've probably been called out for it. Occasionally I've misspoken in ways that could be read much differently than my intent -- always a hazard for anyone typing, talking, or otherwise trying to communicate. The Internet is littered with the carcasses of good intentions gone bad.
I don't think there's any misreading of Dvorak here, though. In multiple ways, he repeats the same contention, which is summed up by this subhead: "The only way Apple's smartwatch will succeed is if it totally replaces the iPhone. And that'll never happen."
Your Wrist Is Ringing
Apparently Dvorak's been lectured by potential iWatch -- or "iTime" -- customers who will buy an iTime device only if it replaces their iPhones -- if it becomes a self-contained mobile phone.
OK. Again, wow. I would think that anyone who would want that type of wrist communicator is about as far away from any target demographic that I can imagine.
Let me put it this way: The ability to act like a smartphone without a smartphone anywhere near it is the least important feature of an iWatch.
How many cellular service customers want a phone on their wrist without a smartphone or cellphone of any kind? I doubt many at all. Why? It might bring a smaller form factor to your wrist, but it would complicate making a phone call.
First, you'd need either to hold up your wrist to your ear to hear, or have a loud speakerphone and little background noise, or constantly pack around a Bluetooth headset or wired headphones. Even if you rarely talk to anyone in person because you've migrated to text messaging, the wrist form factor becomes a tiny new pain point.
Smartphones have evolved into devices with a form factor that works best if it's highly portable and pocketable. It's for reading books, watching movies, browsing the Web, taking photos, editing photos, shooting video, editing movies, texting in long multi-person conversations -- and so much more.
Who wants to do all the stuff they do on a smartphone on their wrist instead? Millions of potential customers? I doubt it.
It's far more likely that the only way an iWatch might succeed would be as an accessory to an iPhone.
Dvorak's assertion is flat-out silly, and what's worse is that it seems to come from a place that is not considering Apple's product creation directions.
Any Apple watcher I know, who's reasonably familiar with the company, knows that Apple's course of action is toward continuity among devices. It's about making them work together -- letting them retain their essential device nature, rather than trying to create one gadget to rule them all.
This is in stark contrast to Microsoft, for example, which is building a PC operating system that also functions as a tablet OS, sometimes even on the same machine.
In Appleland, the iPad is a tablet. It is not a PC or Mac. It doesn't change shape to meet different needs. Instead, it's starting to talk with Macs and iPhones and iCloud better than ever -- especially when iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite arrive this fall.
While it's possible for one product to eclipse another, it's not necessary for success. For example, you could argue that the iPhone has replaced the iPod. Tweeners now have iPhones and don't need iPods. Small kids, who could have iPods, probably are more likely using a tablet or their parents' old iPhone.
So while the iPod isn't exactly dead, it's getting squeezed, certainly. Still, the iPhone didn't become successful because it replaced the iPod! The iPhone's reach extended beyond the iPod, reaching new customers in addition to iPod owners.
That example brings up a far more interesting premise: What if Apple's iWatch isn't limited to the iPhone? What if it communicates with Macs? Or what if it isn't even limited to Apple's current, direct ecosystem?
What if Apple were to create an iTimeKit, much like HealthKit or HomeKit or CarPlay? What if Apple were to create the parameters for an iWatch -- even build its own -- but let other manufacturers utilize its APIs as well?
There are so many possibilities that could lead to a successful iWatch, I just can't imagine claiming that a product that no one has seen outside the walls of Apple could succeed only if it did one particular thing. Sheesh.
Showing the World What It Wants
Even though Steve Jobs no longer runs Apple, I feel certain that Apple management still believes it can create products that customers don't yet realize they want or need. If you take the current crop of smartwatches as evidence -- lackluster adoption and performance -- it's clear that none of the implementations so far are awe-inspiring or worthwhile to most people.
If an iWatch succeeds, it will be because it offers a natural extension of continuity among other devices -- most likely, Apple devices. It faces tons of challenges -- cost, durability, looks, battery life, fashion (I said looks, right?) and the perception that an iWatch is neither desirable nor necessary.
An iWatch would need to fulfill the promise of making your life better, richer, more enjoyable or effective. It's a big challenge, no doubt. Still, in no world that I can imagine would its success hinge on me being able to ditch my iPhone in favor of a fancy wristband.
Oh wait, I can imagine a situation in which that could occur: The iWatch would have to be able to project a hologram to wherever my eyes were looking, then read my mind through sensors so that I could integrate with apps, content, data and games -- even if were wearing a long-sleeve shirt.
So yeah, not any time soon. In the meantime, I'm not going to count out what a dedicated team of Apple professionals can accomplish with focused thought and prototyping over the course of years while working for a company with hundreds of billions of dollars in the bank.