‘The Apple iTime Is Destined to Fail’ – Seriously?

I try hard to ignore the really dumb things people say when they talkout their backsides about tech, and I personally know how hard it isto come up with excellent tech focused opinions — as opposedto 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, “TheApple iTime Is Destined to Fail,” published this week by PCmag.com.

I don’t follow Dvorak, but the guy has written thousands ofarticles, 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 maybe a willful rejection of reality in favor of click bait, which mostevery publication is guilty of occasionally, to one degree oranother — and sometimes even writers themselves work up to a frenzy ofindignation.

I’ve probably done it before, and I’ve probably been called out forit. Occasionally I’ve misspoken in ways that could be read muchdifferently than my intent — always a hazard for anyone typing,talking, or otherwise trying to communicate. The Internet is littered with thecarcasses of good intentions gone bad.

I don’t think there’s any misreading of Dvorak here, though. Inmultiple ways, he repeats the same contention, which is summed up by this subhead: “The onlyway Apple’s smartwatch will succeed is if it totally replaces the iPhone. And that’ll never happen.”


Just wow.

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 itbecomes a self-contained mobile phone.

OK. Again, wow. I would think that anyone who would want that type of wristcommunicator 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 asmartphone anywhere near it is the least importantfeature of an iWatch.

How many cellular service customers wanta phone on their wrist without a smartphone or cellphone of anykind? I doubt many at all. Why? It might bring a smaller form factorto 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 loudspeakerphone and little background noise, or constantly pack around aBluetooth headset or wired headphones. Even if you rarely talk toanyone 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 thatworks best if it’s highly portable and pocketable. It’s for readingbooks, watching movies, browsing the Web, taking photos, editingphotos, shooting video, editing movies, texting in long multi-personconversations — and so much more.

Who wants to do all the stuff they doon a smartphone on their wrist instead? Millions of potentialcustomers? I doubt it.

It’s far more likely that the only way an iWatch might succeed would be as an accessory to an iPhone.

Device Continuity

Dvorak’s assertion is flat-out silly, and what’s worse is that itseems to come from a place that is not considering Apple’s productcreation directions.

Any Apple watcher I know, who’s reasonablyfamiliar with the company, knows that Apple’s course of action istoward continuity among devices. It’s about making them worktogether — 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 aPC operating system that also functions as a tablet OS, sometimes evenon the same machine.

In Appleland, the iPad is a tablet. It is not a PC orMac. It doesn’t change shape to meet different needs. Instead, it’sstarting to talk with Macs and iPhones and iCloud better than ever –especially when iOS 8 and Mac OS X Yosemite arrive this fall.

Applemade all of this pretty clear with its WWDCkeynote presentation, and the company’s supporting teaser pagesfor iOS andOS X make it even clearer.

While it’s possible for one product to eclipse another, it’s notnecessary for success. For example, you could argue that the iPhone hasreplaced the iPod. Tweeners now have iPhones and don’t need iPods.Small kids, who could have iPods, probably are more likely using atablet or their parents’ old iPhone.

So while the iPod isn’t exactlydead, it’s getting squeezed, certainly. Still, the iPhone didn’t becomesuccessful because it replaced the iPod! The iPhone’s reach extendedbeyond the iPod, reaching new customers in addition to iPod owners.

That example brings up a far more interesting premise: What ifApple’s iWatch isn’t limited to the iPhone? What if it communicates withMacs? Or what if it isn’t even limited to Apple’s current, directecosystem?

What if Apple were to create an iTimeKit, much like HealthKit orHomeKit or CarPlay? What if Apple were to create the parameters for aniWatch — even build its own — but let other manufacturers utilizeits APIs as well?

There are so many possibilities that could lead to a successfuliWatch, I just can’t imagine claiming that a product that no one hasseen outside the walls of Apple could succeed only if it did oneparticular thing. Sheesh.

Showing the World What It Wants

Even though Steve Jobs no longer runs Apple, I feel certainthat Apple management still believes it can create products thatcustomers don’t yet realize they want or need. If you take thecurrent crop of smartwatches as evidence — lackluster adoption andperformance — it’s clear that none of theimplementations so far are awe-inspiring or worthwhile to most people.

If an iWatch succeeds, it will be because it offers a naturalextension of continuity among other devices — most likely, Appledevices. It faces tons of challenges — cost, durability, looks,battery life, fashion (I said looks, right?) and theperception that an iWatch is neither desirable nornecessary.

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: TheiWatch would have to be able to project a hologram to wherever my eyeswere looking, then read my mind through sensors so that I couldintegrate with apps, content, data and games — even if were wearing along-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.

Chris Maxcer

TechNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at WickedCoolBite.com. You can also connect with him on Google+.


  • I think a lot of commentators are missing the point. The Apple watch will succeed if it is fun to use. Functionality, form factor, price – they are all important. But the bottom line and key word are "fun". People like fun-to-use tech stuff, they will pay to have it, and they (and I) are just itching for the next fun to use, gotta have one, gadget. Fun will sell. Boring or annoying will fail.

    • Hey barneystone, you just smacked me upside the head! You’re so right. Fun. Not only is fun important, it might very well be the key feature. Man, I was getting sucked into the serious there and it was poisoning my thinking — thanks for the reminder!


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