I just caught Tim Cook’s live streaming introduction of the Apple Watch (I guess they’ve given up the long running “i” naming theme). What struck me most is how arduously Apple has stuck with traditional touch points in introducing a totally new product category (well, new for Apple anyway).
If you glanced quickly across the room at someone wearing Apple’s new wonder, you probably wouldn’t even know they’re wearing technology. The Apple Watch looks a lot like an analog watch. There is even a Mickey Mouse face you can choose. The interchangeable bracelets smack of tradition. Jon Ive verified this point in the video that ran at the introduction, saying they borrowed heavily from the “watchmaker’s vocabulary” in the design process. They even consulted “horological experts from around the world” to provide a time keeping experience rooted in cultural nuance. The primary interface to the watch is a modified version of the very old fashioned watch-winding crown.
Now, appearances can be deceiving. As Cook, Ive and Kevin Lynch put the watch through its paces, it was clear that this is an impressive little piece of technology. Particular attention has been paid to making this an intimate device, with new advances in touch technology, biometric and motion sensors and the ability to personalize interfaces and hardware to make it uniquely yours. Watching, I couldn’t help but compare this to Google’s introduction of Google Glass. In many ways, Glass is the more revolutionary device. But the Apple Watch will have a much faster adoption path.
Google impresses first with sheer brute-force technological effort. Design is an afterthought. Google uses UI testing and design to try to corral a Pandora’s box full of raw innovation into a usable package. Apple takes a much different approach. They look first at the user experience and then they pick and choose the technologies required to deliver the intended experience. They lavish ridiculous amounts of time on seemingly miniscule design details but the end result is typically nothing less than breathtaking. We’re impressed with the technology, sure, but the overriding emotion is one of lust. We just have to have what ever the hell it is that is being introduced on the main stage of the Flint Center.
Despite the many who have said otherwise, including the late Steve Jobs, Apple has never really made a revolutionary device. Others have always been there first. What they have done, however, is taken raw innovation and packaged it in a way that resonates with its audience at a deep and hormonal level. Apple products are stylish and sexy – the Gisele Bündchen of technology – yet attainable to mere mortals. They take the “next big thing” and push them past the tipping point by kindling lust in the hearts and wallets of the market. Google products, despite their geeky technical prowess, have a nasty habit of getting stuck on the wrong side of the adoption curve. They are the – well, let’s face it – they are the Larry Page of technology – smart, but considerably less sexy.
Apple times entrance to the adoption curve to near perfection. They have a knack of positioning just ahead of the masses. Google’s target is much further down the road. They release betas well ahead of any market demand. That’s why most of us can’t wait to wear an Apple Watch, but wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of Google Glass.
One last thought on this week’s introduction of the Apple Watch. Wearable technology is following an interesting path. Your smartphone now acts as a connected main base for more intimate pieces of tech like the Apple Watch or Google Glass. Increasingly, the actual user interfaces will be on these types of devices, but the heavy lifting will happen on a smart phone tucked into a pocket, purse or backpack. Expect specific purpose devices to proliferate, all connected to increasingly powerful MPUs (Mobile Processing Units) that will orchestrate the symphony of tech that you’re wearing.