What’s the point of an iWatch?

You’re the most valuable technology company in the world.  What do you do?

  1. Launch a fashion accessory
  2. Extend from your core competency to a new, adjacent category
  3. Neither

How many raised their hands for 1?  Yet, that’s what a lot of smart people seem to be advocating for Apple and the iWatch.  Anthony Kosner of Forbes is the latest to sing this chorus.

How do you convince the mass of consumers to consider an iWatch to be a necessary accessory for 21st century life? Make it a fashion-forward, celebrity-endorsed object of desire. Make it aspirational (to use the technical marketing term.) And then, once its value and exclusivity is established, transform it into an “attainable luxury,” much like the iPhone has become. From this perspective, Apple’s fashion executives have a lot to do. To start with Pruniaux, perhaps Apple now intends to sell the iWatch through the same retail channels as luxury watches like TAG Heuer—Tourneau and high-end department stores.

Hmm.  I don’t think anyone will deny that brand is a big part of Apple’s success; Apple products are desirable and aspirational.  However, while fashion is always a differentiating factor for Apple, it’s never been the point.

The iPhone looks sexy and many do buy it because of fashion; but it’s in the consideration set because it’s a highly functional device first and foremost.  To put fashion before function for the iWatch is like the tail wagging the dog.  Of course it should look good.  Nobody wants ugly devices.  But technology should be the bedrock that fashion is built on.

Selling the iWatch as a fashion accessory is to be Breitling or Burberry; it’s not Apple.  I would not sell it through high end department stores, where clueless haute couture “attendants” wouldn’t know the first thing about technology.  I would not price it in the luxury category to compete with TAG Heuer, a necessarily niche market where the low installed base will drive third party developers to Google’s welcoming arms.

In the poll above, option 2 is the easy vote.  And if I don’t think the device is good enough, then I’d choose option 3 — incubate the idea further until it’s mature enough to launch.  Option 1 should be a non-starter.  I suspect that’s how Steve Jobs would decide too.

Postscript: All that said, the smartwatch UI/UX concept by Behance referred to in the Forbes article (and pictured above) does look gorgeous.  It’ll take a retina-level screen display to pull off, which is entirely possible.  Check it out below:

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