Measuring the Apple Watch opportunity

When the Apple Watch was launched, all eyes turned to the Swiss watch industry. Analysts measured it and asked if it’s big enough to be interesting. Industry observers questioned the competitiveness of an entrant vis-à-vis the ancien régime. Marketers weighed in with segmentation hypotheses and how Apple’s queer new device might best fit.

These are all mistakes in analysis.

The market for Apple Watch is not the Swiss (or Chinese) watch market. The market for Apple Watch is the number of wrists in the world. To the extent that those wrists will be covered with Apple hardware will determine whether it is successful or not.

Measuring the existing market is a mistake because the existing products are hired for different jobs. Those measurements will yield only an answer to how big that job is.

Assessing competitiveness vs. incumbents is a mistake because incumbents have perfected solving the problems of wrist-worn timekeeping devices over a century. Apple’s watch is not a wrist-worn timekeeping device any more than the iPhone is a phone or the iPad is a pad.

Segmenting the market by whatever means are convenient today is irrelevant because the segments are currently positioned on the current jobs to be done. It’s no more relevant than classifying the iPhone along the segments defined for phones in 2007.[1]

Some have tried to wedge the Apple Watch among the “fitness tracker” market. This is no more plausible given that fitness tracking is no more interesting than timekeeping is to Watch.

The best way to measure the opportunity is to quantify the “wrist-space-time” continuum and deciding what is and what isn’t addressable. The wrist is an interesting place to put a computer and Apple makes computers. The rest is left as an exercise to the reader.

  1. e.g. keyboard phones, flip phones, and feature phones []
  • Nick S

    I made this very point just yesterday. In the main, Apple is targeting customers who don’t wear a watch, because traditional watches lack functionality (i.e. they just tell the time, which their smartphone does too). Also, the time is a secondary (at best) function of a smart watch. Actually, time is a secondary function of most traditional watches today, because they are worn with design in mind not functionality. A very different market to the smart watch. There may be some cross over, but they are largely not competitive and smart watches will not be taking significant share from the 1.1 billion annual traditional watch market.

    • Walt French

      @Nick S wrote, “Apple is targeting customers who don’t wear a watch…”

      Well, yes, but actually in Horace’s way: the majority of people even with the appropriate income levels, don’t wear watches.

      • charly

        I think you can strike that of appropriate income levels seeing that you can buy watches for $0.50

    • Shameer Mulji

      Actually, I would say Apple is targeting iPhone customers who don’t wear a watch since this doesn’t pair with Android or WP phones.

  • nsw

    While I agree with this, my concern is that Apple is competing (largely) with non-consumption, while positioning the product in ways that make it potentially less interesting to that market. I’m not convinced that prospective customers who are not already watch connoisseurs will appreciate the fine details of Apple Watch, and therefore be prepared to pay the premium for it. We shall see.

    What I’m most interested in this point is Apple’s retail strategy for the watch. It will be fascinating to see how Angela Ahrendts handles this.

    • GlennC777

      I’m pretty sure the watch connoisseur market will be the *last* to capitulate. Apple is fortunate that this is a fairly small group. Ordinary people with no existing predisposition towards or against watch types (or wearing one at all) from a style or fashion perspective will be much easier to convince.

      • charly

        watch connoisseur market = bling bling for men market

    • Jeff G

      What’s extremely convincing to me is the pure number of products Apple has sold over the last decade, while some people remain ‘not convinced’.

      • charly


        Apple has actually more than a few failures

      • Kizedek

        Yeah, others would love those kinds of “failures”, since by all accounts they still pay for themselves and don’t lose money, cause write downs, nor involve billion of dollars in acquisitions conveniently charged against some other cost center (which Apple doesn’t have with its single transparent PL statement).

    • majgr

      Watch connoisseurs, from Apple Watch perspective, are similar to Blackberry users not so long ago.

  • jldevoy

    what a crock of crap. the current crop of smart watches are dead ends since they’re tethered to smartphones for most of the functionality, apples is no different other than being hampered by apples usual greedy pricing.

  • iObserver

    Save your comments for whatever troll forums you come from. We’re only interested in constructive criticism and informed opinion here.

  • ronin48

    The market for Apple Watch is the number of wrists in the world – divided by 2.

    • Horace Dediu

      I would not say that.

      • ronin48

        There’re might be some rappers who’d wear two on a wrist or one or more on both wrists. But I’m happy to say that should be an exceedingly small market.

        Apple might even make them (wearables) for ankles or neckaces at some point. But as Apple Watch is designed now, if you want to measure its market anatomically, you’d calculate (world’s wrists)/2 for the Apple Watch market. Or you could just count people. It’s a one person at a time device.

        Likewise, the market for iPod or iPhone was never world’s ears but world’s people.

        N.B. This doesn’t ignore the likelihood of a few people buying more than one Apple Watch for different occasions – as they did with iPods. But they wouldn’t be buying them for both wrists.

      • Space Gorilla

        The people I know that wear watches don’t just have a couple, they’ve got half a dozen.

      • charly

        Is that not the problem with the iWatch. What if you sell dozens to the same person so you get big numbers sold but not a big number of users

      • Space Gorilla

        I doubt very much you’d sell *dozens* to one person, but a few perhaps. Apple is doing fine on expanding it user base, they are already well past the number of users *you* said would be impossible.

    • sscutchen

      I see what you did there…

  • Claude Hénault

    If wristwatches only worked because you are carrying a pocket watch would you buy one? Likely not, because the watch in your watch pocket is good enough. Same applies to current smart watches on offer.

    To be buy-worthy computer wrist devices must offer some unique wrist advantage beyond marginally improved convenience. That is likely continuous contact with the skin. Sensors can tell your larger mobile computer (phone, pad, smart headphones) important things about what’s happening to your body, and in what external environmental conditions. And the larger devices can pass information back through the skin, in the form of alerts or the tactile communication of more sophisticated messaging (revival of morse code or modern variants for example).

    What little is known of the Apple Watch makes it clear the company is of this view, which seems a good start toward exploring currently unknowable possibilities made possible only by the device’s location and permanence of contact.

  • Yaphet Smallwood

    I believe that both non-watch wearers and those that wear a watch as a fashion statement, may comprise a large section of iPhone users. In which case, that’s Apple’s initial or core target market. They are either, very familiar with the tech component/capacity, or very interested in good looking wrist wear. I happen to be both.

    We’ll have to wait and see on the tethering aspect, and how limiting that is, but there are spaces where the phone can’t or shouldn’t go, and things an informative wearable may be better suited for – that’s where the watch may prove most useful to an Apple ecosystem user like myself.

    • charly

      Iwatch is to expensive for bijoux and to cheap for jewelery. It also only has a life-expectancy of a few years which makes it incompatible with being jewelery. Also do most people still wear a watch? Especially in the age group below 35. Iwatch can only be successful if it is useful. Personally i think that the battery time isn’t there yet and health is a to small a market so i think that less than 10% of iphone users will have a iwatch in 2 years. But 10% of all iphone users is a really big market and can you call that failure?

      • Peter Payne

        I am open to the idea of one for fitness, and for using it in bold new ways, like walking around Rome and having maps telling me where to go, perhaps other things we have yet to think of.

        If I wear a watch, I find I take it off while working at a computer, in part so I don’t scratch my Macbook’s metal. I hope they bands will be super comfortable and will take this into account. I also wish I could take it in the pool like some other options that exist.

      • charly

        On holiday recharging is an extra problem. Besides you need a camera so why not use your smartphone

      • Space Gorilla

        “But 10% of all iphone users is a really big market and can you call that failure?”

        I am confident that you will call it a failure, yes.

  • GlennC777

    I was impressed by Tim Cook’s appeal to first principles in a recent interview. Over hundreds of years, the wrist has been the part of the body we’ve chosen to use to carry an information-bearing device. That is fundamental, and unlikely to change.

    What will change is the ability to put information on such a device. The notions that the Watch is about fashion, or health; or conversely that it is not fashionable enough; or that it will not alter the behavior of the current fashion watch market; are provincial; unimaginative; small-thinking.

    The Watch will begin as a useful extension of our computing lives, with likely-modest adoption; and will become increasingly important as the technology matures.

    • Nick S

      In the longer term, yes, but for 2015 they will be largely separate. Short term the clearest use case is health or more broadly wellness, and no they are not fashionable enough for most.

    • charly

      Wristwatch are not hundreds of years old. More something like 150 years old. They also have the problem that they are close to other peoples hands (and their “slippery fingers”) so they are not a good storage place for something so important. So the only use is as a place to have screen but for that a watch is to small

      • KirkBurgess

        Are you suggesting Apple shouldn’t release the Watch because people might steal them off users wrists? Is that a joke?

      • charly

        No, but a computer on your wrist which is your identity may be not so smart idea, especially if that computer on your wrist is worth money in itself. Using your wrist as just an output screen may not be enough.

      • El Aura

        As far as I know, pickpockets steal wallets out of pockets far more often than watches off wrists. Part of that is certainly that it is easier to get value out of a wallet than a watch for the average pickpocket. But, I think, it still makes pockets, where we carry a computer that is in a lot of aspects our identity already, a place that is at risk to a similar extent as wrists.

      • Walt French

        Gosh, how far away from the issues are you willing to go in raising nonsense?

        First, regards theft: many well-off people wear multi-thousand-dollar wristwatches to social events where they’re exposed to grab-and-run operations. Still, they refuse to dress in rags to hide the fact that they’re wearing VERY expensive watches and jewelry. So the few people who get gold Apple Watches are extremely unlikely to worry about this more than they worry about the rest of their possessions.

        For the non-gold models: Apple has led the industry in making stolen iPhones unusable after the owner has ID’d them as such; since the Apple Watch can be presumed locked to a single phone (at least, one at a time), the watch is even LESS fence-worthy. This makes the mid-tier and sport versions unworthy of theft, period.

        Your nattering about ID is as remote as can be, if Apple does something simple, as you’d expect for Apple Pay, as requiring a new passcode once the watch has been off your wrist.

        It’s one thing to examine realistic reasons why a product might succeed or fail, quite another to spew “problems” that haven’t been thought out as to whether they are really problems or not. That’s why Kirk belittled your stuff. Please, if you want to be part of a “community” that Mr. Dediu pays to host, try to show off something worth sharing.

    • Horace Dediu

      Actually it’s only been about one hundred years.

      • GlennC777

        I don’t believe that’s correct. A quick search seemed to reveal that wristwatches date back to the 1500s, although no doubt they became common much later than that. Pocket watches and wristwatches have been around long enough to have become well optimized in terms of placement on the body, though, with the wrist having become the universal choice quite some time ago. That was Tim Cook’s point, which I was attempting to support.

      • Padova44

        You need to share your “quick search”. Till then, I’m certain you’re wrong.

  • santoscork

    The value proposition on Apple Watch will be measured by the solution(s) it offers and the value perceived by the curious consumer. Depending on how flexible and accessible WatchKit is, developers may begin to see new revenue channels through Apple watch, in turn this will excite the market. Apple’s Watch has an out of the box experience that is already compelling but once the out of box experience finds integration through app availability we may see this vector lend itself to greater sales for both parties involved, Apple and developers.

    In my view, what Apple did here with Apple Watch, that they didn’t do with iPhone is create a developer kit to boot and that could be a very important catalyst in driving sales and it’s important to note that the developer community is already on board Apple’s train in a very big way.

    I expect we’ll see some pretty compelling 3rd party app initiatives emerge for this very intimate platform. It’s an interesting new concept not because it’s a “smart watch” but the emphasis is on intimacy and I believe Apple wants that notion to hit home.

    • Yaphet Smallwood

      Agreed. I’d gladly pay $350 to never pull out (or lose) my car keys or my house keys again. To have my wrist remind me of where I parked, or show me empty parking spaces upon approaching my destination. To gain access to the gym without swiping a thingy. To pay for purchases without pulling out a wallet or phone. I could keep going, but I’ve already gotten my value.

  • berult

    The wrist, holding the hand above, and beyond, handheld conscription, …arrayed in the stilled, time-framed, classic aesthetics of neuro-Socratic stimulation.

    Sort of a clock-wise wrist and counter…

  • Tatil_S

    >”Apple’s queer new device”
    Intriguing choice of adjective…

    • sscutchen

      But a correct usage. It would be nice to be able to use the word in either sense without raising eyebrows.

    • Padova44

      For the benefit of fans in the colonies, “queer” is normal English English for ‘odd’.

  • Mark

    I’m in a demographic group where the health kit aspects are important AND I wear a watch while owning several Aple products. To contemplate for a moment on how the health related aspects might be pursued by developers, I wonder if the following might become so:

    – stratification of health related services based on age, general health, risk factors, etc.

    – being in my 20s and 30s: active lifestyle orientation
    – being in my 40s and 50s: health risk factors such as stress, blood pressure, eto.
    – being in my 60s and older (which I am): monitoring risk/health issues and even calling 911 if needed.
    – being pregnant, or having some other health relating event in one’s life: giving back bio-feedback that is useful and desired. This might even apply in feedback where alertness is important

    I appreciatethat some of these areas get into regulatory issue areas, but in time these could be addressed if the value in doing so is there.

    These kinds of opportunities could move the fastest where the solution is primarily software dependent (less so on the hardware) as it be driven by developer ingenuity.

    I am personally excited to see what comes out of all this.

    • santoscork

      Pretty exciting stuff. I never thought of pregnancy as a vertical market for Apple Watch.

      On a health related tangent, I wonder if Apple Watch can be institutionalized as loaners in the arena of professional healthcare, even if only as a lightweight monitoring device. Of course it would require serious review and regulation as you pointed out but apps in this space can fill a gap that might be avoided currently due to complexity, maintenance and economics.

      As the Apple Watch, or similar devices increase in performance, and as onboard sensors increase in accuracy and sensitivity, so will the areas of suitable application increase. This is becoming a much more interesting space than I had initially wrote it off to be. There are definitely some very compelling use cases, as being offered by some of the commentators.

      Your idea of positioning the Apple Watch as an alertness device is certainly interesting for some markets or for citizens who find themselves needing to make unexpectedly long commutes and require a companion to keep them alert but these types of roles would preferentially deserve cautionary use.

      Great discussion.

      • charly

        What health related task does Apple better and/or cheaper than its competition?

      • private


      • santoscork

        The scenario would include a patient who is admitted to a hospital. On being admitted, the patient is given an Apple Watch or other similarly sized and capable device. Equipped with radios for telecommunicating, sensors for monitoring, and adequate hardware specifications, the device is able to serve as an adjunct to the caregiver, delivering initial or longterm data sets to the caregiver.

        Such a device could serve a role, minor or major, for long or short durations of time while the patient is hospitalized. The take away here is that, if there is a job to be done in this environment, it can substantially reduce costs, minimize training time, effectively introducing to the institution of care a role that might not have otherwise existed or would have substantially been less cost effective to implement and therefore not considered.

        Of course, the comments are completely hypothetical, I am not in the healthcare business to accurately portray what problems it might solve and to what extent it can fill a gap or add some form of data luxury to professional healthcare.

        That being said, the undertaking would minimally involve a creative solution offered in the form of software which might require the device, in this case an Apple Watch, to deliver the required or desired data to a central repository for lookup by the caregiver. The sensors and the hardware specification would have to align with all prerequisites any other medical device that emits radio signals within a hospital is subject to. As I understand it, the class of radio signal or chips designed to emit the likes of WIFI in environments like a hospital have to follow some stringent designations so I am not aware of those particulars as they relate to devices like Apple Watch so this alone can be a show stopper for consumer grade devices ever being allowed to emit a WIFI signal. Again, this is only my understanding, my knowledge on hospital equipment is not what it should be but maybe someone in this discussion could better relate that knowledge.

        In any case, drawing some horsepower and assets from what must be the smallest of the small smart devices out today holds immense promise, especially because the user can literally be hands free for the most part.

        I don’t want to go overboard but in my view, I believe we will begin to see some interesting new computing paradigms, relative to wrist, health within the confines of personal and possibly professional and of course intimacy, nearness, invisibility as it were, of computing.

    • Insider

      Microsoft just released the Band which seem to be really cool but it
      looks like it needs to be taken off and charged every 48 hours or so..
      Really? I’ll have to remember to charge it every other day or so? No
      thanks, I already got too many appointments, reminders, events, etc that
      I need to take remember – I will get an extra device that is easy to
      use not one that I need to focus on…

      Look at the Iwatch advertised specs and look at the first Iphone specs. Fast forward 5 years or so from now and you will have a product that will be ready for mass adoption.

      Specifically: reduce the size/bulkiness, make the battery last at least a month with basic/reduced functionality, make it charge automatically via motion or solar power or both such as the Seiko (we are in the 21st century, make it completely waterproof (so I don’t have to take it off when I’m having a shower), and you can add a few more ….

      Putting a reminder in my calendar for Oct 31st 2019: Check out the latest Apple Watch.

      • charly

        there is too little energy in solar or movement to power a smartwatch. You can’t go to a month long work time without a) much bigger capacity batteries or b) a screen that uses significant less power

      • Insider

        Yeah, obviously, not right now.
        But if you improve the solar cells (it’s slowly getting there), reduce the screen features or let me choose the features and have the option of disabling power draining features (like email checking, tweeter updates, GPS, etc), improve battery capacity (getting there slowly as well), in about five years we’ll probably get a month on a single charge if not more..

        The Garmin band claims it lasts about a year on one charge.

      • charly

        size of the watch face is too small for that even if you got 100% of the solar energy. Batteries will improve in capacity until they can hold 3 days, after that in goes into size & weight reduction. Also the increase in charge for batteries is a nice single digit percentage.

        The garmin band has simply no features so one year is possible. But to get a wacth smart just takes to much energy.

        ps. Lower power wireless, better batteries, more efficient screen & cpu’s etc. all work so a smartwatch with a good battery life will be possible but it takes more than 5 years. I would look at laptops which took 25 years to get 10 hour laptops (without 3 extra batteries). Smartphones and 2martwatches will also take 25 years to get back at month long use time (if they ever will)

      • Space Gorilla

        “size of the watch face is too small for that even if you got 100% of the solar energy.”

        Solar cells/charging would be integrated into the band, not the face of the watch.

      • charly

        Even if you include the band it is still to small an area.

      • Appetite

        It may not be realistic to put current restrictions on future developments….its like saying getting 200 horsepower will take something the size of 200 horses.

  • stefnagel

    Ironic how language hems us in. If Apple had trademarked “smartphone,” we would have much less problem understanding what the iPhone was. But then Apple would have had to call it the “smartphonewallet” or some such.

    Better, today, to be a smart phone than a dumb pipe.

  • Hakim

    I agree with the point made by Horace.

    A computer on a wrist = platform for the jobs that can be fulfilled on a wrist by a computer. More exactly a computer with a small screen on a wrist that can interact with other computers in different form factors and with a range of input method (iphone+macs). Apple offering is to be the best platform to do this and is counting on developers to find jobs that will prove the value add of carrying a computer on a wrist.

    The million dollar question is what are the jobs that will justify carrying a computer on a wrist?

    – time keeping: traditional watch do a pretty good job already

    – music: iphone/ipod alredy do that pretty well and won’t (yet) be replaced by the computer on the wrist

    – health/fitness: some clear potential, niche market opportunity proven by fitbits/Garmin/etc.. can extra horse power & richer interface provide by iWatch largely expand this market opportunity to new use and therefore more wrists?

    – banking: just kidding – hmm actually apple pay on a wrist? (still not fully convinced)

    A question now, is the iWatch weakness that it has been wrongly branded by apple? at least the iPhone core purpose was to be a phone (at least at the start), the iWatch doesn’t (shouldn’t) aspire to be a watch.

    • charly

      Payment is the REASON for the iWatch

      • Hakim

        Pay with your wrist? maybe, still far from being an evidence that that’s the job. Might have a niche for sure, that doesn’t make it the “reason” though.
        The reason for the iwatch, going back to Horace point, is to establish apple as the computing platform of choice in an emerging space (the wrist)

      • charly

        I love my oyster card (outside the privacy issues) and it is not a niche unlike health or even music

      • Hakim

        I agree with you, I love my contactless card (stopped using oyster and now just using my contactless debit card). nice form factor & sturdy. Do I want it attached to my wrist? I am not yet ready for that – that’s were the niche lies – the wrist carrying “oyster” population (but things change).

      • charly

        The niche is not contactless payment card users who wear them around their wrist but contactless payment card users and that is to big to be a niche.

      • Plimeter

        Photos of the watch don’t reveal a fingerprint scanner. Without the fingerprint technology, the watch won’t be used for payments.

      • payup

        “Apple Pay lets you use iPhone 6 and Apple Watch to pay in stores and apps in an easy, secure, and private way.”

      • charly

        iwatch is not meant for big payments. It is for small payments with your iphone nearby and a beating heart as security

      • Sander van der Wal

        I hope not. My watch is on the wrong arm.

    • majgr

      glance-ability (and apps fired by context)

  • mjtomlin

    In typical fashion, people are concentrating on the device itself rather than what possibilities it presents. This is where Apple goes down their own path and everyone else with blinders on, goes astray and heads down a completely different path. Later on they’ll all look up and see the actual direction Apple was headed.

    Everyone is concentrating on the “watch” or the wrist – the wearable aspect and its location. While this is exactly what the AppleWATCH is and where it’s intended to be used, this is not the “vision,” but merely the first step down this new path. We don’t have an entirely clear picture of the vision, because we have yet to see and experience this first device.

    Personally, I think the AppleWATCH will turn out to be a successful device, but more than that, this new platform will prove to be a completely new computing paradigm. And this is where the competition will be caught with their pants down. Apple didn’t develop a brand new platform for a smart watch, they developed a user interface and methods of interaction for small computing devices. (This is exactly what they did with the iPhone; they didn’t develop a platform for a smartphone, they developed a completely new mobile computing experience.)

    What if this new platform shows up on the next iPod nano? Or how about a smaller mobile phone? Or even some other devices we have yet to think of? Any kind of device that only has room for a relatively small display and limited forms of input.

    I think we’re witnessing the birth of a new Apple platform.

    • mountebank

      Imagine going to a party or a bar while your watch provides a real-time wireless introduction service. An app on your phone contains your ‘profile’, matches it to others it can find, and provides haptic feedback to alert you if it finds a possibly interesting match based on some algorithm or other.

      If you feel like it, you tap the watch, and it sends your photo to the ‘matchee’. Instead of having to stare at your phone’s screen, it could all be done discretely.

      Maybe a bit creepy, but that’s the kind of thing Watch will open up. Developers are sure to be planning this type of thing.

      • charly

        Why not with your phone. It also can buzz

      • mountebank

        If you want to party with a phone in your hand, I suppose you could.

        I think the Watch ‘platform’ UI adds a level of intimacy. That is how Apple described it in the introductory show and tell. All I’m saying is that this ‘platform’ might develop beyond telling the time, monitoring your heart rate, or playing music.

      • charly

        If i was 20 i probably would. Phone is also more intimate than a watch

      • Childermass

        I try to resist your inanities, but this is impossible. A phone, in your hand or in your pocket, is more intimate than a watch? The watch is in constant contact with your skin. You either do not know what intimate means – which is likely true – or you are just a troll and I’ve betrayed my own principles.

        Thank you for making the world dirtier and uglier.

        One day this new interface will be called Intimate Computing, as distinct from Personal Computing. It is a paradigm change.

      • charly

        Try watch the face of a watch for more than a glance? It is an unnatural position and you can’t change hands like with a mobile.

      • MarkS2002

        Imagine being a woman walking down the street in any large city and having your watch vibrating constantly as the new street harassment. She wouldn’t even know from whom it was coming.

      • mountebank

        I would assume she would not have a profile active unless she set it so.

    • Padova44

      The future, once again, is leaving from Apple Platform No. __

      • Nathan Hillery (N8nNC)

        King’s Cross Platform 9 3/4

  • Peter Payne

    “Wrist-space-time continuum.” Genius, Horace!

    Another issue to address is, how often will Apple Watch be updated. One reason I am not for made-by-manufacturer iOS devices in my car is, I don’t want to feel like my car is old and crappy just because 3-4 years passed and it can’t run the newest iOS car software version. Hence I’m more than happy to stick with my iPhone/iPad for in-car navigation. If the Apple Watch is updated annually, so that we feel pressure to throw away our watches and get new ones, or face ridicule at wearing the equivalent of an iPhone 3GS on our wrist in an age of iPhone 5-6, I will be turned off.

    So really, the only thing that can get better with Apple Watch as it matures is the battery and insides, it seems to me.

  • shift_happens

    @asymco:disqus You completely misjudged the jobs to be done. A watch is no more a timepiece than a bathing suit is a piece of cloth.

    A watch is far more than a purely utilitarian item. The main job to be done is on of Expression. Expression of individuality, of taste and style, of signaling, of personal aesthetics, and of many other psychological aspects.

    Time telling, fitness and communications are merely incidental aspects. Clearly Apple recognizes this.

    So yes, Apple is competing for a share of wardrobe budget. It is in this context the watch needs to be judged.


    • GlennC777

      I think you have it more or less backwards, at least for most people. I’m sure there is a vanity-seeking crowd who wear a watch mainly as an expression of style, but the majority of people either wear a watch for utilitarian purposes, or don’t wear one at all.

      Style will range from somewhat important to very important for people who adopt the Apple Watch for utility, but it will be mainly the utility that attracts them to it.

      I expect the people you’re referring to would avoid an Apple Watch no matter what it were to looked like. Their sense of identity demands that their watch set them apart, and that’s not possible with a device from Apple no matter how many variations it’s offered in. Most people do not need this watch-as-jewelry self-image boost.

      • shift_happens

        Disagree. Just look at where the watch industry is making their revenues. There’s plenty of $2 watches but the money ain’t there…

        As Jony Ive said yesterday:

        As soon as something is worn, we have expectations of choice,” said Ive. Only “in prison,” he joked, do people all wear the same thing.

        There’s a reason Paul D, Angela A, Mark N are at Apple. Wouldn’t be surprised to Hedi Slimane joining the roster.

      • charly

        Apple is more the same thing for all than any other electronic company i know. Wouldn’t that be hard with watches and their individualism? Also there is more money in $20k because you need to sell 100000 $2 watches for one $20k watch

      • shift_happens

        You have to realize where the watch/accessories sits in terms of maturity vis-a-vis technology products.

        The smartphone is barely 10 years old, heck even the PC is 40 years old. In nascent markets, having large choice does not make sense. The economics are very very different. There’s a reason that the early model T was available only in black.

        Clothing/accessories/watches are centuries old. They have evolved over time to their current form factor.

        The Watch will come in a variety of personalization options, in millions if you consider the band, watch and time face combination and in a variety of price points: from $350 to $20k (rumored).

      • charly

        The smartphone is closer to 15years old and doing X times Y times Z to get to the different models is incorrect as most colors just don’t match.

        $20k is just adding diamants. I don’t see how it can be more than $3k with a gold watch

      • GlennC777

        “Just look at where the watch industry is making their revenues.”

        A fundamental error in analysis, I believe. This suggests that the iPad should have looked at where the tablet industry was making its earnings and that the iPhone should have been designed with a really good keyboard.

        The “watch industry” is irrelevant to the Apple Watch. This is almost an identity with Apple: it’s a prerequisite for Apple to be interested in entering a market in the first place. They have to be able to do something they think is new enough that the market as it exists, and the market that they aim to replace it with, have little in common. The Apple Watch market is *not* the watch market as it exists today.

      • shift_happens

        That’s nitpicking. This more akin to reimagining the phone (a large and known market). The watch market has existed for far longer than the phone market.

        Look at Apples own point of reference on the Apple watch and their marketing copy.

      • GlennC777

        It’s not nitpicking to say I think you’re fundamentally incorrect in your analysis. What I’m saying is that the market Apple envisions for their watch is not the same as the current market at all. It’s a brand-new market that has yet to be created. If Apple’s successful, it will be much larger than the current watch market and will overlap only partially with it. Many of today’s buyers of fashion watches appear to consider themselves above it and will probably not participate.

        Of course Apple is behaving respectfully towards the fashion industry. Better to make allies than enemies where possible.

      • shift_happens

        That’s a good point that I missed. I agree new commerce and identity functionality are a big departure from the past.

        However, as I’ve mentioned before a major job to be done by the Apple watch is the same as what watches have historically served.

      • Padova44

        “the current watch market” seems to me to be viciously competitive and small. No matter how vulgar you are, you can only wear one bling at a time on your wrist. Apple, however, is aware there are 7 billion folks on this planet.

      • charly

        There are to era’s in the watch market.The mechanical and the digital era. The watch market changed significant when it moved from mechanical, a time that a gold watch wasn’t that much more expensive than a good not gold watch and gold doesn’t rust to the digital era where a gold watch is much more expensive than a $2 watch that is better at telling the time.

        Pre-digital gold watches were a tool, post digital gold watches are jewelery. The time that all mechanical watches are jewelery is longer than the existence of the mobile phone market, but it is not much longer

      • StevenDrost

        I think you underestimate the importance of style. I wear a suit to work, for me style equals utility. Not wearing a watch or a belt or a tie would be to not care about appearances, that’s bad for business and my career. In most jobs, on any date and anytime you meet someone new, your clothes have an important job to do. In anything you wear, style will among the most important aspects of the device and for more reasons than the users “vanity”.

      • GlennC777

        I’m mainly referring to people for whom watches are a large part of their identity, as symbols of status and taste. I think these people will see the Apple Watch as too facile and will reject it. There is already commentary in this direction from the traditional watch market. You can detect a subtext of distaste on my part for this way of thinking, which I see as superficial and vain.

        In contrast, I think the Apple Watch can fit perfectly well into the fashion repertoire of people such as you’re referring to, who need to maintain a tasteful appearance but don’t base their identity largely on what they wear on their wrist.

        The distinction is that the people I’m referring to are a self-selected group for whom “taste” necessarily excludes an Apple device on their wrist, while the majority of people would find the Apple watch to be in perfectly good taste, at least for ordinary wear.

      • StevenDrost

        I see your point, but I’m not sure I agree. There have been plenty of vain tech buyers. The need to have the best, the newest or the gold one. Anyone who stood inline for 4 hours to get a device clearly has a chunk of their identity invested, but I hesitate to label them all vain.
        Vanity is not merely having the best, most expensive or the newest, it’s about showing off to everyone else. Apple products tend to generate a disproportionate amount of media attention. A gold Apple Watch will garner much more attention than a Coach purse or a Rolex watch and should be a magnet for buyers motivated by vanity. I should also point out that there are vastly different societal norms between east and west when it comes to displaying wealth. The gold Apple watch is going to sell much better in the east mainly because of what we would refer to as vanity.

      • GlennC777

        I don’t have a problem with any of that, but none of it changes my point, which is that people for whom horological preferences have become a matter of ideology will avoid the Apple Watch.

      • art hackett

        The commentary from the traditional watch people parallels almost perfectly with the phone and “smartphone” panic from 2007 and reinforces the point of this post from Horace. There must be clever way of squeezing horology in here somewhere but I can’t yet.

    • MarkS2002

      Waiting in line to get a parking pass during finals week, I was pretty constantly looking at my watch. As someone in my 60s, this was normal activity. The young woman in front of me did the same, only on her smartphone. I know two people are much too small for a sample; but it certainly led me to a possible theory. Somewhere in the thinking about the Watch or Sammy’s Gear, it needs to be acknowledged that this will need a generational focus. Unless these become essential to monitoring my health, I am likely to keep my Timex. Those with ostentatious wealth or only a smartphone will find the Watch appealing.

      • shift_happens

        You hit the nail on its head “generational focus”.

        Identity. Clothing and accessories are a key aspect how we connect to our tribe.

        From the Mod to the Punk to the Hipster to the Lounger to the Businessman to the Jock everyone has their look.

        As Mark Twain famously said, “Clothes make the the man. Naked people have little influence in society”. Everyone in Apple’s demographic makes conscious or unconscious choices about their clothing based on considerations that are far from utilitarian. Even those who say they don’t care about their clothing are making a choice and expression.

        Sure, there are utilitarian aspects of the watch but I’d argue these are secondary to how people will use the watch to express who they are.

        Apple realizes this. And this is clear in their positioning. Look at the marketing copy. From talk of complications to Milanese bands to sport bands there’s marketing messages for a wide range of tribes. Tim Cook talking about how proud he is that the watch is on a the cover of Vogue is no accident.

      • santoscork

        I agree with you and Horace. From my perspective, form factor, design, aesthetics (ID), UI and UX are the primary lure. As one’s own excitement wanes post purchase, the product has to deliver the all important jobs to be done, it must capture my engagement, compel me to interact regularly and easily, and explore ultimately explore more possibilities. The value proposition has to continuously evolve throughout the ownership cycle.

        Actually, I think Apple is going to hit a home run with this device, throughout their pre-launch – launch they made sure we understood the great lengths they took to get it as right as they could. As long as they continue to do their finest work, they will succeed.

        This approach, if applied by anyone one of us, not just Apple, should always bring success. Doing best and most honest work you can do is the key to success. This is what I think underlies Apple’s continued success – to do the best they can.

    • Horace Dediu
      • shift_happens

        Looks like I missed that post…

      • art hackett

        No shift…

    • Padova44

      My opinion of watches is they tell the time handsomely, Mondaine or Patek-Phillippe, or they an expression of vulgarity. Apple is interested in neither.

    • obarthelemy

      Nothing says “Expression of individuality, of taste and style, of signaling, of personal aesthetics” better than a mass-market device. But hey, it comes it 2 sizes ^^

  • sscutchen

    When the iPhone was first shown, I immediately realized it was a pocket, wireless computer with internet access… that happened to have a phone as an app. I didn’t know anyone that had an OS that could support a competitive product. (I didn’t know about Android.) I bought a bunch of Apple stock as a result.

    I’m at more of a loss for the iWatch. It may be a similar disrupter, and this article about not comfusing it’s job with the job of a traditional watch is spot on. But I’m going to have to see it used in the wild to understand it. Apple’s enthusiasm, though, is interesting. They know what they have planned, and they are really excited about it.

    I’m still an Apple shareholder, so here’s hoping…

    • Walt French

      I, myself, have never curated/introduced ANY consumer product, let alone one with the innovation potential of a smart wrist device. I see some of the talent they’ve lined up but have no way to assess whether it’s good enough for the challenge.

      Love to hear from veterans of campaigns even a quarter this size.

  • Sumocat

    The Apple Watch has two audiences to pull from: young people who, as Tim Cook himself claimed, don’t wear watches and older people who already do, typically as fashion pieces or from established habit. This, I believe, is how Apple is viewing the market, and why they have made certain design decisions, like re-purposing the crown and offering luxury and sport options.

  • Childermass

    Apple do not do, a priori, ‘jobs to be done’. It is a good way to analyse, but not a good way to innovate. It will not help us understand Why Apple do things. It will help with How (possible forms) and What (possible outcomes), but not Why.

    They are interested in interfaces (which is where all the action is). Yes they have made a lot of kit that is very popular, but the mouse, the GUI, the touch screen are their modi operandi. Who did it first is irrelevant here. It is those who grasp and understand the interface that innovate (cf. Xerox and the mouse).

    Now we have skin contact. All the others had ‘us’ talking to ‘it’. Now ‘it’ talks to ‘us’.

    How this turns out, will, like the iPad, be up to us. No-one at Apple, self-admittedly, knew the iPad would be a tool in live surgery or flight control. But they knew with a truly new tool anything was possible.

    it’s odd isn’t it? Throughout history we have had jobs and devised tools for them. Now we have ‘tools’ (or better, opportunities) and we wait to see what jobs get done.

    And as a ps: the watch industry is no guide, nor fashion. Ive knew the ‘Watch’ had to be aesthetically acceptable not to be rejected. As he did with the iPod, iPhone, iPad et al.

    Technologists have no clue. Analysts are no guide.

    Welcome to the world of IC: Intimate Computing.

    • Walt French

      Woo-hoo and thank you.

      This is the difference between a platform and a product. Apple has no interest in seeing who can provide the better cost/benefit ratio on a piece of hardware; they design (eco-) systems that can evolve organically.

      Versus a static snapshot of the world, why would anybody buy into these nebulous non-promises? But as Horace has noted, the optionality of what can be done, like with VC investments, is where all the value is.

      Many of us are impressed by how Google turned the tables on Microsoft, gaining revenues and profits by giving software away. I note and celebrate how Apple gets revenues and profits by enticing us—developers, users, services—to their ecosystems.

  • obarthelemy

    Maybe the simplest way to look at things is to look at Apple’s share of other gizmo markets: 10-15%, globally. The iWatch will be tapping the portion of that market that wants a smartwatch. The rest will be using no smartwatch, or the gaggle of other smartwatches that provide same/less/more value in the functionality/fashion dimensions. There are already full Android phones you can wear on your wrist – very ugly ones, but I’ve yet to see a watch I like more than my bare wrist anyway.
    That doesn’t really answer the “total size of the market” question though. I don’t think tech products can succeed as pure fashion products, (no “origins” story, no long-lasting value…), so functionality will be important.
    As for smartphones, I think “smartwatch” is a misnomer that will impair perception and analysis for years to come though.

    • santoscork

      Generally speaking, I think Apple’s real core category strategy might be, depending on how the Apple Watch project goes, on intimate computing. Perhaps the moniker is just a result of the types of content that can be delivered to the user — data that is much more personal to the user — and not so much the form factor. A few components appear to lend themselves to the intimate computing platform as it were, a very small screen that in practical terms and by virtue, viewable best by the user. The sensors on board collect and deliver metrics that can be analysed by algorithms, the resulting analysis are then presented to the user as suggested actions, for example, it’s time to take a short walk or your heart rate is a little high etc. These types of data are intimate to the user. Arguably, the like can be done to a certain extent on a mobile phone but the specialised sensors are exclusive to the Apple Watch experience. The small messages that include haptic queues, how they can be communicated between users also enhances the notion of intimate computing.

      Although today we face what is physically a watch, under the premise of intimate computing, it might be wrong to say that Apple intended to build a watch, perhaps the ‘jobs to be done’, as Apple saw them, lent themselves best to a watch, it also happens that it is familiar to almost everyone, of all walks of life, rich and poor alike. It’s actually a terrific match.

      Whether Apple intends to explore intimate computing in other forms, or if this is what they actually drew upon as a foundation on which to execute design, form and function is not absolutely clear but I think Cook uttered the words, something akin to, the most intimate computing experience, at the announcement. I hope I am not too far off the quote. I will give myself this much leverage, at least philosophically, Apple did enter the personal computer business and the Watch might arguably be their most personal of personal computers, hence intimate.

      It will be interesting to see where this still new and exciting platform will be in say 5 years. I think it might be clearer over time that this type of device was made for an intimate experience, it’s a new paradigm that developers and users will ultimately decide on.

      I just want to let you, the reader of this post, if you are still here, on a small story, it’s not very related but I think apt. Circa 1990 or so, a friend of mine, a smoker had tried to unsuccessfully kick the habit several times until she discovered a small handheld device, about the size of a calculator, that would initially start by asking the user to input each time a cigarette was smoked. After collecting enough data, it began to dictate to her when she should smoke while still allowing her to smoke as she wished but she had to smoke when told to. Eventually, at the 3rd stage, the device would not permit the user to satisfy him/herself the urge to smoke by lighting up, instead it dictated when to smoke. I am now a bit fuzzy but either the device weaned her off cigarettes or the pattern of smoking dictated by the device was to the extent of disgust. All in all, the device was successful at delivering it’s core job. She never smoke since.

      This type of app, if allowed on the Apple Watch App Store could be a home run for a lot smokers. I am sorry that I don’t remember the device’s name or the precise pattern it delivered but the premise is simple, quit smoking. Although it sounds like a get healthy app idea, which it certainly is, it can fall within the intimate, coach, personal health categories.

      Have a wonderful day.

  • Cito Kurrukan

    I agree that Apple watch buyers are a different niche from the Swiss watches. I’m sure there are people who will buy from both niches.