Debug is a casual, conversational interview show featuring the best developers in the business about the amazing apps they make and why and how they make them. On this episode — Live from the Ull conference in Ireland Guy and Rene talk to Horace Dediu of Asymco fame about his background as a developer, his time at Nokia, and his current job-to-be-done: analyzing Apple.
Horace and Anders look at the segments of the luxury market and consider how success can be measured in Apple’s watch business.
The Apple Watch offers a hierarchy of surfaces onto which software can compete for attention:
- The Complication Layer
- The Notification Layer
- The Glances Layer
- The App Screen
These surfaces are arranged in a hierarchy where the highest is the most accessible and the lowest is the least accessible. In a similar fashion we can consider the hierarchy of screens a person could reasonably be considered to be exposed to:
- The Watch
- The Phone
- The Tablet
- The TV
- The Personal Computer
- The Public/Work Computer
Note that this hierarchy is correlated to the size and hence the portability and persistence of proximity to the user. Each of the screens has its own “surfaces” which expose software to the user with various degrees of ease. For instance the iPhone has Notifications, Control Center, Home Screen, etc. The OS X personal computer has the Desktop, Notifications, the Dashboard, the Browser etc.
It follows then that software which is located at the top of each hierarchy on each device will have the greatest exposure to user interaction and that the device which has the nearest proximity to the user will provide the greatest value to software developers.
This implies further that the most valuable “real estate” for software will be the Complication layer on the Watch.
The software which receives either default placement there or which convinces the highest number of users to opt for placement there will have the greatest potential value. As suggested in my post on how the Watch will be valued, how software will be valued will be by the probability of its Settings being enabled for display on the Watch and its presence within Glances.
The jostling for position within the constrained real estate on the wrist will be analogous to the competition for positioning on the phone. You’ll note that the winners on the phone were different than the winners on the PC. My bet is that the winners on the Watch will be different than the winners on the Phone.
And that’s not a bad thing.
Before its launch, I said that the Apple Watch would be as much a watch as the iPhone is a phone. Recall that when the iPhone was launched it was anchored on three tentpoles, one of which was being a phone and that when the Apple Watch was launched it was also anchored on three tentpoles, one of which was being a watch.
Realizing that on the iPhone the “phone” is but an app — one which I find populated with FaceTime calls rather than cellular calls and whose messaging history is filled with iMessage threads rather than SMS — I consider it safe to say what the iPhone is today not as much a phone as a very personal computer. And so the question is whether the Watch will quickly leave behind its timekeeping anchor and move into being something completely different.
I had the chance to use the Watch for a few days and can say that timekeeping is probably as insignificant to its essence as it’s possible to be. It feels like a watch in the physical sense, looking good in the process (as the iPhone physically felt like a phone, also without being hard on the eyes)
However it does not feel like a watch conceptually. I find myself drawn into a conversation by its vocabulary of vibrations. I find myself talking to it. I find myself listening to it. I find myself glancing at information about faraway places. I find myself paying for things with it. I find myself checking into flights with it. I order transportation, listen to news, check live data streams and get myself nagged to exercise. It tells me where I am. It tells me where to go. It tells me when to leave.
Nothing ever worn on a wrist, or anywhere else for that matter, has done any of these things before. Not only are these things mesmerizing but they are done in a productive way on a wristwatch. In other words they are done in a mindful way.
Cynics may say it does too little. Philistines may say it does too much. But for me it does just what I want it to do when I want it done. The things which are not done stay out of the way. This discretion is just as important as the effectiveness of action.
Even more remarkably, this tasteful minder is offered not to a fortunate few but to millions of people of average means. In the true sense of technological democratization, Apple Watch is a phenomenon for mass consumption.
Its launch needs to be understood as a watershed event. It could be compared to the launch of the Mac or the iPhone but it is different as much as it is the same.
The product has a completely different character. It tries not to do more but to do less. But that which it does is more meaningful, more thoughtful. We talk of computing speeds and network feeds but we spend much more time and money to visit people who have little to say and say it slowly. We value charm and wit more than bandwidth and throughput. We are drawn to beauty more than to speed. This is what this computer captures.
A maxim of the computing of the 21st century is that the closer the machine is to us the more we value it. It does not get rewarded for being fast but for being a companion. It does not get valued for features but for beauty. It does not get hired for power but for control. It does not get worn because it’s smart but because it’s clever.
People understand these tradeoffs instinctively. They are not concepts that need selling. The product speaks plainly of itself and its success is therefore guaranteed.
The history of the Personal Computer market (since 1981) is shown below:
Note that I added a forecast for 2015. Data from Gartner shows Windows PCs declining at a 6% rate in Q1 with a full-year forecast of -2.4% (including OS X). Assuming 20.7 million Macs, the Windows PC market will decline to 285.6 million units (from 295 million in 2014). My estimate is that iOS and OS X combined shipments will total about 302 million.
If this rather conservative forecast is correct then in 2015 Apple will ship more iOS and OS X computers than all Windows PCs combined .
- This excludes iPod touch, Apple TV and Apple Watch. PC data is from public Gartner press releases. [↩]
Bob Moesta demonstrates Jobs to be Done interview technique by speaking with Horace about a car purchase.
This is very important. You should listen.
It won’t be easy. The company will not be reporting the Watch segment revenues or (presumably) unit sales and therefore we won’t have an accurate unadulterated view of the business. In addition, the large number of products in the mix and wide price variance means that it will be difficult for analysts to determine demand and price.
There is a hidden benefit to not having this data. All data is a creation and it tends to lead thinking in directions led by whatever is being measured (and whoever chose those measures and their motives). And yet without data there is no evidence and no credibility. In other words: You can’t manage without measurement but you can’t be sure what to measure.
The analyst is then faced with a requirement to have good taste or at least judgement about what to measure. This judgement is based on experience and good theory. Given that, what could we measure to determine whether the Apple Watch will be a success?
Here are some suggestions:
- Language. Measure whether “Watch” will come to mean “Apple Watch”. “Phone” has come to mean not only “smartphone” but also all mobile/cellular phones and not just things used for calling but things used for all manner of information. This is a great test because the theft of semantics can only be accomplished through a degree of ubiquity of influential mindshare. Incidentally, the brand may well have been designed to do just that.
- A measurable and significant reduction in the use of the iPhone. The Watch peels off uses from the iPhone and therefore the more it peels off, the less remains. However, that which remains will be more uniquely valuable to the incumbent. This is the process of carving and erosion that the PC experienced vs. mobile devices in general.
- An increase in the mix of large-screen iPhones. As iPhones are removed from pockets more rarely, the larger version might be more comfortable to carry and more useful to use for the immersive tasks that are outside the scope of Watch.
- An overall increase in iPhone sales beyond the foreseeable trajectory. This would suggest switchers from Android would be drawn to the platform purely for the value of the “accessory”. Note that this is not inconsistent with the lower usage and higher spec mix measurements.
- Apps uniquely targeting the Watch. It’s hard to imagine how this will develop as it involves millions of creative minds, but as smartphones created new economic value through the solving of new jobs to be done, the Watch should do the same. As a side-effect it should lead to new empires (or at least Unicorns) being formed around Watch use.
- Iteration. How quickly and deeply will the product be improved? Basic accessories like headphones and Apple TV have a leisurely update cycle. Smarter devices are faster. The cycle time of iteration should indicate how seriously Apple takes the platform and that itself should be fueled by positive consumer sentiment for the product.
These indicators are vague and the data will be weakly signaled but in many ways it will be more meaningful than any financial performance figures.Notes:
- It leaves open the question as to what watches as currently defined will come to be known as. [↩]