Archive for General Drivel
Things to remember when the inevitable shitstorm breaks this afternoon:
The Analog Audio Jack Is Old And Stupid: Old with a capital “O”. This is literally (yes, literally) the same technology Marconi used. People are going to wail and moan, but these are the same people who wailed and moaned when the serial port and the floppy drive was missing from the iMac. Serial ports were old and stupid. Floppy discs were old and stupid and unreliable. Analog audio jacks are old, stupid, unreliable, and they let water into the device. Fail. The wailing and moaning shouldn’t be about the fact that the thing will be gone, the wailing and moaning should be why it took this long to get rid of the damn thing.
Cords Suck: Cords for earbuds suck even worse. The removal of the audio jack isn’t to get people to plug into the lightning port or to make them buy dongles, it’s to get them to stop plugging in at all. Which is why the new iPhone will come with “good enough” bluetooth earbuds in the box. It’s not about a different plug – it’s about no plug.
Megapixels Don’t Equal Quality: More pixels doesn’t make for a better image – processors, lenses, sensors, and software does. Anyone who complains that other phones have cameras with more pixels is simply advertising to you that they don’t really understand digital photography. Image quality counts. Bigger numbers are just for companies that are more marketing than innovation.
WatchOS 3 Really Does Make The Apple Watch A Whole New Device: There is no technology bump – yet – that justifies a new form factor or outright hardware version of the Apple Watch. But there is software that makes the current one less of a specialty item and more of a digital triage device for the masses. New Apple Watch next year – newly usable Apple Watch this year.
New Macbook Pro Models Are Coming: Wait for it.
If you have multiple devices using iOS and OS X you are probably at least passingly familiar with iCloud Drive. For the most part, it’s entirely seamless – especially from the iOS side, where you don’t even have to think about the thing at all. Open an app, and voila! The list of all the comparable files on your iCloud Drive is there and waiting for you. Save a file, and (at the rest of sounding repetitive) voila! The file is automagically saved to iCloud Drive, no muss, no fuss, no wondering if you put it in the right spot.
Sometimes, however, automagically is not exactly what you want. Once in a great while you might find yourself wanting to be able to take a quick look at the stuff stashed away on your iCloud Drive – figure out if you have a file without opening the associated app, rename files to help keep things obvious with a collaborator, share a file, whatever. If you are sitting at a desktop you can just point your browser to iCloud.com and off you go. But if you are on mobile … are you pooched?
No, of course not. There is a not-overly-secret but also not-entirely-obvious switch in your iOS settings that will reveal the hidden iCloud Drive folder that sits on all of on your iOS devices. It’s three simple steps and totally painless. Ready? Let’s begin.
One: Go to your iOS settings and tap on “iCloud” – it’s in the section below the items that run from “General” to “Privacy”. You will be presented with this screen:
Two: Tap on “iCloud Drive” and you will see a screen like this. Flip the switch labelled “Show on Home Screen” to on:
(NOTE: Obviously the master iCloud Drive switch at the top of this screen needs to be set to on as well. I probably don’t have to tell you this.)
Three: That’s it. Done. Return to your home screen(s) and your will see the iCloud Drive icon – it looks like this:
Tap it, and there are all your cloud files, arranged by application. From here you can long-press on any item in a folder to bring up a menu of file operations, or “pop” them with force-touch to see a preview:
Done and done. Amaze your friends. Boost your productivity. Be cool.
Tick tock. Time passes, and September 9th is nigh upon us. That means “tomorrow” for you less-prosaic types. Siri is still being entirely stubborn and refusing to give any sort decent hint so – once again – it is left up to me to provide you with a sneak peek at what’s going down at the annual iPhone media event. Casually drop some of these little gems at the water cooler today, and your assorted cronies will think you are a genius tomorrow. You should be able to parlay that into at least a free coffee, and maybe a muffin too … use your powers wisely.
What’s we will be seeing tomorrow:
New iPhones – Say hello to the 6S and the 6S Plus. Like most of the “S” generations, this is mostly a performance and refinement update and – as always – is aimed at people who have hardware from three years ago … in this case the owners of the 5 and 5c. The new hardware will look pretty much exactly like the existing 6 and 6 Plus, albeit with a slightly thicker metal case to deal with handful of morons who think it is a good idea to put a thin aluminum object in their back pocket and then sit on it for three or four hours. What’s inside, however, gets some serious love. The processor is the latest of the A9 family and gives a significant performance boost. Most of that boost will be aimed at improving the camera – so many improvements, in fact, that the “6S as a camera” probably deserves a post all on it’s own. Battery life is a tad better, memory management is more efficient, and the networking hardware gets a semi-overdue overhaul. More interestingly for average users, force-touch and the taptic engine, both cornerstones of the Watch experience, come to the iOS family for the first time. And the screen remains beautiful, untainted by the garish “colours” and horrid saturation issues of OLED. Whew.
iOS 9 – No real guessing games here, since this was announced months ago and everyone already knows the release date. The betas have been out and in testing for almost as long, so everyone knows what’s under the hood as well. The one big thing of note is that Mobile Safari will now accept plug-ins, including potential ad-blockers. You will hear a lot of hue and cry about this, on both sides of the coin, but the fact is that advertisers and publishers have brought this upon themselves. It’s not the ads that people hate, its the poisoned browsing experience caused by all of the monkey business attached to the delivery of those ads. Good riddance.
OS X “El Capitan” – Again, not any actual precognitive powers needed. We’ve had the release date and all the details for quite some time. Most of what is going on here is a “Snow Leopard” under-the-hood kind of update – adding the Metal graphics framework from iOS, a long-list of kernel tweaks for both security and stability, and a bunch of network performance boosts – but there are a couple of notable UI things that are worth mentioning. First, a big change in window and workspace management. You can continue to use and arrange windows the way you always have, or you can start pinning windows to screen-edge lockpoints and work in what is essentially a split-screen mode. Second, the way that virtual desktops are used and managed has been completely overhauled. If you have giving a glance to “Spaces” in the past and decided it wasn’t worth the effort, you would take a look again now. The whole multiple-desktop experience is suddenly fluid and intuitive instead of kludgy and obtuse. Better, you no longer have to dick around with Mission Control if that’s not your cup of tea … just drag a window to the top of the screen and everything opens up. And third, Spotlight gets some long overdue love. Searches are actually global now with results from your data, the ‘net, and what’s in your apps all sharing a single coherent results pane.
Fonts – This might not get a lot of mention tomorrow, but changes to the standard system fonts are interesting from both “a single computing experience” and “the future of the computing marketplace” standpoints. San Francisco now becomes the default system font for western users on all of the platforms. More intriguingly, a shitload of work has gone into tweaking the Ping Fang and Hiragino Sans system fonts, along with a completely overhauled input method for Chinese and Japanese users. If you were wondering about the location of the big growth markets in the computer world, that should give you a pretty good clue.
WatchOS 2.0 – This is a big fat hairy deal. It’s the first step of untethering the Watch from the phone, and launching it as a full stand-alone platform. There is a long way to go, but this is the start. Until now, the Watch is mostly a “triage” device for the associated phone – it keeps your phone in your pocket and your mind on whatever you are really doing, not constantly dealing with personal information flow. For a lot of people, this is already good enough, and that’s fine. But for the future of actual wearable computing, this is an exciting bit of new ground. Also, it probably means that Ned Yost can no longer wear his Watch in the dugout.
Other Watch Bits – Certainly a couple of new cosmetic options for the Xmas buying season – bracelets and bands, mostly, along with a new finish. Also, a raft of new things – cars, home integration devices, services, companies – that will directly support the Watch. Just shiny fluff, mostly.
AppleTV – And, finally, the star of the show. This was supposed to be shown at WWDC and was pulled at the last minute. A lot of people thought that it was because their much-talked-about content deals with the big networks had fallen through. A lot of people were wrong. The next-gen AppleTV was pulled because the interface just wasn’t good enough to pass muster at that time. Apple isn’t worried about the content deals yet … in their mind, that is putting the cart before the horse. What was being sweated was polishing the interface to the point where it stops being a semi-decent media hub and starts being a whole-house touchstone for, well, everything. Apps, games, media, your data libraries … the end-game here is to start the ball rolling on the same sort of infrastructure giant that the iOS family has become. Once you have that sort of mass, the content deals come to you, and not vice versa. It makes sense, and with the new device being rebuilt from the ground up to be interacted with instead of just a dumb pass-through device the strategy has a real shot. The new OS is much more “iOS” than “set top box”, integrates Siri for the first time, and it’s easily the best interface for this sort of device ever. Period. Finis. The wildcard here is the controller – a “smart” controller that does duty as a remote, a navigation tool, and a gaming device. How does that work? Who knows? This is the one deep dark secret that nobody seems to have any dirt on … or if they do, they ain’t talking. How this all comes together is probably going to be the most interesting part of the whole show. Well, that and the tech media’s reaction to the fact that the new device at $199 is going to be at least twice the price of any previous AppleTV release. Horror! Scandal! Shock! Whatever.
What we won’t be seeing tomorrow:
Any sort of iPad announcement. Get a grip, people … that’s an October thing.
You don’t need to wait much longer. A little birdie just passed along the scoop: Apple will hold a release event on September 9th with the following agenda:
The “mid-life” updates to the iPhone 6 line – a 6S and a 6S Plus. A performance bump and force-touch screens will be the main changes from the original 6 lineup.
The re-booted Apple TV that was supposed to be shown at WWDC and pulled at the 11th hour. The new unit will move into the iOS family, be positioned more as a “cable-cutting” device than a “personal media” one, have a far-more-useful remote, and it’s own section of the App Store.
iOS 9, since it is sort of needed for that Apple TV thing.
Watch OS 2.0. This is the version that starts the inevitable process of de-tethering the Apple Watch from the iPhone “mothership”, and begins to push the Watch out of the “novelty” market and into the “everyday device” zone.
Ready for some shiny new toys? You don’t have long to wait.
Wow – June again. So soon! It seems like it was just May! Whatever. June means that it’s time for WWDC, the highlight of the developer year and the epicentre of juicy tech. It also means it’s time for the usual slate of WWDC predictions and punditry, so without further ado … on with the show.
Apple TV: This is going to of the real stars of the show … you only have to look at the logo for this year’s conference (yes, that’s it over on the right) to see what the company’s plans are here. The Apple TV starts it’s transition from a “hobby” to the centre of your personal digital experience. Some people are of the mind that the next generation Apple TV will not see the light of day today because of holdups with licensing from network broadcasters, but with HomeKit already in the wild (see next item) I doubt that the company will hold the hardware back. And for the first time, look for a full SDK to allow developers to create apps that integrate and work from the data coming through your video streams.
HomeKit: The second star. HomeKit hardware has been out for a couple of weeks now, and this will be the first time we get to see the entire infrastructure as a fully-realized integrated entity and as the centrepiece of the new AppleTV-powered home. There will be the full release of the SDK, and I would be incredibly surprised if there wasn’t the debut of some sort of system-wide control app that lets you connect to every HomeKit device from a single interface. As it stands now HomeKit control is a hodgepodge of apps and user interfaces (the vast majority of them terrible) that you have to juggle to move from one device to the next. If Apple has a sense of humour they will name this über-all “HAL”.
WatchKit: The third of the big stars of the show today. As of now, the only native apps on the Watch are the ones that are baked into the OS. Everything else is just an extension of something running under iOS and it gives the watch some serious lack of functionality when the associated phone is out of range. That will all change in the fall when fully native Watch OS apps become available to the masses. As a prelude, it’s a guarantee that the full untethered WatchKit SDK will be handed out to developers today, and there will no do doubt be a couple of cool demos to boot.
Accessibility: Apple has long been proponents of accessibility in both devices and software. With the new AppleTV being positioned as the “control it all from one device, possibly via voice” centre of your home, and the Apple Watch extending accessibility via voice and haptic control to the wrist, it would not surprise me at all to see Tim announce a renewed or extended corporate commitment on this front.
Watch: Nothing new here, I would think. The expected evolution of the Watch from a tethered extension of your iPhone to a true stand-alone computer on your wrist is at least one year away, and probably two. There are just too many hurdles regarding battery depth and connectivity to be solved in the first generation. That said, the Watch is still selling faster than Apple can make them, and extending the production grid at this time would be illogical. Any non-functional additions – bands/finishes/et. – will come down the pipe in the fall, possibly at the iOS 9 launch event. Which brings us to …
iOS 9: Expect the full demo today, even though version 9 is at this point more of a technical update than anything. Performance, stability, and extended cross-device integration will be the main thrust of this release. Lots of happy news for developers, which is the whole point of today, but a real ho-hum for the average Larry on the street.
Proactive: I think this will emerge into the daylight today. In a nutshell, it’s an overview technology that brings together your local/personal search history, the status of your apps, and some basic contextual awareness – time of day, location, upcoming appointments, whatever – to give Spotlight searches across all of your devices an intelligent “boost” to return results with enhanced relevance. The end game would be to extend this sort of AI “precognition” to functions beyond Spotlight … for example, raising your arm to look at your watch when you are at the mall will add an arrow to the time display that points to the store whose web site you were browsing at home on your laptop before you went shopping. This is somewhat analogous to the upcoming “Google Now” infrastructure, with the main point of differentiation being that Proactive works on from your personal and private data, and neither the data nor the results are shared with anyone. Speaking of Google and data privacy …
Maps: There is something under wraps regarding Maps. If we hear about it today, it will be an “enhanced reality” kind of play. But I hear that the product isn’t ready for prime time yet, so I will guess that we don’t see this one. Yet.
Photos/iCloud: A lot of people are of the opinion that Apple needs to make fundamental changes to the Photos/iCloud structure now that Google Photos gives people nearly unlimited storage for “free”. The iCloud data tiers seem outdated, quaint, and downright expensive in comparison. That said … don’t expect any changes on this front. Apple has doubled down on the idea of your data being your data, and yours alone … on your device, in transit, or in the cloud. That – at least at this point in time – precludes any sort of endless storage without cost. If there is any mention of this subject at all, it will simply be a pointed reference to the fact that, like every Google service, Google Photos is not really free at all since the usage agreements give Google full rights, licenses, and access to everything you upload. You pay one way or the other, but the choice of currency – cash or privacy – is up to you.
OS X 10.11: Like iOS 9, the next update of OS X will be a performance and technology release. Developers will get their first full version and the associated SDK today, and you can look for the user release alongside of the iOS release in the fall.
Xcode: There was a time when Xcode was the cream of the crop when it comes to integrated development packages. That time, sadly, has come and gone. Xcode is getting long in the tooth, and after today could be responsible for managing code development and cross-device integration for OS X, iOS, WatchKit, CarPlay, HomeKit, HealthKit, and AppleTV. Whew. Add to that the ongoing multi-lexicon support for Cocoa and Swift, and the thing becomes a complete kludge. I fully expect an all-new Xcode to be debuted today, one that provides a “create once, curate everywhere” type of development experience. I also expect the final retirement of the much-beloved Cocoa framework … Swift is definitely the future, and Apple has never been a company to shy away from pulling the plug on the old and jumping in with both feet for the new.
Apple Music: Digital downloads are on the wane. Streaming is the new wave, and Apple start to turn the page on the iTunes store today when they release Apple Music. Expect an “all you can eat” service across all of your devices for a monthly fee, and a free tier that features promoted content from artists and publishers, and iTunes Radio as a free option without curation or individual song choices. Where Apple hopes to make inroads against the existing services like Spotify and Pandora is in the curation of your streams. The technology that came along with the Beats acquisition will drive this part of the venture in tandem with actual flesh-and-blood programmers and music directors.
Newsstand: Newsstand, I think, is done. Expect the end of the line for this today, and a replacement that riffs on the concept of Dave Pell’s NextDraft … something that concatenates and curates stuff that’s relevant to you in a single readspace (a la Flipboard). And yes, “readspace” is a legit buzzword when it comes to digital publishing … I know because I just made it up.
Apple Pay: Expect official Apple Pay rollouts in Canada and the U.K. to be announced today. Also expect Tim to step up and add more pressure to big retailers to adopt Apple Pay. There is a lot of reluctance in the big retail world to adopt the system – partly because a lot of merchants are tied to the Walmart-controlled MCX consortium that forbids any use of Apple Pay until 2016, and mostly because Apple Pay denies retailers access to a customer’s personal information as a result of the transaction. The MCX consortium is already starting to crumble – Best Buy has already defected, the MCX-approved “CurrentC” infrastructure still doesn’t work, and test market consumers have universally rejected the CurrentC app as unusable – but taking customer data away from retailers may be a hurdle is too high to overcome. Large retailers are addicted on the revenue they get from harvesting customer data from electronic payments, both for their own marketing use and for mass sales to partners and third parties, and customer privacy and security comes a distant second in their minds, if it enters their minds at all. Despite having proven over and over that they cannot be trusted with your data, they merchants going to dig their heels in on this one.
So – nutshell summary: A definite yes for HomeKit, AppleTV, WatchKit, Apple Music, Xcode iOS 9, OS X 10.11, and the demise of Newsstand. Strong maybes for Apple Pay in Canada and the U.K., a new and widened commitment to accessibility, and Proactive. Probably not for the new Maps technology and any sort of iCloud tier changes. And not a fucking chance at all for any Apple-branded Television Set or Apple Car, because despite the ravings of Gene Munster, they aren’t things. Period.
They certainly aren’t going to go down without a fight. With the bad taste of the Playbook finally out of the corporate system, the gang BlackBerry is looking to have another go at a tablet.
On the surface, this looks like a really good idea: Accept that the mainstream mobile computing market isn’t really interested in anything called “BlackBerry” right now, and instead take aim at a niche that is already a comfort zone for the company. While there are already high-security enterprise solutions available from other tablet manufacturers (including the big one) the fact that a lot of senior IT management types still understand and trust the BlackBerry infrastructure carries some serious weight in the market.
The strategy of using that weight to get the company’s foot back in the door and – hopefully – an eventual wedge to get back into the more lucrative consumer markets is a good one. There are, however, three bumps in the road – one minor, one worrisome, and one potentially fatal – that need to be addressed before they torpedo this particular ship before it ever gets out of the harbour.
The Minor One: Tablets are mobile devices but people don’t purchase them as such. While phones get replaced and updated on a constant basis, tablets are treated more like a traditional computer. People buy them to last and hang on to them until the bitter end … enterprise purchasers even more so. BlackBerry’s traditional revenue models and expectations of success have long been built on regular turnover of hardware, and the success or failure of this product needs a change of corporate mindset to look at the goals and income curve as a much, much longer process. The clock might be ticking for BlackBerry, but they need to use some patience and take a decidedly long-term view here.
The Worrisome One: Blackberry has partnered with Samsung on the security front and is touting the KNOX technology as the keystone of the new tablet’s security. Oops. KNOX is already known to have serious security flaws and is less than ideal hook to hang your hat on – especially for a company that still waves the security flag as one of their corporate strengths. Why BlackBerry would partner with someone else on the security front is beyond me … and why they would parter with a purveyor of a broken system just boggles the mind. The very last straw for these guys would be another public security fiasco. Why risk it?
The Potentially Fatal One: Despite all assurances to the contrary, developers are still treated as something of a grubby little afterthought at BlackBerry. Things are somewhat better than the bad old days but there is still a deep-running mindset at senior levels of the company that the BlackBerry way is the only way – if something needs to be done on a handset it’s already in the operating system, so why do we need to support these developer types? Without developers and a robust application ecosystem you have have nothing. No appeal. No desirability. And no future. At all.
Can BlackBerry overcome these three issues and get back into the game with what looks to be both an interesting new idea and a smart bit of market targeting? Number one? Easy – that’s just business. Number two? From a technical standpoint, at least, that’s another “yes” … BlackBerry knows security. Getting out of a high-profile corporate partnership and doing it yourself, however, that might be something that gets a bit tangled.
But number three? That’s the hard one. Disdain for developers has percolated through the company for years. It’s why the iPhone caught BlackBerry flat-footed. It’s why the BB10 ecosystem is still pretty much flatlined. It’s why they had to resort to paying people to switch to the otherwise-excellent Passport. Can they finally start to learn from these mistakes? Or is the corporate inertia in the most crucial part of the equation one that they simply won’t be able to overcome?
Today is the day. Apple makes their first foray into the world of personal luxury and fashion, earning them reams of text on fashion and style pages around the world. There is a nearly endless plethora of speculation about what we are going to see, learn, and – in the case of many people, specifically the style-challenged tech press – be shocked by.
But, when push comes to shove everything that comes down the pike today can be summed up in four little words:
It’s Not A Watch.
Now then. Before we go any further, a note on nomenclature. When I say “watch”, I mean a proper Swiss mechanical watch. Not some cheap-ass quartz-movement thing from a department store. Not some overpriced-but-the-same-cheap-ass-quartz-movement thing from a “designer label”. I mean a hand-built automatic watch, the kind of thing you invest a significant sum into and plan on having for your entire life. That’s what a “watch” is. And – much to the upcoming dismay of clueless media types everywhere – that is the market that Apple has their eye on with this product. Not ugly “smartwatches”. Not the Timex crowd, nor the Marc Jacobs or Fossil or Kate Spade crowd. Think about names like Omega and Hamilton and Tag and you have a much better idea of where this will all play out.
Where were we? Oh, right.
It’s Not A Watch …
… but the iPhone wasn’t a phone, either. When Apple first released the iPhone, a precious few people (thank you, thank you very much) realized that it wasn’t a phone at all. It was Apple swinging for the fences with an entirely new concept of computing … the idea that most of the data interactions you have don’t really require sitting down at a traditional computer and instead can be done in the palm of your hand. The “phone” part of the iPhone is just an app, and if you are like most people it is one of the apps you use the least. But calling it a phone made it easier for people to understand. And want. And use. It was just window dressing, a way to get the device in to average mopes’ pockets and ease them into the now-commonplace world of mobile computing. And that is the eventual end-game here as well. Call it a watch. Make it beautiful and something that people crave. Let them realize later that they are now into wearable computing and can’t imagine life without it. It works a lot better than trying to sell them on strapping a computer to their wrist.
It’s Not A Watch …
… but it’s not a “smartwatch” either. If you have ever seen someone with a Galaxy Gear or a Moto 360 you will realize two things: One, current smartwatches are ugly as shit and two, they are horrible to use. That’s because the current idea of a smartwatch as a teeny tiny smartphone is horribly broken. Using a watch to do the things you do on your phone just makes the task, whatever it is, harder, slower, and more frustrating. Why would you wear something on your arm – and worse, something wretchedly ugly – just to make the things you do more difficult? Answer: You wouldn’t. Which is exactly why you have probably never actually seen someone wearing a Galaxy Gear. Or a Moto 360.
The solution? Take functions and abilities away from the device instead of trying to cram more in. You can tell by both the materials we have seen so far and by the vocabulary that Apple is using that they envision the watch as something that you interact with in passive ways. You glance at it. You feel a tap from it. You touch the face or the crown. But you never ever ever sit there and poke poke poke away at tiny elements on a tiny screen. If Apple maintains that mindset, and enforces some extremely stringent rules on the app store to keep developers from trying to cram busy smartphone apps onto a watch screen, it could be the breakthrough in bringing wearable computing to the teeming masses that has been eluding all of the other players in the game to this point.
It’s Not A Watch …
… but it definitely looks like one. There is no denying the fact that the Apple Watch looks like high-end jewelry, and not like something that your early-adopter nerd buddy would strap to his wrist to tap out blog entries while waiting for a bus. And the wild differentiation in styles, from an obvious sport-activity device to an understated everyday quietly-elegant device to a full-on mega-priced personal luxury item means that Apple is targeting three completely different groups or watch wearers here.
The sport model is, I think, a panacea to the traditional tech and millennial crowd. Something that they can buy at a price that they understand, with a look that they will like, and a utility that is idea for their groovy active lifestyles. These are the people who already have sports bands, and it’s a market segment that is already measurable and ready to be entered. As for the edition model, well, that is for people who can drop ten grand or more on a whim and won’t really care if they have to do it again next year to get an upgraded model. They aren’t normal people – they are an alien group all on their own, and they will buy expensive things just to have, well, expensive things.
But the standard watch? That’s aimed at a market that is a complete crap shot. It’s a market with all the potential in the world, but also one that could crash and burn. This is where Apple is taking a risk – trying to replace quality traditional watches on the wrists of suit-wearing office folk, on golfers and cafe-goers, on the kinds of people who carry a high-end smartphone in one hand and a six-dollar latte in the other. It’s an all-or-nothing bet here. This is the market with the most room for growth, and also the market where the price shocks cause the worst hue and cry. Which brings us to …
It’s Not A Watch …
… but it will certainly be priced like one. Lots of people have tried to come up with an estimate of what the various models will cost. Some of them have been laughably inane. But when thinking about the prices that will be announced today, and about the reaction that is sure to follow, here are three bits of information that are worth having in the back of your mind.
Bit #1: Read this incredibly naive comment from your Average Tech Press Pundit about the cost of a stainless steel watch bracelet. If you don’t want to wade through the text yourself, the money quote is:
“… many of us are waiting for the official steel bracelets to be made available (at a hefty a la carte price of $79.99)”
Hefty. Eighty bucks is “hefty”. Remember that.
Bit #2: When people ask me about watches, I invariably tell them to forget the Rolexes and head towards an Omega. You get a brilliant piece of machinery that will last forever and with a history and heritage that you can almost feel every time you slide the thing onto your wrist. Of all the Omega models, the Speedmaster 57 is my favourite. Solid, understated, classic, elegant … it is everything a personal luxury item should be. If you do happen to have an Omega Speedmaster and you needed to replace the standard stainless steel bracelet, it’s going to set you back a minimum of $600. Not $60. Not $160. Six hundred. Now remember back to the “hefty” price in Bit #1 and you can see how this is going to cause rampant conniption fits among the tech (and probably mainstream) press.
Bit #3: Examine this handy chart of three different models of the Omega Speedmaster and the associated retail prices.
These watches are identical inside. Same movement, same inner chassis, same daily, same everything. The only difference is the case material. And the prices are literally an order of magnitude different. Is there $15,000 worth of gold in the gold watch? $20,000 worth of gold in the gold watch and bracelet? No, of course not. There is, however, a completely different market for the two variants, and they are priced as such.
Will the difference between the standard Apple Watch and the gold edition model be $15,000? Probably not. But I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the difference was at least eight grand. Maybe more.
In other words, get ready for the shitstorm.
Now. With all that in play, I will take a shot at the madness anyway. We already know that the Sport model will start at the previously revealed price of $349. If I had to make an educated guess, I say that the standard stainless model will come in at $699 with bracelet options that take it all the way to $1199, and the gold Edition model will start at $5999 and have bracelet options that push it to the $11999.
Yep. Hefty. But also very much in keeping with the market that Apple hopes to open up with this particular play. The press can scream and faint all they want … Apple only cares if they sell.
The more intriguing question is whether or not the two sizes of each model will be priced the same. I have a sneaking suspicion that for the Sport, they will be the same. Size in a smartphone is a choice based on function. Size in a wearable is based on your body, and at least at the entry level I don’t see Apple making body size a monetized commodity. In fact, I think that even the stainless model will have one price for both sizes, although the steel bands may be priced in tiers depending on the size of the case they match. And the gold one? Oh yeah, that costs more for the bigger case. Just because they can.
It’s Not A Watch …
… but yes, it is going to be sold like one. Not like a computer, not like a phone. This is something you try on, heft, have a personal interaction with before you plunk down your cash. And that might be the biggest challenge of all. Apple retail stores are not set up with this sort of shopping experience in mind. Apple’s retail partners – specifically the big tech stores like Future Shop and Best Buy are really not set up for this sort of thing. How this part of the equation plays out will be the most interesting part of the whole experiment.
The traditional watch experience is also why the case and bracelet combinations will be limited to the ones you see on the Apple web site right now. You can’t go buy a stainless Speedmaster with a gold bracelet – Omega knows that will look like crap and they just don’t make it an option. The same mindset will be in play here – Apple doesn’t want nasty-looking combinations out in the wild, at least to start, and is willing to tick a few people off to maintain a certain visual standard as the product hits the street.
It’s Not A Watch …
… but it has been treated like one by the teams that designed and built it. And that, I think, is why this will eventually succeed. Everything about the product feels like a watch. Even the vocabulary that Apple uses to talk about the smallest details – to the point of using the unfamiliar-but-traditional term “complications” for visual elements of the watch face display – hints that was never designed as a tech toy on your wrist. This was designed as a beautiful personal item that you will be proud to wear … and just happens to do really cool stuff.
That’s the disruption. It isn’t about making smartwatches that do amazing new things. The Apple watch will probably do less than any other smartwatch on the market. Possibly far less. This is about making a high-end watch that just happens to do a few things that no other watch can do … and how our perceptions of computing are changed again.
Love it or hate it, the iPhone made the “post-PC” era a reality. Apple hopes the watch can do the same thing for wearable data. It’s a risk for sure. But the possible rewards? Staggering.
Well, well. As previously predicted, the traditional “iTunes/iPod/Music” event that Apple holds in March has been co-opted to announce the Apple Watch. Prices will be revealed – and there will be much hilarious consternation in the tech press when the prices are announced, believe you me – as well as the opening of pre-orders and an official shipping date.
That date? Oh, right. Look for the second Tuesday of April. A little birdie told me so.
In a past incarnation of my career I travelled a lot. And by a lot, I mean a shitload. I was in airports and on airplanes a couple of times a week minimum, and often a lot more. Like a lot of travellers, I found both a lot of humour and great comfort in the SkyMall catalogue. It was something that was familiar, always there for you, and decidedly entertaining … although somehow I don’t think that it was entertaining in the way the company wanted it to be.
When you settled in on a flight and found that the SkyMall book in the seat pocket was a brand new edition, packed with all sorts of ridiculous new goodies? Didn’t matter what time it was or how tired you were … your next couple of hours of seat time were set.
It’s not a surprise that SkyMall has now bitten the dust. In fact, it’s a surprise that it lasted this long. But I will still take a minute or two to mourn. And I suspect there are a lot of frequent flyers out there who will do the same. An institution has truly passed.
So long, SkyMall. It was fun.