Why It Ain’t About the Watch

So now that the Apple watch has been released to what I believe is one of the most fragmented and obtuse responses ever to an Apple product, public sentiment has begun to take shape. Consequently, I thought I’d take a look back at my instinct at launch:  The Watch would not succeed.

I still believe the core of my initial reaction was correct–that the Apple Watch will not be a runaway success–but further reflection has enabled me to be more clear and specific in my comments.

I still firmly assert that the Watch will not succeed, but clarify that I mean not succeed on a grand scale. I think that the first version has warts and all that will be refined in version two, thereby making the experience best in class…yet while potentially being the best luxury smart watch available, I don’t believe it will be enough to make a non-tech enthusiast want one.

While Farhad Manjoo, perhaps the ultimate voice in technology, feels after a week that he can’t live without an Apple Watch, I don’t think that will be an opinion that is pervasive. Simply put: I think that for the first time since Jobs died, Apple is not giving us what “we all collectively want before we know we want it.”

For those of you Jobsian neophytes, that’s the touchstone of the Apple that will always be remembered. As a result, I just don’t believe that everyone will be as mesmerized with a “Get Smart” watch phone that enables them to talk into their wrist and have some smartphone functionality, as much as they were with an invention like the iPod that transformed how we listened to content, or the iPad that indelibly changed the way we eyeballed it.

I’m just not convinced that iPod or IPad successes, predicated on life transforming offerings that altered certain human behaviors, will be replicated with the Apple Watch.

While I can see every soccer mom in America having both an iPad and iPhone, I cannot see them taking the time to gradiate their finger pressure on a watch screen in an effort to connect while being disconnected. (Pressure points have replaced pinch and close commands on the Apple Watch. I’m still not sure why that’s a good thing)

Nor do I see hedge fund managing Panerai wearers, lightening their wrists with functional Inspector Gadget like devices that convey geek far more than they relay chic

I do however see Apple enthusiasts, fanboys and cult devotees clamoring for the device…but doing so in a way less akin to ordering a Maybach, than boasting bragging rights for owning a Sonos system. Both are cool but one is a luxury commodity and utility and the other is a one of a kind, elite vessel of envy. Apple products have always evoked a factor of cool that shouts if you don’t have this you will be left behind. You don’t know why you covet me yet you know not having me, makes you feel inferior.

The watch doesn’t elicit this level of contentment or satiation, no matter how many times we tell ourselves that it makes up for the fact that we still do not have an Apple TV…. which quite frankly, politely put, is CURIOUS at the very least.

Perhaps what’s most important is not if people like or dislike the Apple Watch…but rather, if the public’s adoration and acceptance of the gadget will be enough to replicate the success of an iPhone or IPad…the legacy products Apple has built its dominance and global fortune on.

That model worked so well for Jobs. Doing one thing, a phone or a tablet, better than anyone else is what Apple was built upon. Even GE gave a nod to Steve this week, divesting its financial businesses to go back to its industrial core. Or more elegantly put, initiating a return to being the best at one thing, and doing that one thing better than anyone else.

Four years post Job’s live mysticism and majesty, it doesn’t seem unfair to look beyond the simple question of to “watch” or not “watch?” to predetermine Apple’s future.

Why? Because understanding the specific forward trajectory of the watch itself is less important than ascertaining if the device has the mettle to sustain the company’s business model of success. One based not just on innovation but rather innovation driven obliteration.

Since Jobs we are left longing for an Apple TV. We are dying to have interest in our iPads renewed as we don’t know what we need them for in the wake of smart tvs. But we miss them and need Apple to tell us how to use them again. We like our iphone 6s less for their wow factor and more because we know they are the very last of what Jobs foresaw…Cook paying Dre zillions doesn’t make us, the ones in the know secure. It instead makes us wonder why Apple doesn’t have its own Beats or Spotify?

In sum, it’s not that we dislike Tim. In fact we admire his courage for taking on the role. An act of valor in itself. We just know he’s not Steve, and that we miss HIM.

Risking failure is what defines greatness. It is the very DNA of innovation. Creating the best version of what others have invented prior is a mimic’s version of that truism. That is what we have, in my humble opinion in the Apple Watch. Something that mimes innovation’s countenance, yet shuns risk, thereby evading greatness.

The Apple Watch is the best thing Apple can create without Steve at the helm. And that is a simple fact. Will it be enough? I’m just not sure.

Billee Howard is Founder + Chief Engagement Officer of Brandthropologie, a cutting edge communications consulting firm specializing in helping organizations and individuals to produce innovative, creative and passionate dialogues with target communities, consumers and employees, while blazing a trail toward new models of artful, responsible, and sustainable business success. Billee is a veteran communications executive in brand development, trend forecasting, strategic media relations, and C-suite executive positioning. She has a book dedicated to the study of the sharing economy called WeCommerce due out in Fall 2015 as well as a blog entitled the #HouseofWe dedicated to curating the trends driving our economy forward.

You can read more about “WE-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy” right here!