Ap­ple watch will take some time to catch on

Lesotho Times - - Business -

UN­TIL around 1900, wrist­watches were most popular among women. Men pre­ferred pocket watches. That changed when time-keep­ing tech­nol­ogy im­proved. Male con­sumers grad­u­ally saw how much quicker it was to glance at their wrists, rather than reach into their pock­ets, to check the time.

Ap­ple made a sim­i­lar pitch on Mon­day at an event in San Fran­cisco herald­ing the launch of its new­est prod­uct, the Ap­ple Watch.

Ex­ec­u­tives at the gi­ant tech firm said that wear­ing one will let peo­ple look speed­ily at their wrists to get in­for­ma­tion and com­plete tasks that they used to have to grab their phones to do.

Ac­cord­ing to Tim Cook, the boss of Ap­ple, who in 2011 re­placed the firm’s late founder, Steve Jobs, the new watch “is the most ad­vanced time­piece ever cre­ated”. In ad­di­tion to keep­ing track of time, the watch can process voice com­mands, mea­sure its wearer’s heart rate, act like a credit card at pay­ment kiosks and pro­vide alerts for in­com­ing phone calls and e-mails.

It can sup­port many of the “apps” that are popular on smartphones, such as so­cial net­works and those that fa­cil­i­tate taxi hail­ing.

The watch’s bat­tery lasts for just 18 hours be­fore it needs more juice via a mag­netic charger. On its time­save mode, its only func­tion is to tell the time.

Yet in spite of Mr Cook’s bounc­ing op­ti­mism, Ap­ple seems un­likely to turn its watch into the next big must-have gad­get. Cer­tainly, the watch will not match the suc­cess of pre­vi­ous prod­ucts, such as the ipod or iphone.

This is true for two main rea­sons. First, Ap­ple’s new­est cre­ation repli­cates many of the func­tions that the smart­phone al­ready makes so seam­less, such as check­ing e-mail, re­ceiv­ing cal­en­dar alerts and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with friends. Peo­ple are un­likely to want to shell out a sum be­tween $350 (M3 800) (for the most ba­sic model) and $17 000 (for the fan­ci­est ver­sion) for some­thing with so few ex­tra func­tions.

Sec­ond, the Ap­ple Watch is de- pen­dent on a nearby smart­phone, which means that users will just be adding an­other de­vice to their grow­ing menageries in­stead of re­plac­ing one.

This is not un­like sell­ing some­one a wrist­watch that re­quires a pocket watch to work.“wear­able com­put­ing”, a cat­e­gory of tech­nol­ogy that in­cludes small watches, fit- ness track­ers, glasses, jew­ellery and cloth­ing with sen­sors, is an area of great prom­ise, but has so far been limited to com­mu­ni­ties of geeks and fit­ness buffs.

Fewer than seven mil­lion smart­watches were sold last year. Ear­lier this year Google re­port­edly with­drew its smart-glasses from the con­sumer mar­ket.many an­a­lysts and fans had hoped that the Ap­ple Watch would fi­nally ig­nite the wear­ables mar­ket’s slug­gish growth, but Ap­ple seems to have reined in its am­bi­tions.

At Mon­day’s event there was a strong fo­cus on Ap­ple Watch’s po­ten­tial in health mon­i­tor­ing: it al­lows wear­ers to mea­sure their heart rates and work­outs more ef­fec­tively than they can us­ing their phones. But many fit­ness track­ers and smart­watches al­ready do such things — at a much lower cost.

Ap­ple has enough fer­vent fans of its brand to shift a few mil­lion watches a year. For most com­pa­nies that would rep­re­sent a tri­umph.

But Ap­ple is like Tiger Woods, a fa­mous golfer: both have seen such tremen­dous suc­cess that any­thing less than spec­tac­u­lar tends to look like fail­ure by com­par­i­son.

It will be dif­fi­cult for the Ap­ple Watch to bring in any­where near as much rev­enue as the firm’s other prod­ucts have, no­tably the iphone

Ap­ple has made a name for it­self sell­ing tech­nol­ogy with good lines — not fash­ion items.

The “up­grade” cy­cle for ana­logue watches is sev­eral years, with many peo­ple buy­ing watches they want to keep for ever; this runs counter to Ap­ple’s usual ap­proach of get­ting peo­ple to ditch their de­vices reg­u­larly in favour of the lat­est model.

Ap­ple will also have to re­or­gan­ise its stores so that cus­tomers can come in and try watches on. Its sales­peo­ple, typ­i­cally off­beat tech­nol­ogy en­thu­si­asts, might be good at sell­ing peo­ple com­put­ers, but will they be equally adept at con­vinc­ing cus­tomers that a cer­tain watch looks good on?

Over the next few years, as bat­tery tech­nol­ogy im­proves, new fea­tures are added and prices decline, more peo­ple will buy “wear­ables”. In the mean­time such de­vices still need to prove their use­ful­ness and demon­strate that they can do things that smartphones can­not.

By next year, Mr Cook’s first ma­jor prod­uct launch since Mr Jobs’s death is un­likely to be re­mem­bered as a stel­lar suc­cess. In the long run, how­ever, the cat­e­gory will thrive.

As the world’s largest tech­nol­ogy com­pany, with some $200 bil­lion in rev­enues over the last four quar­ters, Ap­ple has time on its side.

— Econ­o­mist.

Ap­ple CEO Tim Cook in­tro­duces the new Ap­ple Watch on Mon­day.

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