Apple has a smart watch, but not much time to conquer the world

  • N Madhavan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 10, 2014 10:00 IST

Apple has always been known for what they call "category defining" products -- but in reality, I would prefer to say that it creates "experience-defined" categories. The latest launch this week of the large-screen iPhone 6, the Apple Watch and the Apple Money service as a mobile payment device fail the first definition -- but could well succeed on the second count. Here's how.

Large-screen Android phones have been around for a while, with even wannabe latecomers such as Micromax stylishly pre-empting the thunder, not to speak of Samsung and others.

The watch has been a matter of speculation, but not only Samsung, but other small wearable wrist-band computers have also been in the market now.

As for Apple Money, those in the field of technology would know that mobile wallets and virtual credit cards are already here, and the near field communication (NFC) bit of tapping your mobile to pay for your groceries is hardly a new idea -- or a terribly great one.

So what's really, really new? My guess is that Apple is still doing very well at what it has always been great at - connecting the dots and defining consumer experience in a manner that it invented the device whereas what it invents is the way it changes life. After all, the late Steve Jobs gave us that ad slogan: "It is not the computer, it is what you can do with it."

So what Apple has really done this time is to marry the iPhone with the Apple Watch as well as Apple Money. Taken together, one may redefine health -- with all the fitness stories linked to what you can do with the watch -- and the other may redefine wealth -- at least the way you spend it.

Apple did not invent the MP3 player or the tablet computer. But it is the company that launched iTunes and timed its iPad with the rise of online videos to make the experience great.

In the latest instance, it is tie-ups with institutions like hospitals and credit card services like Visa that take Apple to the next level because consumers understand experience than a piece of machine. "It is the partnerships, stupid," could be a new way to describe what is really new in the new Apple gizmos. And, of course, the third-party software and service apps that make a smart device what really is.

The other new thing is that Apple has finally beaten the inward-looking American way: it finally realises that there is a big market in Asia and will milk it in the first year itself, unlike in the past when it left me-too brands room for headstart.

Apple may have the watch, but not the time. Given that the emphasis is on services and apps, the wearable computer, the tablet PC and the smartphone as generic products can be used by rival products, brands or even service companies to stitch up a myriad services and experiences for various kinds of customers across the planet.

Industry researcher Forrester said last week that the watch (if launched) will dominate the market in 2015. True, but what this means is that Apple needs to move fast.

Apple understands the time-scarce, style-loving, cool American consumer. But the world, to put it mildly, is slightly bigger.

As usual, Apple may be redefining the experience and in the process, generating a new ecosystem of ideas and possibilities. That's Apple for you, driven by innovation and experience.

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