Why the Apple Watch Exists

Following the introduction of the Apple Watch, many people have suggested that it still lacks a reason to exist. That the keynote lacked an explanation of what the purpose of an Apple Watch is. That it lacks a so called Killer App.

This is probably an extremely misleading way to think about how new product categories come to life and subsequently flourish. The idea that the inventors of a new product category have a good idea of how it will evolve and what needs it will fulfill is not supported by history. Apple executives have also repeatedly mentioned how the killer application came only after a product’s introduction, and how success has often been beyond their wildest dreams.

Take the iPhone for example. At the time of introduction, it was marketed as i) a great phone, ii) an iPod and iii) an Internet communicator. Fast forward to today and you find that i) people don’t use smartphones much as phones, ii) they don’t use them much as iPods, iii) they don’t spend time browsing the web very much. Instead they use smartphones predominantly for Facebook, messaging and taking photos/videos, with app money being mostly spent on games. We can also add video viewing. The killer app is nothing like the initial “reason to exist” that Apple presented.

Hence the fact that Apple didn’t convincingly present a “reason to exist” for the Apple Watch is only relevant for the initial marketing push. Although it will affect how strong the initial uptake will be, a “reason to exist” has no consequences for whether it will ultimately succeed long-term.

Therefore, I think that the question “why does it exist?” is completely the wrong question to be asking. That will be answered in the long term by products that may not even exist yet. In fact, when you come to think of it, the definition of a killer app itself almost precludes it from being known at the time of product introduction.

The question should simply be, “what is Apple’s initial marketing push going to be based on?”. “Does Apple have a good strategy for that push?”

From what I’ve seen, Apple’s initial marketing strategy is plainly obvious. It is going to be based less on technical or functional merits and more on the fashion aspect. It will be about creating brand awareness. It will be about creating a buzz, not necessarily in the Internet community, but in the more conventional media. This is probably based on the realization that explaining the functional merits of the Apple Watch is going to take time to win the general public, too much time to sustain the excitement of developers.

And that is why the “why does it exist?” of the Apple Watch, does not exist yet.

P.S.

All other attempts to create a popular smartwatch have failed to date. Interestingly, they have had a clearly communicated “reason to exist”, for what it’s worth.