The Apple Watch Edition Means Apple Has Lost its Way

The Apple Watch is finally upon us, and whether you like it or not, it’s probably going to be another astronomical product for Apple. While I understand the need for Apple to enter the wearable space, and as much as I want them to succeed within it, I simply do not understand the Apple Watch Edition. If you’re not familiar with the Edition version of the watch, basically it’s the one that costs anywhere between $10,000-$17,000 and is made up of miniscule amounts of gold. This is a weird product for Apple to produce, and the people who buy it are (in my opinion) even weirder.

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Who the Hell is going to Buy This Thing?

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Who the hell is going to buy this thing? My guess is there will be a few, but certainly not many. Surely even the most pompous one-percenters among us are smart enough to realize that this is a poor investment. Aside from it becoming a neat little collectible, the first edition of this product will be largely worthless in the coming years.

Most people who buy watches look at them as an investment (I would think). They plan to curate their collection over time and to pass down their heirlooms to people in their family for generations to come. The Apple Watch won’t be an heirloom device though. Do you honestly think that we’ll be using the same type of technologies 20-30 years from now? Just look at how much the tech landscape has changed in the last decade. Since 2005 we’ve seen the birth of monumental devices like the iPhone and the iPad. In the last couple of years we’ve seen dramatic advancements in the world of wearables, hybrid tablets, and virtual reality. Think about where all of that will be in the future, and then ask yourself whether or not the Apple Watch will still be a thing. Yeah, probably not.

So, if the Apple Watch has such a finite window, and one can assume that most people have the ability to see that, what’s the point of investing in the Edition? There’s not one. Period.

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Apple is a Computer Company

As much as Apple might want to deny or change its heritage, they’re a computer company, and they make computers. That is, in fact, exactly what the Apple Watch is at its core. The Edition signifies, to me at least, that Apple wants to change this portion of its D.N.A. and replace it with some sort of luxury fashionista hybrid. I applaud their aspirations, but this move alienates a large portion of their user base, and just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

Computers are made to be used for a finite amount of time. The typical shelf life for an Apple product is (approximately) 1-3 years. That being said, where does that leave the Apple Watch? Does Apple expect the people who shell out $10,000 for the Edition to spend that much again every 18-24 months? Not even the most cavalier of douchebags would spend their money that frivolously.

This is precisely why I thought it was stupid for Apple to enter the TV market. Not the set-top box market, but the actual panel market. How often do you buy a TV? The last one I bought was purchased in 2008. I do plan to buy a new one this year, and I’ll probably buy the same brand because this one lasted me so well over the years. However, that means that this company gets my business once every seven years. Apple is all about printing money, so entering a long tail strategy market like TV (or luxury watches) doesn’t jive with that strategy.

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The Edition Shows the Arrogance of Ive

If you read the stories about how the Apple watch came about, you will continually hear that it is completely a “Jony Ive product.” What that says to me is that there weren’t many people in the company that were all that excited about the watch, but given the clout that Ive wields around the campus in Cupertino, resistance was ultimately futile.

Normally, this wouldn’t be a bad thing. After all, we’re talking about the guy that has designed some of the most beautiful products the world has ever seen, and who is responsible for finally getting rid of skeumorphism in both OS X and iOS. However, this time around it seems that success has gone to Ive’s head and he is really letting that shine through in the design, implementation, and stylings of the Apple Watch.

I hate to be the one to say it, but “you know who” wouldn’t have made this mistake. I’m not saying the Apple Watch as a whole is a mistake, just the Edition version of it. Jobs was great at introducing products that, while pricey, were still attainable by a mass portion of the populous. His mission was to democratize computing for the rest of us, and the Apple Watch Edition is the watch that is–with a $10,000 price tag–specifically not for the rest of us. It is exactly the same in every way as its lower-class models, but simply made of finer materials. That has never been Apple’s style. There has never been a lineup of aluminum MacBooks paired with a luxury tier that were made of moon rocks. This leads me to believe that Apple has become too big for its britches and simply has more money and time than it knows what to do with.

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What This Means Long Term

The culture of Apple is undoubtedly changing, and it’s really hard to tell where that’ll leave the rest of us when the dust settles. If the extravagant rumors of things like cars are to be believed, then I would assume that one day Apple won’t even be in the computer business at all. The Mac is now a novelty, the iPad is languishing, and the iPod is all but dead. The professional market has been phased out by Apple, as is evident by their dumbed-down versions of Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro, and the continued exile of the powerful, upgradeable machines like the Mac Pro. The iPhone will continue to reign as long as Apple continues to produce it, but its future will ultimately be determined by the success (or failure) of the Apple Watch and other bits of tech that Apple chooses to pair with it.

Those of us who’ve been Apple fans for a long time are seeing the bedrock of the company we love(d) slowly erode before our very eyes. That’s going to be a tough pill to swallow, but ultimately Apple doesn’t give a damn about keeping their core users happy. They’re too busy chasing dollar signs and making obscenely expensive wrist computers.

Posted by Justin Seeley

  1. Great post Justin. I totally agree with the points that you made. I have been feeling the same with Apple for quite awhile. To me the company has lost its “Why.” There doesn’t seem to be the same spirit of making things work for the people’s lifestyle, rather it seems as of late, it is more, let’s sell them stuff. The engine that innovated seems to have been lost in the company. If Steve was still around, I don’t know if we would have seen a watch just yet. But now we can only hope.

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    1. The main driver for Apple nowadays is stock price and cash on hand. That’s what they care about far more than pleasing their user base or making products that fundamentally change the way we live our lives. Jobs was famous for achieving amazing numbers in both profits and stock price while at the same time delivering transformative experiences for the end user. That time, sadly, is over.

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    2. Thank you for reading this, Oliver, I appreciate it as always!

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  2. Justin – one thing that was very obvious in the presentation yesterday was that China is an extremely important market for Apple. And conspicuous consumption is a big thing in that market. The Apple Watch will sell there.

    Just because you’re not the target market, doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

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    1. The watch itself isn’t the issue, Rachel. The Edition model is the problem. My post clearly states that I want Apple to succeed in the wearable market. I’m all for that, and I want a useful wearable device. As of now the watch isn’t that for me, but I expect it to get there in the coming years. They’ll sell a boatload of these things, and yes, they’ll sell Editions to rich people all over the world. That doesn’t mean that it’s a great move either. I’m making more of a comment on the culture and future of Apple as a computer manufacturer that I enjoy than I am bashing the watch as a product alone.

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  3. Well said Justin. I’m feeling a little better after reading this. Now I know it’s not just the voices in my head. My husband just thinks I’m anti-Apple. I’m not. I just believe they should have stuck to doing what they do best, computers.

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  4. the 20th Anniversary Mac was $8000. It was no better than a regular Mac, just “limited”.

    Same with the gold Watch. The sales will be very low, but it’s there for people who want to spend money. Apple’s already said they’ll be limited and not sold in most stores. Everyone said Apple lost its way with the $8000 Mac. Turns out, it was a short term high-end attention getter that was phased out for more rational products.

    The Watch will be the same. Everyone suspecting Apple has lost they’re way in the last 15 years has been dead wrong.

    Speaking of wrong: The section titled “Apple is a Computer Company” is demonstrably false. Apple Computer, Inc officially changed its name to Apple, Inc in 2007. Apple hasn’t been a computer company in 8 years. Like it or not, they make consumer electronics now.

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    1. Edit: lost *their* way.

      Apparently, dictation lost its way!

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    2. Everything Apple makes is a COMPUTER. An iPhone is a computer, an iPad is a computer, and an Apple Watch is a computer. Granted, they’re a different class of computer than say a laptop or desktop, but they are computers. That was my point. I don’t really give a damn what the name of the company is.

      I’m not saying that they’re going under, in fact I predict they’ll continue to have success with this new path that I feel like they’re heading down. The point of my article was that they’ve veered off the path that most of their core users are comfortable with. That’s not good or bad, but it is something to pay attention to. I feel like they’ll continue to enter new markets and they’ll continue to gradually exit markets (like iPods) as well. That means those of us that rely on their brand of technology for what we do, should be looking elsewhere.

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