The Apple Watch isn’t going to flop. An Apple “flop” right now is probably a multi-billion-dollar industry, after all. Rather, the watch is the first step of the next major shift for a company that has made its money by essentially trend forecasting in the technology space. The future of tech is the future of fashion, and the Apple Watch is just one step towards that future.
Ever since the first Macintosh, Apple has pursued a goal: the borderless intermingling of hardware, software, and connectivity. This isn’t necessarily different from what the competition is doing right now (mostly by taking Cupertino’s lead), but companies like Samsung, Microsoft, and Google pay most of their attention to just one thing, or two at most: Google and Microsoft are more software-and-service companies than hardware companies, while Samsung’s mostly just a hardware company.
The difference is Apple’s clarity of vision. The original Macintosh from 1984 is just as much of a part of that vision as the iPhone and iPad are today. It’s bigger, clunkier, and technologically less advanced, sure, but it’s the same thing Apple is selling today: a magic screen that has been designed to be as frictionless as possible. Over the years Apple has sanded and buffed that magic screen down, eliminating friction with the user where it can (making it thinner, making it faster, making it lighter) and expanding it into a range (iPhone, iPad, MacBook, iMac, and now Apple Watch), and nearly three decades later, Apple has pretty much distilled the magic screen down to its essence. There’s a magic screen for everyone. And it’s just about as light, thin, and powerful as it’s going to be.
But what is the essence of an iPhone? This is some Plato-in-the-Cave shit, but I don’t think it’s too preposterous to suggest that there are some objects that are truer to their essence than other objects. A spoon, for example, might start out as a shovel, but over thousands of years of iteration and improvement, it eventually reaches a point where it is no longer reducible. People might design spoons past this point, but future iterations will all relate to the craft with which they were made, or their ornamentation. Regardless, the spoon will never become more spoony than it was before.
Apple is fastly on track towards reaching the point where there are no more major technological innovations to be made with its projects. Five years on, iPad sales are already becoming more Mac-like than iPad-like. The iPhone continues to sell in two-year upgrade cycles, but that’s largely because iPhones have traditionally been tied to 24 month subsidized cellphone contracts—something that is starting to change. At what point do sales simply stall, because the innovations just aren’t big enough to justify upgrading regularly anymore?
First Appeared on Fast Company. Click here to read the complete article.