Apple Rings and Watches

There is, undoubtedly, a lot of truth and clever insight in Craig Hockenberry’s piece, Wearing Apple. (Please read it; it’s definitely worth the time.)

But first, some issues I had with his argument about why a watch seems out-of-the-question.

The Competition

He notes:

…the companies that dominated the music player and mobile phone markets were making complete crap prior to Apple’s arrival. Granted, there are a lot of cheap and crappy watches on the market, but they’re not remotely interesting to the demographic that buys Apple products. And to many people, a fine timepiece is more about status than technology.

I’m not aware of many Apple users that wear “fine timepieces”. (Rolex is the only company that springs to my mind if I even try to think of companies that build fine timepieces. It’s possible it’s just me…but I live in a den of Apple users, and I don’t hear them talking about fine watches, either.)

I don’t see what would be wrong with Apple entering this market from a brand/status perspective. Apple would trample the existing players.

The Customer

Then, Hockenberry seems to argue against his own point:

Who is going to buy this wearable technology?

Trends are always set by the younger generation. Especially with clothing, jewelry and other items that appeal to a demographic with a lot of expendable income.

So Apple’s product needs to compete with high-quality, luxury brands…yet youth will define this market? I don’t see any of the younger generation wearing luxury watches, or watches of any sort.

The earlier point and this one can’t both be true. (For the record: it’s this one that’s true. Youth will define the market. Again, another reason why an Apple watch doesn’t seem out of the question to me.)

The Ring

Then I think he gets on track, in a big way:

The first step is to start looking at things from Apple’s point-of-view. I ask myself, “What problems can a wearable device solve?”

As I think about answers to that question, it leads me to the conclusion that Jony Ive and crew aren’t looking solely at the wrist. Wearable technology could take cues from other kinds of jewelry: rings and necklaces, for example.

I do agree that a ring is—conceptually—closer to what Apple will release than a watch. I’ve always envisioned Apple’s watch as having a minimal screen and almost no interactivity; a subordinate, an adjunct, to your phone, and certainly not the combination TV/GameBoy/mini-iPhone that people seem to think it will be.

But Hockenberry doesn’t mention something I think is important: an Apple ring is scarily close to a punchline.

Asking customers to wear a ring instead of a watch is a big deal. Now, it seems like it’s asking less. But really, it’s asking more; a lot more. Asking a non-ring-wearer to become a ring-wearer (and most male youth are not ring-wearers) is asking them to almost jump to a different demographic.

A ring is also more personal than a watch. Rings are to identify my marital status, my membership in a club (my high school class, my Super Bowl-winning team.) People feel close to Apple…but that close? By contrast, wearing a watch is…wearing a watch. No biggie. (For what it’s worth, in a different but not entirely dissimilar situation, Disney is asking people to wear a watch.)

I’d like an Apple ring. It satisfies exactly what I want from an Apple watch. But…it’s asking customers to make a big leap.

 

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You should buy a Mac

A lot of people ask me about what kind of computer to buy. Unless you have to have a PC, a Mac is the way to go, for the following reasons:

  • You don’t have to worry about viruses, nor install virus software. (At least until someone figures out how to write an effective Mac virus, which hasn’t happened yet.)
  • Macs don’t come with a hundred useless pieces of software pre-installed on them. Nor useless stickers on the outside.
  • The Mac applications for managing photos, music, and movies, are all the best of their kind.
  • The automated backup system, Time Machine, is fantastic, and anyone who’s storing their photos and movies on a computer needs to be concerned about backup.
  • Apple hardware tends to be better designed. And since everything comes from one manufacturer, it works better together.
  • Integration with the iPhone and iPods is better and more seamless.
  • If you’re near an Apple Store, the support and assistance you receive at the Genius Bars is amazing.

Macs are more expensive than typical PCs, but for all of the reasons listed above, I believe the total cost of ownership to be lower. And they’re definitely more fun to use.

That said, Macs aren’t perfect. Mac reliability is good, but not excellent. You get a year warranty on a Mac purchase; during that year, you can decide to purchase a two year extension, called AppleCare, typically for around $300. If it’s a Mac that you rely on, I recommend it. If it’s a Mac that isn’t “mission critical” and you can afford to be without it when it’s down, it isn’t as important that you get the extended warranty. Especially if you’ve been making backups, which Macs do automatically if you have a second hard drive. But even then, the extended warranty isn’t a terrible idea. (The only clear-cut case where I wouldn’t get the warranty is if I didn’t expect to own the computer for three years.)

To give you some background: I have AppleCare on my work laptop because I can’t afford to be without it long. Plus, it would cost $2500 to replace, so the $350 warranty is a drop in the bucket. On my wife’s laptop (which cost $1100), we don’t have AppleCare. If her laptop died, that would be unfortunate, but 1) she can afford to be without a computer for a few days, and 2) we’re keeping it constantly backed up, so even if we had to buy a new computer, it would be easy to restore it. Extended warranties are always difficult decisions…

If you’re going to be keeping anything important on your Mac (your music and photos count as important items), I highly recommend getting an external drive that can act as your Time Machine backup drive. The $200 or less that it should cost you is completely worth it in the case that your computer’s main drive fails. (In the best case, that can take hours to fix; in the worst–and most common–case, you’ll lose all of your data. You don’t want that to happen.) At a minimum, your Time Machine drive should be at least as big as your internal drive; 2 to 3x larger is better, but not required.

Leopard Killer Feature: Time Machine

I know what you’re thinking: Time Machine is just another way to back-up your Mac. John Welch’s well-read post on “Best Leopard Features” even highlights TextEdit’s Word 2007 support, yet overlooks Time Machine.

But Time Machine is more than a backup solution. OS vendors have been shoving new features at us for years with something approaching the shameless irresponsibility of cell phone providers who convince us that cameras and ring tones are more important than reception and usability.

Hard drives crash. Files get lost. We accidentally save over the version of our document that we really needed. These scenarios have been with us so long that we’ve accepted them as inevitable; they’re not. It’s about time that the gargantuan storage space and lightning-fast processors of modern-day computers get turned toward the all-important (a term I don’t use loosely) task of making themselves fool-proof.

Time Machine could turn out to be lousy. Its interface might be annoying; it might not be reliable. But it should never, ever, be possible to lose data. At a minimum, Time Machine is an affirmation of that principle.

Apple Becomes More Valuable; Cisco Continues to Mystify

According to the New York Times, Apple is now the most valuable computer maker in the world, and the fourth most valuable company in high-tech.

Interesting, though the most interesting part is: why the hell is Cisco (#3 on the list) so valuable? I’ve never understood that.

My sense is that Cisco will soon become like Sun, a company that elevated itself by delivering a no-better-than-competent product to a red-hot market that needed it, but also a company that lacks any concept of how to design a product, or get its customers excited about what it does.