The Apple Watch is very much in the fashion game

Apple Watch fashion

Until last week, “iWatch” was the name widely and wildly speculated about for months if not years for what Apple’s expected entry product into the wearables market would be called.

As Apple’s announcement on September 9 made clear, “iWatch” was just so much fancy by all and sundry as the firm broke with its use of the letter ‘i’ starting a brand name and announced the launch of Apple Watch.

Such name-guessing reminds me of what happened in the lead-up to the launch of the iPad in 2010.

Whether wearable tech interests you or not, I’m sure you can’t have missed seeing, reading or hearing about the Apple Watch this past week. It was the final (but, arguably, the most anticipated) of Apple’s three announcements on September 9 – the new iPhone 6, the Apple Pay contactless mobile payment system, and Apple Watch. Note that Apple Pay has no ‘i’ either.

While iPad created a new market – global sales of tablet computers including iPad grew from scratch in 2010 to over 195 million units in 2013 according to Gartner, just three years after iPad launched – the same isn’t really true with Apple Watch as there are quite a few smartwatches already on the market, with Samsung’s Galaxy Gear probably the name that you’re most familiar with.

While much of the reporting, commentary and opinion since September 9 has been on the technology of Apple Watch – especially its pros and cons versus what else is on the market – I’ve seen increasing views on the design and build quality of it.

And that’s what catches my attention most as when I first saw the Apple Watch on my computer screen during the live Apple event on September 9, my first reaction was seeing it as a desirable fashion brand more than simply the latest wearable tech.

I mean, just look at this picture of an 18-carat gold version (yes, there’s an 18-carat gold Apple Watch in two types of gold).

Apple Watch 18-carat Gold Edition

(Check the picture at the top of this page, too – it’s the watch the model is wearing, so see it in that context.)

It’s beautifully designed and looks the epitome of feminine elegance, class and minimalist style. It wouldn’t look out of place in the display cabinets of a Bond Street jeweller or among the luxury accessories you’d find in Harrods or Saks Fifth Avenue.

It would also look at home gracing the wrists of women on the cover of the likes of Vogue magazine.

If 18-carat gold isn’t your style, there are plenty of other choices: this masculine-looking stainless steel model with a Milanese Loop metal mesh bracelet, for example.

Apple Watch with Melanese Loop mesh strap

Smart-looking, to be sure. None of that clunky tech look that is the hallmark look of most other smartwatches (although there is a version like that, too).

Seeing the full array of Apple Watches reinforces the fashion aspect in my mind of what Apple is introducing when these devices go on sale in early 2015 at prices starting at $349 in the US (and perhaps $1,200 for the gold edition).

The Apple Watch portfolio embraces three collections (note that word) offering over 30 model variants in two different sizes together with different straps.

In Apple’s press release, there’s much talk of personalization, with CEO Tim Cook saying the Apple Watch is “the most personal product we’ve ever made.”

And Jony Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of design – and designer of the Apple Watch – offers this:

With Apple Watch, we’ve developed multiple technologies and an entirely new user interface specifically for a device that’s designed to be worn. It blurs the boundary between physical object and user interface. We’ve created an entire range of products that enable unparalleled personalization.

Such talk of personalization reflects a prescient post last year by Om Malik after the news broke that Apple had hired Angela Ahrendts, CEO of luxury British fashion house Burberry, to run Apple’s global retail operations, embracing the bricks-and-mortar Apples Stores together with online.

Annual revenue from Apple’s worldwide retail operations exceeded $20 billion in 2013.

In his post, Malik talks about wearable technology like smartwatches as “intimate computing,” two words that are most apt when looking at Apple’s offering nearly a year on from Malik’s post and thinking about the words of Tim Cook and Jony Ive.

Malik states:

This new intimate computing era means that Apple has to stop thinking like a computer company and more like a fashion accessory maker whose stock in trade is not just great design but aspirational experience. And it has to do that at price points that are not quite luxury, which is going to be the challenge. The fact that Cook brought in YSL’s Paul Deneve tells me that the company is already thinking about the intimate computing future.

I reckon Apple is thinking like a fashion company. Who should be paying most attention – Samsung and other traditional technology competitors? Or Swiss watch-makers and luxury brands?

Probably all of the above.

The Apple Watch could kick-start the wearables market, one that just looks like it’s waiting for a proverbial boot (as in re-boot) with products that combine the latest in high technology in a package that appeals strongly to emotional concepts like desire and status, and is, well, reassuringly expensive.

See also:

  • A Watch Guy’s Thoughts On The Apple Watch After Seeing It In The Metal (Tons Of Live Photos): “I’m not even sure we can call it a watch. Okay, it goes on the wrist, and it happens to tell the time, but that’s about where the similarities between Apple’s just announced watch and the hand-assembled, often painstakingly finished mechanical watches we write about, and obsess over, end…”
  • Advertisers, Meet Apple Watch: “Imagine you’re walking down the street and you’re served a location-based ad or coupon for Sephora on your shiny new iPhone 6. You enter the store, pick up a product and bring it over to the checkout counter. If you use Apple Watch (or your phone) to pay, then the loop is neatly closed…”
  • How Apple Is Invading Our Bodies, TIME magazine’s take: “The Silicon Valley giant has redrawn the line that separates our technology and ourselves. That may not be a good thing…”

As it turns out, Apple isn’t above the law (and which is a bit behind the times)

applejudgementlinkfooter2

When Apple posted an apology on its UK website last month as part of the price it paid in losing a lawsuit brought by Samsung, it didn’t endear itself well to the High Court.

The lawsuit was filed by Samsung seeking a legal declaration that its Galaxy Tab tablet design did not infringe an Apple design patent for the iPad, of which Apple had accused Samsung of infringing.

Earlier this week, the high Court judge ordered Apple to take down the notice they did publish on October 25 within 24 hours and replace it with a new statement that complies with the legal order.

That first notice looked like this:

As Bloomberg reported on November 1, Apple’s post inserted four paragraphs including excerpts of the original court ruling regarding the tablets’ coolness that appear to favour Apple; and details of German lawsuits about similar issues that the court said weren’t true.

Bloomberg noted:

[...] “I’m at a loss that a company such as Apple would do this,” Judge Robin Jacob said today. “That is a plain breach of the order.” [...] The notice created the "impression that the U.K. court is out of step with other courts," Henry Carr, Samsung’s lawyer, said in a filing. “It was clear the judges were not happy with what Apple had done," Gary Moss, a lawyer at EIP Partnership LLP who isn’t involved in the case but attended today’s hearing, said in a phone interview. “They thought Apple was playing fast and loose."

So Apple bit the bullet and published a new notice a few days ago, which looks like this:

applelegaljudgement2

The company also placed the same wording in ads in a number of UK national newspapers. So, all well and good and surely the end of the matter.

Not exactly.

Apple played a hidden tech card with a bit of JavaScript code, says Geekosystem this weekend, that tries to hide the notice on the website:

applejavascript

[...] While it may at first simply seem like something that’s included for aesthetic reasons, as the JavaScript’s function is to resize the iPad banner, it’s telling that the code is included on the U.K. homepage. Some of the other versions of the homepage resize in the same way, but it’s certainly not universal. Canada and Japan both resize, but not the regular homepage for the United States. By resizing the banner, the JavaScript makes it to where users will always need to scroll down in order to see Apple’s statement. Even though the other versions of the site have the same layout, minus the statement about Samsung, they don’t include the JavaScript bit in question.

I wonder if the High Court will regard this as Apple playing fast and loose even more. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do; if so, will there be consequences for Apple?

What this suggests to me, more than anything else, is that court-ordered apology-type notices, such as in this case, were designed in the age of print where the only way to be contrite publicly in obeying a court order was to publish your notice in a mass medium, eg, one or more national newspapers.

Such mass media were the only means available to do this.

Now there’s the internet and the world wide web – and note: they’ve been around for some decades – and far more sophisticated publishing methods and tools than in those days of yore.

Perhaps in the future of court orders such as this, the law needs to consider how a notice is published along with what the notice actually says.

And one other note: take a look at what Apple UK’s website, and the notice concerned, look like on a mobile device, in this case, my Samsung Galaxy SII:

applemobile1applemobile2

Even though the screenshots are 50 percent actual size, Apple’s UK website is impossible on a mobile device. Looks even worse on an iPhone 4S with its smaller screen (3.5 inches versus the SII’s 4.3 inches).

Surely not fast and loose with mobile as well…

[Update Nov 9:] CNET reports that Apple has quietly pulled the apology-hiding code from its UK website:

[...] The Apple U.K. Web site now displays two alternating fixed-sized images of the iPad Mini and the new iPad with Retina display – refreshing the page cycles between the two recently launched products – while the four boxes underneath are no longer fixed to the bottom of the display. Although the central images are still large and many displays require the user to scroll down, the forced-scrolling "resize" code is no longer loaded into the Web site’s code.

Though the code still exists on Apple’s servers (it can be found here), it is no longer called upon when the U.K. Web site loads up.

Looks like common sense prevailed. Or was it legal or other pressure? Apple’s not saying anything, says CNET.

Related post:

Just because Apple had to doesn’t mean they want to

Apple has posted a statement on its UK website that is the apology it was ordered to publish by a High Court judge as one result of losing the case in a lawsuit filed by Samsung seeking a legal declaration that its Galaxy Tab tablet design did not infringe an Apple design patent for the iPad, of which Apple had accused Samsung of infringing.

Take a look at the statement as shown in this screenshot (or see it on Apple’s website):

applelegaljudgemen540t

The wording of the judgement is quite interesting, especially the final paragraph referencing the upholding of Apple’s claims in other jurisdictions. But do you notice anything more interesting than the words?

How about the layout. Nice, isn’t it? Makes good use of white space for a clean uncluttered look that’s typical of Apple’s minimalism at work.

Maybe it’s extreme minimalism at work. There’s no branding of any type at all, no logo, no company description anywhere, no links to anything else on the website.

In short, there are no suggestions at first glance that you’re on an Apple website.

Such minimalism on webs pages isn’t new for Apple. Yet in content that’s also a statement of one type of another, the page concerned fully fits in with overall site look and feel. Take this example – the letter from Apple CEO Tim Cook posted on the US website last month that apologises for the maps debacle:

appletimcooklettermaps

With this, notice the branding, the logo, the links, all consistent with the rest of the website. Quite a difference in presentation.

With the Samsung apology notice, the only link I could find to it from anywhere on the Apple website is one in the footer on the Apple UK home page.

applejudgementlinkfooter

In the Samsung case, the legal judgement required Apply to publish the apology wording on their UK website. it didn’t say how they had to do it. They also have to take advertisements in some of the UK’s national newspapers and repeat the apology. I haven’t seen any such ad yet. I wonder how they’ll address that. Extreme minimalism, I expect.

(Via CNET UK)

Related post:

Apple, Samsung and pots and kettles

buysamsung

Apple’s lawyers had their day in the US last week in winning the Apple vs Samsung lawsuit over infringement of Apple’s software and design patents regarding the iPhone that saw Samsung ordered to pay Apple a billion dollars in damages.

Some say the outcome of this legal dispute has huge implications for Samsung and other Android-smartphone makers in the future. The Economist reckons the impact on Samsung’s bottom line should be modest “because a ban will affect older devices, not the firm’s snazzy new Galaxy phones.”

But the case still has big implications for the tech industry, which is facing a tsunami of patent-related lawsuits. It shows how patents covering the look and feel of devices are increasingly being “weaponised” by their holders. It highlights the propensity of juries to award huge damages in intellectual-property disputes. And it will give added ammunition to those who feel that the current system of granting and policing tech patents in America needs to be overhauled.

[...] The jury in San Jose [California] concluded that Samsung had violated several of Apple’s utility patents covering things such as bounce-back scrolling, which makes such things as on-screen icons and web pages rebound if swiped too far, and tap-to-zoom functionality, which makes it easy to zero in on, say, an image or a map. It also said the South Korean company had copied the overall look of the iPhone, including the rounded corners of icons, thus breaching several of Apple’s design patents. To add insult to injury, the jurors tossed out the South Korean firm’s claims that Apple had ripped off some of its own innovations.

It does seem that Apple itself is no stranger to copying other people’s ideas – a view apparently articulated by founder Steve Jobs:

Picasso had a saying: ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal.’ We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.

With the lawsuit, its concurrent publicity out into the mainstream, and views like those of Jobs, it’s surely no surprise if you politely yawn at any protagonist’s claim that the other stole its intellectual property.

It gives the tagline “Galaxy S3: the most amazing iPhone yet” you see in the spoof ad above,  circulating on Facebook this week, some credibility and elevates it above being simply amusing.

Yep, big and expensive pots and kettles.

Related posts:

FT names Steve Jobs their Man of The Year

stevejobsft

Mark Zuckerberg can be Time’s person of the year but here we have the FT’s man of the year – Steve Jobs, the man behind the continuing success of Apple and those so-gorgeous products everyone desires that include iPhone, iPad, Macbook and more.

The Financial Times says Jobs is a “Silicon Valley visionary who put Apple on top”:

[…] When Steven Paul Jobs first hit the headlines, he was younger even than Mark Zuckerberg is now. Long before it was cool to be a nerd, his formative role in popularising the personal computer, and Apple’s initial public offering on Wall Street – which came when Mr Jobs was still only 25 – made him the tech industry’s first rock star.

And this description fits well as a caption to the rather Machiavellian-looking Jobs in the FT cartoon above:

[…] Critics often talk disparagingly of the “reality distortion field” generated by the Apple boss: his ability to convince onlookers that technologies that would seem unformed in other hands have reached a peak of perfection at Apple. Generating this suspension of disbelief is essential to stirring up demand for gadgets most consumers had no idea they needed, and is an art form of which Mr Jobs has long been the acknowledged master.

A worthy winner, I say! Read the detailed story at the FT.

Related posts:

Apple’s tablet as the killer e-reader

appletabletEllee Seymour asked me if I’ve tried an e-reader yet, one of those gadgets that you use to read e-books. Something like a Sony Reader, perhaps, or an Amazon Kindle.

I told Ellee that I hadn’t yet.

I do read a great deal of material on a computer screen, either a laptop or desktop, but not on a device designed only for that purpose. I sometimes read content on the iPhone, especially in planes and other public transport, but that’s pretty hard work on such a small screen.

For me, the reason’s simple: devices like Sony’s and the Kindle are terrific, they’re great and do their jobs well, but that’s not enough. I want a portable device that lets me read e-books and other content as I wish. It also needs to be a window onto a wider connected and unrestricted world where I decide what I want to do, what I want to read, in a package that lets me interact with that content in a way that I don’t have to squint to see anything. It’s got to be dead easy and a genuine pleasure to use.

It ought to be affordable, too, although I might be willing to pay a premium for an elegance of form and function from a trusted name and/or a device that really breaks new ground (as the iPhone and Apple’s App Store did.). And the package must have enough oomph to do things in a trice, more or less.

Sounds rather like any contemporary laptop computer you can think of, doesn’t it?

So that’s the logical reason taken care of. Let’s look at my emotional reason: basically, there isn’t a device I’ve seen yet that makes me think I absolutely, simply, definitely have got to have one, that I’d do literally anything to acquire one.

Then I read Impact of “iSlate” Could Rival iPhone in the New York Times yesterday which beautifully captures that emotional reason:

[...] Many people like their e-readers (not least because they save them from having to haul around books, newspapers and magazines) but I’ve yet to meet anyone who loves them. That’s the key. If a really great e-reader appeared, the market would explode. The e-reader is waiting for a killer product, just as the MP3 player was before Apple’s iPod. Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, it made such a sexy one that many more people wanted to buy it. That’s what it is promising to do again.

The desirability in the promise of “more.” That says it perfectly.

Will Apple’s rumoured new device be called “iSlate”? Will it look even remotely like the image you see above that AppleInsider published last July? Will it have any major focus on e-books?

Who knows. Nobody for sure outside some at Apple. Expect news at Apple’s special event on January 26. Probably.

Meanwhile, it’s fun to speculate. Think about this as well:

  • Publishers Struggle with Strategies on When to Release Their E-Books (Daily Finance). For all their sound and fury, e-book sales accounted for no more than 4% of all book sales in 2009. That figure will certainly rise in 2010. With all manner of e-readers on the market (or about to hit), the boom of reading-related smartphone apps, and Apple appearing to prepare a tablet device (rumored name: iSlate) for its debut on January 26, e-book sales may hit $500 million in the next 12 months, Forrester Research projects. [...]
  • Amazon e-book sales overtake print for first time (The Guardian). Spare a thought for the humble hardback this Christmas. It seems the traditional giftwrapped tome is being trumped by downloads, after Amazon customers bought more e-books than printed books for the first time on Christmas Day. As people rushed to fill their freshly unwrapped e-readers – one of the top-selling gadgets this festive season – the online retailer said sales at its electronic book store quickly overtook orders for physical books. Its own e-reader, the Kindle, is now the most popular gift in Amazon’s history. [...]

Related posts: