The Apple Watch is a long-term, strategic play for Apple

Anthony Caruana
26 June, 2015
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Apple Watch, macworld australiaApple is a notoriously secretive company when it comes to revealing their plans. Only a very select group of their partners ever know what is coming, and even then it’s with the least possible information and shortest lead-time they can get away with.

When the iPhone was being developed in the mid-2000s, the teams involved in developing each of the components didn’t even know what they were working on. It wasn’t until late 2006 and early 2007 that they knew what Apple was creating.

However, since then we’ve become a lot smarter about determining Apple’s plans. And it’s not by embedding spies within Jony Ive’s design team or planting hidden cameras and microphones at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino. It’s through looking at patent applications.

A good example is a new Apple Watch Patent that pertains to a “Wearable Multi-Modal Physiological Sensing System” (Patently Apple has a detailed analysis of this if you’re interested).

Until now – and the Apple watch isn’t an exception to this – we’ve seen smartwatches as little more than an extension of our smartphones and, possibly, a simple activity tracker. But that patent application tells us Apple has much bigger plans for the Apple Watch.

The development of HealthKit, HomeKit and several other interfaces for developers points to Apple playing a very long game. Even the current Apple Watch, despite some limitations (the lack of integrated GPS – an obvious concession to battery life – really annoys me) has hardware that is not turned on – like the disabled oximeter.

I really like the Apple Watch but it’s not an indispensible part of my day. I find the inaccuracy of the distance measurement, which relies on steps, to be a problem for when I run.

Word on the street is Apple will be releasing a new Apple Watch next year. That’s what Humphrey Appleby, from the great TV show Yes, Minister would have called a “courageous decision”. The Apple Watch is unlike any other product Apple has produced thus far.

When we buy a computer or smartphone, most of us expect to keep it for at least a couple of years. Watches, on the other hand, are very different. We expect to keep watches for years and, potentially, hand them on to others as heirlooms. And the Apple Watch price-tag puts it in the realm of expensive watches that are treated in this way.

Releasing a new model, after a year might get raise the ire of even the most loyal Apple fans.

I’m hoping Apple develops a new Apple Watch for 2017, rather than 2016. And, in the mean time, they develop the ecosystem around the Apple Watch further.

There’s that hidden port that can be exploited and the Activity and Health apps need a lot of work, and probably integration, in order to really complement the hardware.

And that’s where Apple will excel. It’s important to remember that Apple is rarely the first mover in new product categories. They prefer to be the best mover. It happened with the iPod. That was shown with the iPhone, which redefined the smartphone category. It was the case with the iPad, which completely changed our perception of tablet computers.

The Apple Watch could do the same but Apple’s magic has only partially been about the hardware. It’s the software and integration that is Apple’s secret sauce. And for the Apple Watch, the real benefits of that sauce will take some time to be fully realised.

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