Where’s the Soul of These Tiny New Machines?
I can’t be sure if Apple jumped the shark yesterday or not. Introducing the long awaited iPhone 6 and Watch wearable device made me do a lot of thinking. First the iPhone.
They obviously need some better naming conventions to describe the bigger and biggest iPhones and ideally the naming should come from the suitability the devices exhibit for particular purposes. Then again I’ll take anything besides “Plus.” “Plus” is not a naming decision or convention in the same way that black is not a color and no decision is not one. What’s next? Ultra? Titanium? Competitors would probably like unobtanium but I digress. The iPhones and iOS8 have many cool features and new capabilities that would make Dick Tracy swoon.
The larger “6 Plus” with its biggest HD screen might be a videographer’s tool kit, not powerful enough to replace anything but certainly what’s needed for a rough draft sketch of a video scene or news gathering at your favorite revolution. If it didn’t need charging it would be a great device to take on extended outdoor adventures.
I’ve been saying for some time now that wearable solar cells capable of charging our devices (or actually, just a general purpose Lithium battery) really have to become standards and Apple’s announcements tell me that the need for extended power supply will surface as a big thing soon if we’re to continue making these devices part of our lives.
Speaking of being part of our lives, am I the only person on the planet to notice the incongruity of a watch from the company that did the most to make conventional watches obsolete? I am still waiting for a good reason for wearable computing because I really, really don’t want you to know where I am all the time. Mom didn’t care as long as I was home when the streetlights went on and I think that’s a good heuristic.
I know, I know, it’s the new, new thing (Oh no, I’m saying everything twice!) and cool apps are coming. But the idea of a watch that will do so much to track daily physiological functions — exercise committed even while walking up a flight of stairs at work, for example — makes me think of all those people we used to see at shopping malls wearing tracksuits. Very quickly tracksuits got a bad name as they were repurposed to non-track activities by obviously non-athletes. The same is happening today with Spandex yoga pants or whatever they are for those of us who clearly do not work out.
At any rate, Apple needs to manage the Watch very carefully lest it become the track suit of technology and data encryption and security measures won’t do. Personally, I don’t think there is very much if any data that you can store on a wearable device (other than the video of that B&E you were in over the weekend just for kicks) that very many people would care about. Your steps, calories, weight aren’t going to show up on the black market anytime soon even if the wearables had a security paradigm called “screen door.” Any health related data that’s worth knowing needs wet chemistry and a blood sample and we ain’t there yet. So I am not saying that security isn’t important just that we might be just a tad over doing it. So tell me again, why do I need a wearable device?
As I re-read this I find it amazing that I am a seriously committed Apple user and I am being so skeptical of the latest announcements, but there it is. Let’s talk about Apple Pay for just a sec. How many payment systems does the world need and why do we need yet another? It would have been nice to see Apple decide to partner with some of the payment processors in a big announcement rather than produce another walled garden. But I guess that’s Apple’s DNA, do it yourself, depend on as few outsiders as possible. It was Steve Jobs’ DNA too. While I get all that there comes a time in every market when standards descend on us for the sake of ease of use and ubiquity. Apple is tres, tres late to this party and so it would not have hurt them a bit to play nice in somebody else’s sandbox.
Increasingly we’re seeing that it’s easy to make hardware and even software. The growth area in this market is services, which is partly the reason I think Apple Pay is coming out. Beyond that, if the Watch is not destined to become a latter day tracksuit it will be services and not apps that keep it relevant. The health-oriented apps will be most useful when connected to your doctor, personal trainer, coach, or other person that can help turn the collected data into knowledge that can be applied to improve our lives. Those services people won’t be automatically loyal to Apple or any device maker and for that reason, I suggest that Apple begin recruiting and certifying experts who can incorporate their devices into must have life sustaining or improvement programs.
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Good column. Although I haven’t seen any of the new Apple devices in person, I agree with you. The iPhone Plus seems too big to fit in a shirt breast pocket or pants back pocket, and even the now larger regular iPhone may be too big. I’m personally not jealous of those Samsung phones when I see them.
Your walled garden comment is interesting. The one time I can think of when they did partner with big players was when Steve Jobs went down to SoCal and did a deal with the record labels for iTunes. But at that point Apple was on the ropes and was largely irrelevant in the real world. That deal saved the company. Now they think they don’t need to work with anyone else, as you said.