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iWatch: Apple’s next breakthrough products or a solution looking for a problem?

Unless you have been asleep under a tree lately, no doubt you heard about Apple’s new product launches: The iPhone 6, 6 Plus, and the iWatch. And not to be overlooked, Apple Pay and other associated technologies and services that look very promising.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus look to be well on their way to being a market successes. Would I call them “breakthrough” products? No, since Samsung with its Galaxy and other phone makers essential led the market with their versions of the so called “jumbo” phones.

Here’s a case where Apple is playing catch up. They were slow to realize the shift in consumer attitudes about smart phone devices and behaviors. That data communication and consumption has become more important to the masses than voice communication.

Holding and using a smart phone in one hand isn’t an important requirement anymore. Jumbo phones help people get their data consumption job done. They are not phones anymore that also connect to the internet , they are data devices that also can be used as a phone.

It appears Apple has caught up to the pack with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Are they significantly better than the Galaxy? Probably not, but good enough to keep Apple’s existing customers happy and loyal. And maybe win some new customers who might otherwise chose the Galaxy or similar solution.

But what about the iWatch? Is it a breakthrough or a solution looking for a problem?

The response from the market has not been overwhelming, at least from what I have observed. Sure, everyone loves the design, and are intrigued by the features. It has possibilities but will consumers lineup for hours to get one like they did for the original iPhone?

The iWatch doesn’t seem as compelling at this stage of the game compared to when the iPhone was launched. It doesn’t seem to address an important job that the masses want to get done better. Or perhaps Apple didn’t capture the imagination of the masses yet by providing a story of how the iWatch will forever make their lives better, more productive and fun.

Sure, as a time piece iWatch does a pretty nice job of keeping time I assume. But we already have products that do that pretty darn well. And we don’t have to charge our watches every night to keep them running.

It’s been reported that Apple is using the iWatch as an entry into the jewelry category. There definitely is a market for high end watches that provide emotional statements (the emotional component of” jobs-to-be-done”). Why else would any one hire a Rolex? iWatch will evoke emotional desire when seen. But will that be enough to turn the iWatch into a grand success?

The iPhone vs. the iWatch are two examples why market timing is important

The iWatch is an early market product category still evolving and being defined. The category Apple is competing for is wearable devices, and as a category, wearables are very early in the adoption curve.

The core technologies and services that will complement the iWatch and wearable products are evolving. The ecosystem is now only building out, thus the demand for wearable devices isn’t there yet.

I imagine Apple has a grander view and expectation for the iWatch far beyond being a piece of jewelry with a pretty face. I can envision these devices enabling people to get important jobs done better, faster and cheaper. Like monitoring and managing their healthcare, and interacting with their data and replacing the need for wallets for example.

When the iPhone was launched, the smart phone product category that had already reached a critical mass. People knew what a smart phone was, and had an idea of how it could be used to get certain jobs done better. But until iPhone, there just wasn’t a compelling reason for the masses to jump on them.

Apple did a fantastic job of offering a more compelling and complete product than any of the competitors when it launched. That’s what made the difference, and that’s where their innovation competency paid off.

And Steve Jobs was a brilliant marketer and promoter. He presented the iPhone not as a piece of “golly gee” technology, but as a game changing technology that would enable people to get their important jobs done better in ways they had never imagined possible before. No wonder it was a grand slam.

Will iWatch become a huge success like iPhone or is it another Newton?

Wearable devices could very well be the next big thing. With wireless healthcare, payments and other Internet of Thing (IoT) enabled functions, once people see the value proposition in action, it might just achieve the growth Apple believes is there for the taking.

I am sure Apple has a good reason to believe now is the time to launch iWatch. They don’t want wait to launch a “perfect” product after the adoption cycle reaches the critical mass (early majority) because, in the high-tech consumer market, the game may be over for new entrants.

Whether the iWatch will be a huge success or a modest hit remains to be seen. Out of the chute the iWatch doesn’t seem to get anyone’s important job done better than alternative solutions like good old wrist watches. But this is not your father’s wrist watch is it?

Perhaps Apple’s strategy is to stay far enough ahead of the pack and be known as the category creator/killer. But I am sure they don’t want to be too far ahead of the pack and have another Newton on its hand. Quite possibly, maybe probably, the compelling application will be introduced when the product ships early next year.

No doubt Apple understands the early adoption issues and has a well thought out innovation play book ready to execute. The iWatch may not be a successful as iPhone, but I bet it will be far more successful than Newton.

Time will tell, stay tuned, watch and learn.

Kevin

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