Apple’s triumphs over the past 15 years include but not are not limited to: saving the music industry from its own self-destruction, helping to bring movies into the digital era, showing that retail can be cool and make a huge difference to the bottom-line, putting a shed load of songs in our pockets and of course making the mobile internet finally happen so we didn’t have to suffer any more ‘year of mobile’ claims.
It has also made its fair share of mistakes such as Ping (Google it), MobileMe (not actually that bad – essentially iCloud that just didn’t work that well), iTunes Radio (I’m calling time on it) and of course the chap from Dixons hired to head up retail until it was discovered he’d obviously pulled the biggest bullshit interview since Jeremy Clarkson claimed he worked well as an individual and in a team.
These were all relatively under the radar projects though compared to its latest wrist-based venture. You might have heard of it – “The little iPhone second-screen you wear on your arm so you don’t need to get your phone out of your pocket as much as you do currently”. Apple’s doing its best to change my mind on this name and to be honest I think it might be working.
The benefits of sitting on a pile of cash upwards of $178bn is that you can spend a lot on marketing. A LOT. Many companies would spend this on TV takeovers explaining the functionality of their devices and how clever they are at alerting you to a text message or showing you how many unread emails you have. Others would have magazine inserts with weightier and more shiny stock than the rest of the publication full of tutorials on how to Bluetooth sync up the device to your phone and telling you that the processor is faster than 5.1 gigawatts and the device has 4gb of RAM with a 2 gb of VRAM dedicated to making sure you’re a prize fucking geek.
Apple has videos showing off the magnetic buckle on its bands.
The Apple Watch is being pushed hard as a fashion accessory and it is throwing more than just money at making this point work as hard as an employee in a Foxconn factory.
Its computers and iPods have been hailed as design icons and placed in museums, yet they are still tech products and the main man linked to their success, other than Steve Jobs himself is Jony Ive. He appears to be loving the chance to talk even more hyperbole than usual yet he has recently been quoted as saying: “It’s not our intent to compete with luxury goods”. Which was odd, as he said it while on a panel at the Conde Nast International Luxury Conference.
However he’s not enough by himself to push into fashion so Apple have employed one of his best mates, industrial designer Mark Newson. Both of them have been doing the rounds over the past few weeks – including dinners in Milan at fashion events captured by bloggers and others that wouldn’t normally be shouting about Apple products. The first sightings of the watch in the press came in from around the world worn by models on the cover of respected fashion magazines, including Vogue, not Stuff magazine.
The product placement and celeb endorsement has been almost out of control; Beyonce, Pharrell and JJ Abrams have all been spotted with Apple Watches at high profile events, all wearing short sleeve shirts and arms raised towards their face to make sure it’s front and centre. Karl Lagerfeld was apparently given a version that’s worth over $25,000 and can’t be bought in shops. His PA conveniently captured it on an Instagram.
Swiftly after the Dixons chap exited the company, Apple employed ex-Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts to be its retail chief. I don’t think it’s a huge leap of the imagination to see that this is closely tied to the direction that Apple is pushing itself in and it will be interesting to see how its retail offering develops – it has already launched some Apple Watch boutiques in ‘trendsetting retailers’ in Paris, London, Berlin and Tokyo.
“…we start by hand-selecting hides from three of the world’s best-known artisan tanneries,” is a quote from the Apple Watch ‘Craftsmanship’ page on Apple.com. A long way from the iMac launch site which claimed “a 233MHz PowerPC G3 processor, 512K of backside level 2 cache”. Incidentally the “i” in “iMac” stands for “internet”.
The Apple Watch will succeed even without little old me buying the first version. The iWatch would not have lasted more than two AW/SS cycles.
Chris Hassell is the founder of creative agency Ralph. He tweets @Angry_Beard