April 24, 2015: It’s time for the official release of the Apple Watch, the wearable device Tim Cook describes as the “next chapter in Apple history.”
Fans, having endured a seven-month wait since the device’s unveiling at a keynote the previous September, can finally strap an Apple Watch onto their wrists. Behind the scenes, however, this moment been a lot longer in the making.
Given that Steve Jobs died in October 2011 and the Apple Watch came out in 2015, it wasn’t the first post-Jobs Apple device by any stretch of the imagination. It was, however, the first major new product line to launch in the post-Jobs era.
Just as the Newton reflected the tech industry’s first tentative steps toward embracing mobile computing in the 1990s, the Apple Watch reflected a later shift: the arrival of wearables.
“There was a sense that technology was going to move onto the body,” Alan Dye, the man in charge of Apple’s human interface group, told Wired. “We felt like the natural place, the place that had historical relevance and significance, was the wrist.”
There’s a bit of confusion as to whether Jobs was involved in the early stages of the Watch’s development. The aforementioned Wired article claims that Apple design chief Jony Ive only thought about an Apple-branded watch after Jobs’ death. However, Tim Bajarin — an Apple analyst who, unlike many analysts, actually knew Jobs for more than three decades — has said, “Steve was aware of the Watch” and “didn’t nix it as a product.”
Conceptualizing what the Apple Watch would be took place around the time that Apple engineers were busy working on iOS 7. After that, it developed as a product, with Apple recruiting various smart-sensor experts to create a product that would offer something fundamentally different from the iPhone.
It also marked an attempt by Apple to become more of a luxury company. Going back to the earliest days of Apple, the company had drawn parallels between its computers and aspirational goods like high-end cars.
However, decisions like making a $17,000 Apple Watch Edition and showing off the device at Paris Fashion Week marked a strategy shift that embraced high-end fashion in a way Apple hadn’t overtly done before.
The Apple Watch was first shown off at Apple’s September 9, 2014 keynote event, the same media event where it debuted the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The event took place at The Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, California. That’s where Jobs debuted the first Mac in 1984 and the Bondi Blue iMac G3 in 1998.
Two years after the Apple Watch debuted, it’s not been the breakout product either of those machines were, but it’s been generally well-received by customers. Apple hasn’t released any sales figures, although it has talked up the wearable’s high satisfaction rate among early adopters.
With Apple Watch Series 2, the focus on selling the device as a luxury item seems to have been scaled back in favor of a focus on fitness. (This is backed up by the closure of some Apple Watch mini-stores inside fashion retailers.)
What’s your view of the Apple Watch at this point? Are you a loyal customer, who couldn’t do without Apple’s wearable? Or do you think this has been a misstep that’s failed to recapture the magic of previous product launches? Leave your comments below.
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