Why The Apple Watch Debut Is Worse For Apple Than Glass Was For Google
(This post originally appeared on Forbes)
Do you know anyone, specifically anyone not in the tech industry, connected to Apple or a gadget geek, who owns an Apple Watch? I don’t. I’m sure these people exist. But with all the publicity and fanfare I would’ve expected to see the Apple Watch everywhere. Something just doesn’t seem right. And that something seems to be sales.
Ever since the early days of its launch, no one has been able to predict with any accuracy the sales of the Apple Watch. But the numbers (and the user reviews) are now just starting to come in. And things aren’t looking good. Just this past week it was reported that sales of the Apple Watch have fallen almost 90% since coming on the market. The company is now reportedly leaning on the iPhone more to make up for the revenue drop-off. Some people in the tech community are now openly wondering if the Apple Watch is flopping. User reviews are mixed, at best, with just 38 percent saying they’d recommend the device, according to a recent study. To be fair, it’s only been a few months since the product was launched and the company hasn’t released official numbers yet. And even the iPhone, which debuted in 2007, didn’t really explode until the appearance of Apple’s App Store a year later, a phenomenon the company hopes to repeat with a renewed effort on Watch apps there. But there seems to be a groundswell of disappointment, a sentiment accurately summed up in this short, yet harsh video.
It’s very reminiscent of a similar product release just a few years back, isn’t it? That was Google Glass, the first-of-its-kind wearable device that promised users 20/20 vision and the ability, among other things, to request driving directions and take videos just by saying “OK Glass.” Unfortunately, Google screwed up the release of Google Glass and ultimately took it off the market earlier this year, insisting that it is not dead and there will be future versions of the product. Some can make the case that there are many similarities in these stories. Both gadgets attract attention (some may say ridicule) to the wearer. They each rely significantly on voice commands and their unique mobile operating systems. They are both pioneer products in a growing Internet of Things world. And they’re expensive – Google Glass was priced at $1,500 and the Apple Watch costs at least $349, assuming you don’t want to upgrade your band or buy something gold-plated.
But the similarities end there. The Apple Watch launch is not like Google Glass. It is potentially much, much worse. And for two very big reasons.
For starters, the Apple Watch is a full-blown product, whereas Google Glass was just an experiment. Apple announced the device with much fanfare in March, released it with the usual enormous PR in April and made it a huge part of its Worldwide Developers Conference last month. The company’s CEO, Tim Cook, has been flying all over the world wearing and demonstrating the capabilities of the device. There are billboards, online ads, articles and TV commercials promoting the product. It’s fully available to the public both online and at its retail stores. It is truly a new a product line, the first big one introduced by Cook, with expectations of, in many cases, replacing the smartphone and spurring a billion dollar wearables market. Google Glass, by contrast, was never made available in wide release. There was no multi-million dollar ad campaign and no official designation as a full blown product line by Google. Google Glass, to the company, was nothing more than another in a long line of “projects” being worked on by Google like the driverless car, wireless Internet delivered by huge balloons, unmanned flying turbines to collect wind energy at high altitudes, drones and…oh yes…curing death. Unlike Apple, the company (and its CEO) doesn’t stake its reputation on the projects. Which means when they fail (and yes, Google frequently fails), it’s usually not a PR (or financial) disaster like the one that Apple Watch could be.
The Apple Watch is not making people or companies quicker, better or wiser. “I don’t get it,” my 21-year-old son (and tech enthusiast) said to me over the weekend. “Why would I spend all that money for an Apple Watch when I already have an iPhone?” And that kind of sums it up, doesn’t it? Google Glass has a video camera attached to it. You can talk to it and it will automatically do things like snap a picture or look up someone’s LinkedIn profile. It has the capability of providing data and transmitting images and videos back to command centers from the field. Even officially off the market, it is still very much available to developers and companies who are creating somevery innovative uses of the technology in healthcare, manufacturing and energy. The Apple Watch is a just a mini version of the iPhone. We already have iPhones. There’s nothing very innovative going on here. And if there is, then the message hasn’t reached consumers like me yet.
So what’s the lesson for small business owners like you and me? You should continue to ignore the Apple Watch for now. Like Google Glass, the jury’s still out on its future success. But unlike Google Glass, there still doesn’t seem much about it that will help you be quicker, better and wiser.