People in Glass houses: Throwing stones at the Apple Watch


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It is handy that in the world of technology there are many prior examples that one can look to when evaluating the state of a particular set of products. It should be noted, however, that even this most mundane of powers can be twisted into something so bizarre is it almost unrecognizable as an attempt at our Earthly logic.

Writing for Computerworld, Mike Elgan explains “Why smartwatches failed.” (Tip o’ the antlers to Glen T and Chuck Savadelis.)

Oh. Did “smartwatches” fail? Well, all the smartwatches that weren’t made by Apple, maybe. But the Apple Watch?

Major smartwatch makers–Apple, Samsung and others–rushed into the market before the technology was ready and didn’t focus on the enterprise first.

Let us just say that the reason we measure the temperature of Elgan’s takes using the Kelvin scale is that they almost invariably register at zero Kelvin. Remember, this is the man who claimed the Zune “scares Apple to the core”, a product that is used as a movie punchline six years after it was discontinued.

The early success stories are crashing and burning.

[Correction: On Twitter Elgan points out that he specifically itemized Motorola, Pebble and Jawbone. The Macalope didn't necessarily take that as an exhaustive list on his first read but, if you think about the timing of those successes, it's clear he wasn't lumping Apple in with the crashers and burners.]

“Apple Watch sales up over 50% in June quarter.”

We are to presume, apparently, that all these vendors are faring poorly with their smartwatch offerings. Not only poorly, but actually losing money.

Companies are cagey about numbers. But it’s very likely that most or all smartwatch makers are losing money.

The point in the party where someone suggests Apple is losing money on a hardware product is when you just nod and slowly back toward the door.

Smartwatches failed as a product category because the main industry players made a huge mistake.

You are really not going to believe this argument. You might want to take a few moments to remove any liquids from your area in case you idly take a sip of something while you’re reading. Remember, only you can prevent spit-takes.

They started with consumer smartwatches and treated the enterprise as an afterthought. It should have been the other way around.

Really?! What is Elgan’s evidence that this would have been the silver bullet?

…smartwatches should have developed like smart glasses, with products for enterprises first and consumers later.

This is to silver bullets as The Silver Bullet, Coors, is to beers: watery canned garbage.

The false narrative still echoing in the tech press echo chamber about Google Glass is that Google launched smart glasses into the consumer marketplace, and the product failed. Later, the story goes, the company changed course and reintroduced Glass as an enterprise product.

What actually happened is that Google’s R&D lab launched a novel beta program called the Explorer Program that was designed to crowdsource the decision on how smart glasses should best be used.

It is unsurprising that the man who suggested Apple should have prioritized integration with Google+ over Twitter and Facebook would be furiously spinning Glass’s failure in the consumer market as an expertly executed business plan. He’s not completely wrong, Google did throw Glass against the wall to see what would stick and the only things that didn’t shatter were enterprise applications. But their demo videos were clearly aimed at consumers. They also wanted it to be a consumer product and it failed spectacularly.

Unlike Glass, meanwhile, Apple has sold something on the order of 20 million Watches to consumers, all without anyone getting punched in the face. Elgan’s whole thesis is that smartwatch sales are unacceptably low… and then he holds up the hot-selling Glass as what smartwatch makers should emulate. In his next article, Elgan will suggest Apple ditch the MacBook line in favor of something akin to the hit Palm Foleo.

Oh, or akin to the Microsoft Kin.

What’s an example of one of Elgan’s killer enterprise apps for smartwatches?

…watch-to-watch transmission of business card information and other corporate uses.

My anaconda don’t want none unless the watch’s got LinkedIn, son.

It didn’t have to be this way.

We could have not read this article?

The smartwatch industry should have done what Google did with Glass, and figured out that enterprise-first is the way to go with wearables.

Sure. If, based on your one example, they wanted even fewer sales.

The Macalope isn’t sure why they’d want that but… yeah, that was an option. Just seems like a weird thing to bring up.

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