Apple has a huge chunk of the smartwatch market, possibly outselling all other devices put together, yet that market remains small and shows no sign of taking off in the way that smartphone and tablet markets did after Apple launched the iPhone and iPad respectively.
Prompted by a less than brilliant quarter, where Apple underperformance in all its key market sectors, CEO Tim Cook took to the TV screens in the US in a bid to calm investor panic that has seen tens of billions of dollars wiped off the company’s valuation,
The appearance on CNBC’s Mad Money program covered many areas, but for me Cook’s rather defensive take on the Apple Watch was interesting. It is, when all is said and done, the only truly ‘Cook’s Apple’ product and its success or failure may come to define his tenure as CEO when history is written in the future.
Cook claims that we’ll be saying ‘How could I ever thought about wearing this watch?’ in a few years time. That’s interesting, because the few people I know who have actually bought one seem to make a decision to not wear it on a daily basis. Cook promises to deliver the products ‘you can’t live without’.
Maybe, maybe not. Personally I’d say that smartwatches have got an awful long way to go before I could consider living with one, never mind struggle to live without.
Right now Cook has proven to be a solid businessman, an incredible manager of inventory and a steady hand on the tiller in the post-Jobs era. Apple makes more money than anyone ever has before. At the same time though it has changed from a leader to a follower. Its last few products have aped Samsung (smaller iPads, bigger iPhones) or Microsoft’s (iPad Pro) and it has relinquished its primary position in the music business to Spotify, having to go out and buy Beats Music to create a competitive product.
Even the disappointing Apple Watch is a follower. And a follower that doesn’t really improve on features already available. It sells well because Apple has strong customer loyalty. However it isn’t a game changer like the iPhone or iPad or even the iPod before it.
That may be because the days of the game changer are finished, or maybe its because Cook’s Apple just isn’t visionary enough. It hasn’t followed through on the Apple Watch, nor has it delivered the promise of Apple TV. Maybe with the Apple Car third time will be the charm.