Saturday, 18 April 2015

Could Apple be creating something uncool?

Back in 1861 ships in the Firth of Forth needed the sound of a gun to tell the time. Today, largely as a tourist attraction, you can set your watch by the one o'clock gun.

Then there was John Harrison, who created the clock that allowed the calculation of time on ships to great accuracy. This led to the correct calculation of longitude and, by extension, the ability of British ships to trade worldwide and create an empire. Harrison's invention was the GPS of the 18th century. By any standards it was a cool piece of engineering magic.

The telling of time accurately was for centuries illusive and worthy of the greatest engineering minds. By the 20th century the watch became the latest level of this technology. Owning a watch was a status symbol, a fashion item and, for many, an item given to you as a mark of move into adult life. Expensive watches were bought and engraved for a lifetime's use.

In the 1970s Sir Clive Sinclair was not known as a gadget man for his home computer revolution but for the first digital watches.

However at a certain point in the 1980s people stopped wearing watches. By the late 20th century time was everywhere. Knowing the time was not something that required special equipment or some premium priced personal gadget. Suddenly the time was accurate on every railway clock, in offices, on the radio, on TV and on computer screens.

These days time is just one of the many functions of the mobile phone that almost every adult carries. Time, alarms, diary are all there all the time. Many people don't wear a watch at all and, if you are under 25, then wearing a watch is 'uncool'.

This provokes the question of why Apple, a company perceived to be at the centre of cool, is creating a watch.

I actually think the answer is simpler than anyone thinks. The Tim Cook presentation gave it away. he said ever since he was a kid he wanted a watch that would replace his phone.

The Apple watch is basically the creation of men of a certain age who wanted to create as a product what science fiction dreamed of when they were kids.

The Apple watch will sell in millions because it is made by Apple. However it will always be uncool because it was made for the people who run Apple rather than for Apple's natural consumers.