Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Apple Watch Series 3

When I bought the first generation of Apple Watch a couple of years ago, I had trouble convincing my wife that I should spend our hard-earned on it. I had trouble convincing her probably because I had trouble convincing myself. When she asked what I could do on it that I couldn't do on my phone, the list was pretty short, and there were so many drawbacks to the form and the capabilities that she just couldn't understand my interest.

The best explanation that I could muster was that I wanted to be a part of this conversation about the next generation of computing. I wanted to be a participant in the early evaluation of wearables, so that I could understand if it was a fad or the future. I've found that I really enjoy my Apple Watch, but not for the reasons that I anticipated, and not for the reasons that Apple guessed when Tim Cook described it in 2014 as:
A precise timepiece, a new intimate way to communicate from your wrist, and a comprehensive health and fitness device.
Only the description of the Apple Watch as a "health and fitness device" has proven to be true. (Just as the phone app is a pretty insignificant part of the iPhone, the "precise timepiece" description is pretty insignificant when describing the Apple Watch.) The second item, "a new intimate way to communicate" has been, up to now, the least accurate proposition about the use of the Apple Watch. Users generally found no utility in the "new intimate" ways to communicate, and they dismissed them.

Apple yesterday released the Apple Watch Series 3, which provides a cellular connection to the watch. This allows Apple to take another swing at revolutionizing communication from the wrist, by setting the Apple Watch free from its tether to the iPhone. It seems clear that this is the functionality that Apple wanted to release from the beginning, but that technology needed to catch up before they could make a cellular capable watch for the masses.

I can't overstate how big this development is for the Watch, and I can't disagree more with Farhad Manjoo in the New York Times:
The cellular version completes a long-term vision for the Watch — to liberate you, in some small way, from Apple’s best-selling phone. In a demo, an Apple employee made a live call to the keynote address from a paddle board in the middle of a lake.
This is a slightly risky strategy, of course; Apple doesn’t want to kill its golden iPhone goose. But the new cellular watch is unlikely to be a replacement for the phone, just a high-priced complement.
The reason I disagree with Manjoo is because Apple is happy to kill its golden iPhone goose. It happily let the iPhone kill the iPod, is happy for iPads to kill MacBook Pros, is happy for Apple Music to cannibalize song download sales. If the market is going to move on to something new (and it always does, eventually), then Apple will actively hasten the old product's demise, by investing in the new.

And I can't overstate how big this development is because it points the direction for the watch to take over from the phone. Not just the Apple Watch taking over from the iPhone, but the connected watch overtaking the phone as the essential connectivity device. Captain Picard didn't carry around a PADD all the time, but he always had his communicator on his shirt. In this (and in so many things), we can learn a lot from Star Trek.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Apple event September 12, 2017, focused on AR and VR

According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple will hold its (basically) annual iPhone announcement on September 12.

From the rumor mill, they will release three versions of the iPhone: super special (no name, yet), 7S Plus, and 7S.

They are also rumored to release an Apple Watch with a cellular connection, so that it no longer needs the iPhone to stay connected.

It also sounds like they might update the Apple TV hardware to handle 4K video. Though this rumor is popular, I'm not sure it has been connected to the September 12 event. Apple TV isn't important enough to have its own event, though, so unless they want to also have an October event with new Macs or something else, it seems like they will probably release it September 12.

I'm most excited about this event because of Apple's focus on Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Apple's June WWDC keynote is usually a harbinger of the hardware that will be announced in September. Apple can't spring software on developers, so Apple announces and discusses the pre-release software in June, and then come September, they release beautiful hardware to do awesome things with the software (1).

At the June WWDC, Apple heavily focused on AR and VR software. So much so that almost everyone expects some announcement of hardware focused on AR and VR. It seems like this hardware will probably be some type of custom chip to better handle AR and VR without killing the iPhone battery. More exciting, though a lot less likely, would be some new product, like VR goggles or AR glasses, that accelerate Apple's somewhat belated entry into the fields. The supply chain is so extensive, though, that it doesn't seem like there will be any product like this, since we haven't heard any rumors about it.

I'm also interested to see updates on the products that Apple has already announced, but which won't be ready for release at the September event, namely, the HomePod (and to a lesser extent, the iMac Pro). Fingers crossed we get an update that everything is on track. The previously announced release date of December puts customers in a weird place, since Christmas shoppers don't know if they should wait for the HomePod or buy other presents. Ideally for customers (and if Apple wants to sell a boatload for Christmas), Apple will refine the release date to December 1, but my guess is that Apple isn't confident enough to say that (if they were, they'd probably have them out for Black Friday.)

Oh well, only about a week to wait to have at least a few questions answered.

(1) Of course, this isn't a hard and fast rule. From WWDC, it seems like Apple wasn't going to make many updates to the Apple Watch. As a customer who is eagerly awaiting a cell-connected Apple Watch, I was hoping to get at least a hint from WWDC that the watch would be updated, but instead I found out that I could get a Buzz Lightyear watch face. If the rumors are true that Apple will release a cell-capable watch, I'd argue that WWDC didn't betray the surprise at all.