Johnny Ive and Marc Newsom had a beer

In their usual great way Ben Thompson and James Allworth on their podcast episode Is That an Echo? walked through the positioning of the Apple Watch and tried to pull apart why it tries to be a 3-in-one like the iPhone rather than a satelite to it making the phone more useful.

Ben pointed out that big companies fail because incentives misallign or processes fail which can happend more the bigger the organisation. Supposedly the timing was imperfect. Either make a single job device at a lower price point and release it a.s.a.p. or a new center-of-universe device and make it solid releasing it in time for the iPhone to peak so it can be the new star to shine.

I had two observations about this chat that I thought to share.

First; After Steve Jobs passed perhaps the central stars in the Apple universe are not so focused on product positioning in a jobs-to-be-done kind of way. Cook might be looking more at product spread and the lifecycle of a family of differently sized media devices from Mac Pro down to Apple Watch. Johnny Ive might be looking at getting the products to feel right instinctively, adding hardware and software delight.

Second; I’d bet that Marc Newsom having designed several watches before went for a beer with his buddy. They were talking about how nicely crafted Swiss watches are, and commiserated about why they were stuck in a pre-digital era. One of them commented that there are so many technical opportunities with new sensors, the other remarked about the ability to change the interface to fit the use case.

So they decided to prototype what the watch would be like using all the opportunities we have with modern hardware. As it matured into a product design they removed features that were not yet ready, possible due to regulation or too expensive. My simple suggestion is that this is a product sketched by a small group of people not by a large company.

Of course this is pure speculation, but none-the-less a reminder that in the end it’s just people and we do many things without starting out with a clever strategy.