Apple Watch: when a company can freeze an industry in time

Enrique Dans
Nov 10, 2014 · 3 min read

Apple’s September 9 announcement of the launch of its smartwatch in the spring of 2015 has triggered a slowing in the sales of its competitors’ devices. In the same way that “Heroes character Hiro Nakamura can control space and time, Apple seems able to manipulate the markets in the run up to the appearance of its products: the company has said that it will be producing two sizes three collections, six finishes, 18 straps, and eleven different face designs, but hasn’t bothered to tell us how long the battery will last, although everything seems to suggest the Apple Watch will need recharging every night; neither has it put a price tag on the thing, although the rumor mill is talking about $500 for the basic stainless steel model, and up to $4,000 for gold versions.

Not bad for a product that could hardly be called essential: smartwatches are bought by people who like Apple gadgets, are tech minded (or want the world to think they are), and who perhaps see the Apple Watch as part of the Apple Pay world.

Nevertheless, we are talking about a category that is predicted to sell some 100 million items by 2019, which will be worth an estimated $22.9 billion by the following year, and in which Apple has once again pursued its redefinition strategy. The first smartwatch to gain any popularity was Pebble’s, based on a Kickstarter campaignthe crowdfunding site’s most successful until a camping fridge (what could be cooler than a cooler? :-) overtook it last August. Before that, Sony and Motorola had brought models out, but they largely failed to capture the public’s imagination.

Pebble’s success on Kickstarter and its sales of almost 200,000 between its first model and the Pebble Steel were interpreted by many companies as grounds for optimism in what had been an unofficial market survey, which led to new models: aside from Sony and Motorola’s, we’ve seen Qualcomm, Qualcomm, Samsung, Archos, LG or Swatch, along with other wrist-worn devices to measure physical activity with features similar to smartwatches by Razer, Microsoft, Fitbit and others.

But a growing number of companies are now saying that sales are slowing down in the run up to the Apple Watch’s appearance. We are approaching Christmas, when sales of electronic goods normally go up, meaning that Apple’s rivals may well have to put their products into storage, which is not a good idea in an industry characterized by near-immediate obsolescence, and hope that when the Apple Watch does go on sale, it will help their sales. This will likely mean them having to significantly lower their prices, with all the concomitant problems this will bring.

What would Apple’s rivals give to be able to stop time in this way, putting the rest of the market on standby, without even bothering to provide any serious details about its product? Bearing in mind what happened with the iPod, the iPhone, or the iPad, which immediately redefined the MP3 player, the smartphone, or the tablet, Apple’s rivals seem like rabbits caught in the headlights, waiting for the worst.

Call it the fanboy effect, but there is no denying that the consumer electronics industry sets its watch, smart or otherwise, by Apple time. It is still too early to guess how the market will receive the Apple Watch, but the announcement of its forthcoming launch has already had an impact… on the quarterly results of its competitors.


(En español, aquí)

Enrique Dans

On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

    Enrique Dans

    Written by

    Professor of Innovation at IE Business School and blogger at enriquedans.com

    Enrique Dans

    On the effects of technology innovation on people, companies and society (writing in Spanish at enriquedans.com since 2003)

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