I normally doesn’t comment on various tech hype issues on this blog, but I will make an exception with the Apple iWatch because it is related to something I have spend a bit of time on, and where I have a personal interest: the intelligent home (& car) of the future.
There has been a lot of hype re this watch, and commentators/bloggers/journalists has pointed out it has emphasis on social communication and fitness with a bit of payment thrown in, while others has talked about it being a luxury fashion object. Well, I’m sure all of that is right, and those arguments will help to give iWatch an initial momentum the first couple of years, but I also think there is a much bigger category Apple ultimately wants to target in the 5-10 year perspective. Everybody agree, that Apple is not just launching a watch but a device that will be a platform for a future, massive business. Fitness is not a big business in the eyes of Apple, payments is pretty big, but even bigger is the category “everything-I-put-in-my-home”.
I am getting quite a good insight into the world of Construction, professionally through Geniebelt, and privately because I’m doing a bit of work on my farm. Especially the latter has made me look at how we will change the way we live in and interact with our home. For 100 years (or so …) we have gradually been adding all kinds of electric gadgets to our homes, everything from lighting bulps and practical machines (the refrigerator probably being the most important one) to entertaimnent products (TV, radio, etc.) to modern day machines connected to the internet (PC, iPad, etc.).
Now all the craze is about the internet of things, whereby we will connect everything to the internet, so we can get loads of data on our environment, machinery and home in order to live a more convenient life. How awesome, imagine that all the gadgets in your home talked to you, and you could manage them all. Control lighting in all of the house with the touch of a finger, increase ventilation/temperature a bit before getting out of bed, turn off the TV when the kids forgot to when sitting in the next room, open the door when the repair man needs to get in but you are shopping, change the music from 1Direction to Pink Floyd, start the coffee machine while still moving the lawn, turning off the alarm before going downstairs in the morning, etc, etc. – endless use cases.
I am obviously not the first to spot this trend, but the question I have asked my self the last year is, how should I manage all these connected devices and sensors? The first answer would be “your smartphone”. Well, yes – and no! When I’m at work, I sit with my iPhone (just got my new iPhone 6, love it) and it is always within reach, just in case some very important person called me to say very important things. However, when I’m home, then I’m home and don’t want to be a slave of the phone. It might be on another floor than me, and definitely in another room. So, it is not convenient for me to use my phone to manage all my home gadgetry – it’s no better than getting up from the couch and walk to the light switch/try to find the TV remote controller/go to the Spotify speaker/etc.
But, if I had a watch on my arm, that would all be very different. I would in most cases be ok to wear a watch at home, very different than running around constantly with the in-size-ever-increasing smart phones. I think ultimately this is a key use case that Apple is gunning for. The interface needed to manage pretty much any device and sensor can be fitted to an iWatch. Look at the remote control for the Apple TV – isn’t that already perfectly designed to the iWatch?
From Apple’s perspective, the calculation goes like this: we are the most valuable company in the history of mankind, so how can we grow even bigger in a meaningful way? They need to address absolutely huge markets in order to move the needle, so putting together a cunning plan to be the platform for the intelligent home of the future sounds about right. And throw in the ability to also operate your car using an Apple platform plus some payments etc. and they are pretty much only missing energy, weapons and drugs.
This is a very long term vision for Apple, and it does take the power and stamina of a company like Apple to pursue such a vision. It will take a long time and lots of investments before Philips Hue lighting systems, Samsung smart fridges, Danfoss thermostats, Nilan ventilation , big Sony’s full-monty-system or small Form’s smart sensor and a few thousand other companies accept Apple is the gatekeeper to their products and services. But the watch idea is solid, and it makes sense to get started early on, and avoid positioning the watch right now as the interface to your home, because that position would disappoint consumers. The key thing for Apple is to 1) start building a general use case for the iWatch, while 2) working hard on getting a lot of partners onto their platform – something they tend to be pretty good at. Gradually the brand and use case is being build with a position in the upper end of the market at first, apps are being developed by the relevant suppliers and Apple is building momentum as the platform to integrate all the stuff you want to interact – including all the devices in our home, which as an aber-dabei will be much more than people realise today, e.g. the intelligent toilet to check your healt status. And in the beginning it is anyway mainly affluent people who are going to invest in this stuff for the house, so price points at $500 and up makes sense.
I think – and hope – that this is an integral part of the real plan behind Apple’s big push behind a product category, which in it self is tiny compared to phones & computers. This is not about watches, fitness or luxury products, it’s the first major assault from Apple’s side in the future battle to run your house and all its smart devices. This will be fun and interesting to watch. And “no”, I don’t own any Apple shares.