(You're reading all posts by Leander Kahney)Leander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney.
About Leander Kahney
All week, it’s been reported that Apple is using a “new gold” in the gold Apple Watch Edition. According to Bloomberg, Slate, Gizmodo and many others, Apple has patented a new process to create a “metal matrix composite” by mixing gold with ceramic particles.
The composite supposedly allows Apple to save on the amount of gold it uses, while making the substance super-hard and adding other amazing properties.
But according to Atakan Peker, a materials scientist and one of the co-inventors of Liquidmetal, which Apple holds an exclusive license on, it’s extremely unlikely Apple is using any kind of “new gold” for its watches.
He knows this because Jony Ive says so.
It’s taken all week, but I finally think I have a pretty good idea why Apple is selling a crazy-expensive, super-exclusive gold watch.
Initially, the very idea that Apple would make something for the one percent seemed abhorrent. What makes Apple great is that it sells affordable luxury to the masses.
Apple’s well-designed and well-made products should really only be for the rich, but they are generally affordable to the middle classes. Apple pulls off the miraculous, selling us BMWs at Kia prices.
This is what makes the gold Apple Watch Edition stand out. At first glance, it’s obviously not a product for us. But even though you and I will probably never own one, the $10,000 timepiece is actually kinda democratic, because it’s all about selling $350 watches to the masses.
We all know that professional industry analysts often say the darndest things, but the Apple Watch has unleashed some truly muddleheaded commentary, especially from people who get paid to know better.
There are the customary and entirely predictable predictions that the Watch will fail — just as the pundits predicted the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad would bomb. This kind of commentary is so knee-jerk and silly, it’s best to just ignore. But then there’s a higher tier of analysis that says the Watch’s success depends on apps (duh, yeah) or the device’s potential for upgrades (completely wrong).
I’m interested in smarter takes on Apple’s strategy, pricing and marketing. Surprisingly, some of the most insightful commentary I’ve seen is on reddit — known generally as a salty hangout for spotty teens and weirdos. Here are some key points outlined by reddit users.
The tech world is completely aghast at the price of the gold Apple Watch Edition, which starts at $10,000 but is more likely to set buyers back $17,000 (plus tax!).
The pricing is baking everyone’s noodles. We can’t wrap our heads around a super-expensive watch that will soon be obsolete and is functionally identical to a $350 model. This is not how tech works.
But that’s the point. I wrote how the high-end Apple Watch winds me up — I argued that its very existence is antithetical to Apple’s democratic values. But after further research, it’s obvious that Apple knows exactly what it’s doing, and it’s very smart — even if I still don’t like the gold watch’s enormous price tag.
The Apple Watch Edition is a classic Veblen product. The outrageous price is the whole point. And the higher it gets, the more of them Apple will sell. It might even be priced too low.
When Steve jobs co-founded Apple, his vision was to democratize technology.
At the time, computers were for governments and rich corporations. Jobs wanted everyone to have their own computer — a crazy idea back in the ’70s. The slogan for the original Macintosh was “the computer for the rest of us.”
For the next 30 years, Jobs worked hard to realize that mission. Although Apple has never made the cheapest computers, in general, the trend has been cheaper and more accessible, from the Mac to the iPhone. For most people, Apple’s products are largely affordable.
This is why the gold Apple Watch Edition — which starts at $10,000 — bugs me. It’s not a watch for the rest of us. It’s a watch for everyone but us. It’s a watch for the one percent.
The mysterious Apple minivans roaming the roads in California, Florida and elsewhere are generally assumed to be self-driving cars, but they are not. They are almost undoubtedly collecting data for maps.
They are “almost certainly a mapping vehicle,” said Paul Godsmark, chief technology officer with the Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence, who examined photos of the mystery vehicles at Cult of Mac’s request.
People are calling The New Yorker profile of Jony Ive the most important thing written about Apple in quite a while, and I’d have to concur.
Not only is it full of fascinating details, it puts Ive at the center of Apple, where he belongs. As the piece’s author, Ian Parker, writes: “More than ever, Ive is the company.”
This is something that’s been true for a couple decades, but still isn’t apparent to most people — even veteran Apple watchers. Such is the company’s secrecy, and the tendency of the public to equate everything Apple does with Steve Jobs, that the true story has yet to be told. Ive has not gotten the credit he deserves.
Johann Jungwirth is a new Apple employee with one of the world’s most unbelievable job titles.
Until the middle of last year, Jungwirth headed up the big Mercedes-Benz R&D facility in Silicon Valley that, among other things, is responsible for the futuristic self-driving car you see below. (The astonishing Mercedes F 015 is very real, BTW).
Jungwirth was hired by Apple last September and given the title of “Director of Mac Systems Engineering,” according to his LinkedIn page. The title appears to be total hogwash. Jungwirth spent his entire 20-year career working on connected cars, not computers.
Apple is famous for obfuscating about its new hires to throw off competitors and journalists, and the company is reportedly working on a top-secret electric car. If Apple is interested in the stuff Jungwirth has worked on, it’s going to be a wild ride.
Apple has set up a top-secret automobile R&D lab and is recruiting experts to possibly build a car, the Financial Times reports.
The lab is in a secret location away from Apple’s HQ. Apple recently hired the head of Mercedes-Benz’s Silicon Valley R&D unit, and has staffed the new lab with “experienced managers from its iPhone unit,” the Times says.
“Three months ago I would have said it was CarPlay,” said one of FT‘s sources. “Today I think it’s a car.”
As rumors that Apple is making a self-driving car rev up, a peek under the hood of the company’s famed Industrial Design studio reveals a crew of talented automobile designers.
An interest in futuristic cars is embedded deep within the DNA of Apple’s vaunted design team. Working under Jony Ive, Apple employs designers who worked on several fantastic concept cars, including a fabric-covered BMW that shifts shape depending on speed.
Ive has long been obsessed by cars. (He has quite a stable.) As a teenager, Ive wanted to be a car designer. He visited a U.K. design school that specialized in automotives with a view to studying there, but he found the other students too weird. They were making “vroom vroom” noises as they sketched. Instead, he went to Newcastle Polytechnic (which has since been renamed Northumbria University).
A look at other key members of Apple’s design team, and at a super-secret research-and-development facility planned for the company’s new campus, offers a few clues about how Cupertino might go about producing innovative and unconventional cars.