Today in Apple history: It’s time for Apple Watch

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Get your Apple Watch ready for the new iPhone.
The Apple Watch is the first major new product launch of the post-Steve Jobs era.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

April 24: Today in Apple history: Apple Watch launch date April 24, 2015: It’s time for the official release of the Apple Watch, the wearable device Tim Cook describes as the “next chapter in Apple history.”

Fans, having endured a seven-month wait since the device’s unveiling at a keynote the previous September, can finally strap an Apple Watch onto their wrists. Behind the scenes, however, the Apple Watch launch is a moment long in the making.

Apple Watch: A post-Steve Jobs device

Given that Steve Jobs died in October 2011 and the Apple Watch came out in 2015, it wasn’t the first post-Jobs Apple device by any stretch of the imagination. It was, however, the first major new product line to launch in the post-Jobs era.

In this way, Apple Watch was something like the Newton MessagePad, the post-Jobs device shepherded through production by John Sculley in the 1990s.

Just as the Newton reflected the tech industry’s first tentative steps toward embracing mobile computing in the 1990s, the Apple Watch reflected a later shift: the arrival of wearables.

“There was a sense that technology was going to move onto the body,” Alan Dye, the man in charge of Apple’s human interface group, told Wired. “We felt like the natural place, the place that had historical relevance and significance, was the wrist.”

Did Steve Jobs know about Apple Watch?

There’s a bit of confusion as to whether Jobs was involved in the early stages of the Watch’s development. The aforementioned Wired article claims that Apple design chief Jony Ive only thought about an Apple-branded watch after Jobs’ death. However, Tim Bajarin — an Apple analyst who, unlike many analysts, actually knew Jobs for more than three decades — said, “Steve was aware of the Watch” and “didn’t nix it as a product.”

Conceptualization of the Apple Watch took place around the time that Apple engineers were busy working on iOS 7. After that, it developed as a product. Apple recruited various smart-sensor experts to create a product that would offer something fundamentally different from the iPhone.

Apple Watch also marked an attempt by Apple to become more of a luxury company. Going back to the company’s earliest days, Apple drew parallels between its computers and aspirational goods like high-end cars.

However, decisions like making a $17,000 Apple Watch Edition and showing off the device at Paris Fashion Week marked a strategy shift that embraced high-end fashion in a way Apple hadn’t overtly done before.

Apple Watch launch is the start of something big

Apple first showed off its smartwatch during a September 9, 2014, media event, during which the company debuted the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The event took place at The Flint Center for the Performing Arts in Cupertino, California. That’s where Jobs debuted the first Mac in 1984 and the Bondi Blue iMac G3 in 1998.

Three years after the Apple Watch debut, it still is not the breakout product either of those machines were. However, it remains a big hit in its own right. Apple refuses to release Apple Watch sales numbers, but regularly talks up the wearable’s high satisfaction rate among early adopters.

With more iPhone independence in the latest model, it finally feels like its own device and not so much an iPhone accessory. Still, Apple Watch could really benefit if Apple truly cut the cord.

What’s your take on Apple Watch?

What’s your view of the Apple Watch at this point? Are you a loyal customer, who couldn’t do without Apple’s wearable? Or do you think this has been a misstep that’s failed to recapture the magic of previous product launches? Leave your comments below.