Why Apple Will Never Do a Real iWatch

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Concept for an Apple-made wristwatch
This Apple wristwatch doesn't exist -- and never will.

Ever since Apple CEO Steve Jobs casually mentioned the idea that Apple’s new iPod nano could be used as a wristwatch, well, I’ve wanted one. And so have a lot of people. A nano wristwatch aftermarket has quickly emerged to satisfy demand. But what about Apple?

Cnet’s Gordon Haff wrote a blog post this morning called “Why Apple will do a real iWatch” in which he predicts that Apple will get into the wristwatch business.

I say they won’t, and I’ll tell you why. But first let’s look at Haff’s reasoning.

In a nutshell, Haff points out that because the nano is already usable as a wristwatch, Apple wouldn’t need to do all that much to make a true wristwatch. All the company would have to do is redesign for elegance, and add a few features like Bluetooth and GPS.

He concludes that “it seems a natural path for Apple to follow as the technology allows — especially in a spot within its product line where Apple has been especially open to stylistic reinvention.”

Haff’s reasoning might apply to just about any other company, but not Apple.

Most companies spend enormous resources trying to figure out what people want in the market. When they find a potential hit, they go for it.

Apple, on the other hand, doesn’t troll the consumer electronics landscape looking for opportunities for additional revenue. That’s never how they choose to enter new markets.

Apple is unique in the industry in that it has three criteria for entering an entirely new market:

1. There are glaring problems or inadequacies among all major players in the market that can be solved by Apple’s core competency of elegant design.

2. The new market area enables Apple to control a new platform that supports an ecosystem of content, such as media or apps.

3. Both the potential market and the marketplace for content must be huge, mainstream and central to how most people live.

The iWatch idea largely fails all three criteria.

The wristwatch market is overflowing with extreme elegance. People with high standards for elegant design can satisfy their demand by choosing from among thousands of available wristwatches. Sure, there are a lot of clunky watches out there. But there really aren’t a whole lot of people walking around frustrated by their wristwatches.

Apple executives say in promotional videos that they design products that they themselves would want to use. And I believe this is true. Apple designers are probably very happy with the wristwatches they currently wear, or they’re happy not wearing one at all. Contrast this to how they probably felt about using cell phones or TVs five years ago.

Yes, the iWatch could be a platform that supports app and media content. But the ecosystem of content would never be large enough to divert Apple attention away from the truly massive ones they’re tackling elsewhere: music, TV, movies, iOS apps, books, magazines and newspapers. Sure, Apple could probably squeeze the iOS onto the watch, and enable it to run iPhone apps. But that would require a re-tooling of developer tools for Apple, and the porting of existing apps to the smaller screen for developers. And I don’t think that’s a worthwhile effort for Apple. The incremental additional apps would probably never justify the diversion of resources for Apple.

Apple has launched its incredible multi-touch iPod nano, which can be used as a wristwatch. Apple will be happy to allow hundreds of companies to transform the nano into a wristwatch with straps, cases and other accessories. But that’s as close as Apple will ever get to entering the wristwatch market.

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