Now that Apple Watch has been formally announced, the product is receiving mixed reviews from the critics. Many question if consumers really need a smartwatch in addition to a smartphone -- and this sounds like a reasonable critique since Apple Watch needs to be paired with an iPhone. Besides, other smartwatches in the market have not gained a lot of traction so far.
However, in a recent interview with Fast Company, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) CEO Tim Cook provided an interesting perspective as to why these critiques may be dead wrong. Tim Cook is as bullish as ever on Apple Watch, and he explained how the device was conceived and built under the philosophy that Steve Jobs ingrained on Apple.
The first smartwatch that matters
Apple has an amazing track record of success when it comes to disrupting different industries and popularizing niche products as devices for the masses. Interestingly, the company was not the first to enter categories such as MP3 players, smartphones, or tablets, but it was still the most innovative and visionary player in those categories.
Apple is not about getting there first, the company cares about building the best product in the industry. In the words of Tim Cook:
We weren't first on the MP3 player; we weren't first on the tablet; we weren't first on the smartphone. But we were arguably the first modern smartphone, and we will be the first modern smartwatch -- the first one that matters.
A smartwatch is a particularly challenging product, because a small screen can be quite problematic for users. While most smartwatch competitors are using technologies such as pinch-to-zoom and other gestures that Apple popularized with the iPhone, Tim Cook believes this technology is not good enough for smartwatches.
The Apple Watch incorporates Force Touch, allowing users to press a little harder to register another input on the pressure-sensitive display. This is Apple's way of making the screen effectively bigger by adding an extra dimension on the user interface.
When it comes to Apple and its ability to differentiate its products from the competition, the devil is usually in the details. These details can make a big difference on the user experience, and this is what ultimately differentiates an exceptional product from a mediocre one.
Why do you need an Apple Watch?
One of the main negative arguments against Apple Watch is that consumers don't really need a smartwatch, as it does many of the same things they can do with a smartphone. Since Apple Watch needs to be paired with an iPhone -- it works with iPhone 5 and newer versions -- every potential Apple Watch customer is also necessarily an iPhone owner.
This is a valid critique, but Tim Cook highlights in the interview that Apple creates needs which customers do not recognize before its products are created. If recent history is any valid guide, Cook has a very solid point here:
Yes, but people didn't realize they had to have an iPod, and they really didn't realize they had to have the iPhone. And the iPad was totally panned. Critics asked, "Why do you need this?" Honestly, I don't think anything revolutionary that we have done was predicted to be a hit when released. It was only in retrospect that people could see its value. Maybe this will be received the same way.
On the legacy of Steve Jobs
Apple Watch is Apple's first foray into a new industry after the death of Steve Jobs. With this in mind, Wall Street analysts and consumers will closely scrutinize the device to evaluate if Apple still has the innovative vision and the drive to continue bringing disruptive products to the market.
Tim Cook believes these concerns are overblown. While Steve Jobs was a unique and irreplaceable person, his deepest legacy to Apple was not a particular product or strategy, but a very a very special culture.
Steve felt that most people live in a small box. They think they can't influence or change things a lot. I think he would probably call that a limited life. And more than anybody I've ever met, Steve never accepted that.
He got each of us [his top executives] to reject that philosophy. If you can do that, then you can change things. If you embrace that the things that you can do are limitless, you can put your ding in the universe. You can change the world.
He's not given credit as a teacher. But he's the best teacher I ever had by far. There was nothing traditional about him as a teacher. But he was the best. He was the absolute best. Steve's greatest contribution and gift is the company and its culture. He cared deeply about that.
According to Cook, this philosophy is at the core of Apple Watch. While Steve Jobs is not physically present at Apple any more, his vision of the world is very much alive in Apple's culture and the products that emerge from that culture.
You need a unique culture to attract exceptional people and build extraordinary products. From this point of view, maybe there is a considerable influence from Steve Jobs in Apple Watch.