To be honest, I won’t be surprised if Apple does not announce an iWatch today. The concept of an iWatch has been largely driven by competitors picking up rumors, starting their own development programs to create wearable wrist-based computers, and the media picking up on those devices, comparing them to each other only to state the obvious:
The market for such devices has not been created yet.
Sure, there are various small devices available today in the wearable computing segment. These can be accounted to the gadgets category: they are fun products for enthusiasts, which could be generously described as a geek market. It’s by far not ready for mass consumption. Apple has proven of course that it can create and establish entire market sections that didn’t exist before, starting with the original Macintosh, the iPhone and the iPad. With the iPod they didn’t create a market, but they took a very tiny segment and implemented it in a way that found immediate traction with consumers.
In fact, the iPod introduction was Apple’s first serious foray (earlier gaming and TV devices not accounted) into a lifestlye electronics mass consumer market, beyond regular pro, desktop and laptop computing.
And this is the mistake people make when they talk about Apple today. They still see the computer company that also makes music players, tablets and phones. This is clearly not Apple’s perspective. I believe Apple’s product strategy spans much wider, it doesn’t stem from a thought model of “people buying electronic devices”. It begins with the thought of how design improves people’s lives. And with design they don’t mean just how great it looks, they mean how great it works.
Apple may make a big step into wearable computing today. In doing so, they will not introduce yet another smartwatch, just like they wouldn’t introduce yet another Internet ready TV. Apple doesn’t work this way. They are looking at the market, sure, when they are expanding on product categories. But when they are thinking about new products, they think people first. They don’t see consumers, they see people and how they live and work. They look at their passions, at what excites them and what seriously improves their lives.
There is this ongoing mocking of Silicon Valley start-ups, claiming that they all want to improve people’s lives. This running gag doesn’t come out of nowhere. It basically started when Apple introduced this mantra and everyone began to follow it. Isn’t that what we all want, an improved life? The wave of start-ups with seemingly fresh ideas failing to achieve what they believe in gives you an idea of how hard it is today to really innovate.
Of course, achieving innovation as a company even as big as Apple, with many stakeholder’s interests virtually at stake, this isn’t a trivial task either. Everyone seems to be worried if Apple is still innovative under Tim Cook. That’s the wrong kind of question. Apple was always innovative, it was its management in the past that changed and either stiffled or promoted Apple’s innovation spirit. Apple has not reached it’s peak in innovation, its very nature prevents any hill or peak. Expansion doesn’t mean just growth for Apple, it means steady internal improvement.
As some people have pointed out, the fashion factor does play an important role, but I think that factor is overhyped. If Apple did its homework, they are aware that there is no mass market for watches anymore. It may be that the new device (or one of them) will be a wrist-based wearable device, which would work pretty much like a watch and maybe even shows the time. But thinking that wearable = fashion is a narrow-sighted simplification.
The main hurdle with the upcoming wearable computing market won’t be the question if it’s fashionable. Partnerships with designers and brands will help. How I look wearing something is undeniably important. But there is another, even more important layer added to wearable computing, and that is how well it fits in our life. What does it add we find indispensable after we use it?
A watch is dispensable. A phone on your wrist, or even a “smart iPod like device” on your wrist that counts your steps, is equally dispensable.
A device that integrates with a home device, with your iCloud account, joining data to enable platforms such as a unified, life long health-tracking system that ties in with insurances and the medical system—this comes closer to a future ecosystem that at some point could become indispensable. And that’s just one side of it.
The devices Apple will introduce today, whatever they may be, a new TV experience or a foray into wearable computing—they will define new categories in themselves. They will take what we thought something is (like an iWatch) and turn it into something entirely new. Don’t underestimate Apple’s strength when it comes to endure extremely long research and development processes, to come out with something that is really different.
(Image: Apple website screenshot)
FastCo.Design is a bit yellow press, often going with a populist mainstream opinion and bashing Apple where they can.
Recently they asked renowned type designer Tobias Frere Jones about his opinion on Apple’s decision to switch from Lucida Grande to Helvetica Neue as a system font:
Apple’s desktop and mobile operating systems have been gradually converging for some time. So it was inevitable that one typographic palette would displace the other. With OS X 10.10, Mac desktops will sport Helvetica everywhere. But I had really hoped it would be the other way around, with the iPhone taking a lesson from the desktop, and adopt Lucida Grande. Check the lock screen on your iPhone. You’ll see Helvetica there, a half-inch tall or larger, and it looks good. Problem is, there aren’t many other places where it looks as good.
Despite its grand reputation, Helvetica can’t do everything. It works well in big sizes, but it can be really weak in small sizes. Shapes like ‘C’ and ‘S’ curl back into themselves, leaving tight “apertures”–the channels of white between a letter’s interior and exterior. So each shape halts the eye again and again, rather than ushering it along the line. The lowercase ‘e,’ the most common letter in English and many other languages, takes an especially unobliging form. These and other letters can be a pixel away from being some other letter, and we’re left to deal with flickers of doubt as we read.
Lucida Grande presents open apertures, inviting the eye to move along sideways through the text. It has worked really well–for years, and for good reason. For any text, but particularly in interfaces, our eyes need typefaces that cooperate rather than resist. A super-sharp Retina Display might help, but the real issue is the human eye, and I haven’t heard of any upgrades on the way.
I think he has a point there.
FontShop has announced it has been acquired by Monotype. In the company’s press statement, the headline says FontShop has “joined Monotype”. Monotype’s statement is a little less romanticising.
From my point of view it was only a matter of time for FontShop to struggle as a company. FontShop was founded in the early nineties and grew big the now faded age of Desktop Publishing. Once a legend in its field, FontShop missed the opportunity to adapt, or even lead the digital revolution as the primary usage of fonts moved from paper to screen. It failed to innovate in areas of screen rendering, hinting and responsive typography. TypeKit, Webtype, Linotype’s Fonts, Google Fonts and lastly Typography.com from H&Co. stole the thunder in terms of innovation and economic efficiency.
(Photo: FontShop Blog)
Google sent me an email today, about a domain I have used with Google apps two years ago. About one and a half years ago I transferred this domain to a different registrar and my site is now hosted by a different host.
But that doesn’t stop Google from assuming and insisting on that this domain is still maintained and managed by Google. They could easily find out from the data they already have. But no, it’s easier to handle customers with a one-size-fits-all script launching an email, confusing them about a domain name that is no longer registered with Google services.
Google’s position is: you haven’t been active with this domain, so we wonder if you still want to have it. Let me break it to you Google: that domain moved out one and a half years ago.
And the content of this email is even more ridiculous: “Please let us know if you want to continue your Google Apps domain”. Well, I would let you know. If I had a way. But it turns out there is no way for a dialogue. It would have really surprised me if there was, because Google always treats customers like that. They start monologues with technical options, where you can click buttons and communicate with a system, but not with humans.
Before our eyes Google is becoming the most inhumane technology company out there. Even with Cisco, Microsoft, or Apple you can engage a dialogue if you really want to, on various levels of customer support and feedback channels. Try that with Google. Try to talk to anyone, you run into walls.
There is a different way. Look at Amazon, who successfully launched a new service where you can call them directly and have a one-to-one video chat with someone. Of course these are trained support staff, but still, you are “talking with Amazon”.
With Google your only option is to make a post on Google+ and include the respective “help account” Google provides for most of its services. And sometimes you actually get a reply there. But it is always about instructions on how to do activate, deactivate, export or combine data. It isn’t a human interaction where they are listening and conversing with you in a way that builds trust.
Google is not a conversation company. It is a monologue company.
That shouldn’t come to a surprise to most of you, but it’s worth acknowledging that this anti-communicative habit, this systemic dissociation, is increasing with the rate of Google’s growth.
And then they are wondering why people are not really trusting them anymore with their data. A company who has no dialogue culture whatsoever with their audience is turning into a selfish, narcissist corporation. Those are not really the kind for which people find love in their heart.
(Photo: Gerard Massey, Flickr
Here is a thumb rule for all start-ups, all app makers, mobile, Web or desktop: Just because you need my email address to create a user account does not give you the right to use this address for advertising.
It’s called permission marketing, people. When a user opens an account with your service or app, you need to ask for their permission for using their email information for marketing purposes. Make your intentions clear before using their information for your marketing. Don’t call them product updates, news or offers. Marketing is the right word.
No matter how great your product is, how good your intentions are, or how friendly your staff is; if you don’t follow this rule, people getting your marketing email will think “When did I subscribe to this?” and immediately unsubscribe.
You turn a potential opportunity into a negative experience. Will this user subscribe again? Realistically, chances are pretty low.