On Eve Of Apple Watch Launch, History On Apple’s Side

Apple has a wee announcement tomorrow. Perhaps you’ve heard. It’s called The Apple Watch, and tomorrow’s the big day. Naturally in the days before the launch, as with past device debuts, we are hearing a range of predictions about how it will flop, be wildly successful and everything in between.

In fact, today feels a lot like the day before the iPad came out in 2010. There was a ton of speculation about it and many people (including myself, I might add), wondered why anyone would need a tablet, when they had an iPhone in their pocket. We were all wrong of course, because what we couldn’t predict was how this device would change computing forever.

When you took away the keyboard from a device with a larger touch screen, something happened that nobody expected. For consumers, the bigger touch screen gave them new ways to interact with content. For business, you could work with customers by touching and swiping and as you talked, the device melted away in a way that’s not possible with a laptop.

It went so far as to change expectations of how software works and ushered in the Consumerization of IT. As I wrote in a CITEworld article on the impact of the iPad in 2012:

“The elegance and ease of use of the device — and its amazing popularity, with more than 100 million sold in less than three years – has forced enterprise software architects to reevaluate how we interact with software.”

TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino sees a similar dynamic happening once we strap the Apple Watch to our wrists. He believes it could go so far as to change how we interact with mobile devices by keeping our phones mostly in our pockets. We will now subtly glance at our wrists instead of clumsily staring at our phones. That sounds a lot like the way the iPad changed the we work and the iPhone changed the way we think of phones.

According to NPD, Samsung has dominated the nascent smart watch market with 78 percent revenue share. Pebble is a distant second with 18 percent. SmartWatch Group reported that translated into 800,000 units sold for Samsung and 300,000 for Pebble.

As I wandered the halls of the Mobile World Congress last week, I saw lots of smart watches from phone makers and watch makers alike, but none has captured the imagination of the mass market to-date. Conventional wisdom says that if these devices haven’t made a big dent in the market, then why would Apple do better?

TechRadar went so far as to call it  a fine product that nobody needs.

That’s one way to look at it I suppose, but whether it was the MP3 player, the smart phone or the tablet, history has shown when Apple turns its attention to a device, we should probably pay attention.

It’s impossible to predict if the Apple Watch will be a hit or a miss, but it’s probably worth giving the company the benefit of the doubt. TechCrunch’s John Biggs is brave enough to predict Apple will sell a million of them in the first month

Here’s my prediction: Consider that Apple sold almost 75M iphones last quarter alone. If just 10 percent of those folks who bought iPhones last quarter buys the Apple Watch — and I don’t think that’s too bold an expectation — then Apple would sell 7.5M Watches this quarter.

Consider that over the years we have witnessed crazy, irrational loyalty from the Apple user base, lining up on sidewalks (sometimes for days) for a chance to be the first to own the latest idevice. On curiosity alone, it makes sense that there are a percentage of those customers out there who will buy this device too, and given the size of the iPhone market that would translate into millions sold.

Some will scoff of course, and will say Apple has to fail sometime and maybe the Apple Watch is where it happens. But I say Apple has too much market momentum for that to happen and even a little will go a long way. Expect another win for Apple.