The Apple Watch — Three Dot Lounge for April 9, 2015

Three dot lounge is a recurring collection of things that deserve more than a retweet. Stay tuned for fascinating opinions and pithy commentary. Also keep an eye on my Twitter feed for more interesting stuff.

The Apple Watch

At midnight tonight like a lot of Apple Geeks I’m going to log on to Apple’s store and try to buy an Apple watch. For the record, I’m going with the low end version but buying a second, more expensive band to go with it.

Why am I buying it? Because I want to take advantage of being able to wear a fitness tracker on my wrist, because I’ve found that my old Fitbit is too easy to lose or forget, and I love the tracking capabilities of the iPhone 6, but on a practical basis, as I move around the house, I won’t pick it up and carry it so a lot of activity gets lost. The watch will (hopefully) solve that problem for me.

I’m also terribly curious what other problems it will solve for me, but I’m not expecting or depending on any of them. I’m also just as curious what problems it will create for me.

This is a version 1 product. There are a lot of applications pushing releases out to support it; I expect a lot of those will go sideways or simply be off and will get revised and improved quickly — the first two or three months of the watch will be fascinating, and I don’t know if I can really judge or review the watch until that time passes. The watch on day 1 won’t be the watch in July, and I really want to see how developers adapt their initial ideas as they get to use and live with the watch and get feedback from early adopters.

I think the watch is a big thing. I think it’s very different than other Apple products and I think it will redefine Apple in ways most of us can’t conceive of (but Tim Cook has). For one thing, I think people worrying about upgrades of the watch are wrong — since this device is effectively a thin client with little processing beyond making the screen work, the things driving the typical upgrade cycle of the phone or computer doesn’t really exist. A lot of the upgraded capability for the device will be upgrades to software on the phone, so I expect people will hold onto watches longer — upgrade cycles more like iPads than iPhones, and that’s a good thing. The refresh cycle we’ve seen on the phones has to slow down, too, and I think that’s starting now that the hardware is maturing. This will drive the geeks crazy, but it’s good for the market over the long term and easier on developers that struggle to keep current.

To me, then, the watch isn’t just a new product but a new chapter for Apple, one that hasn’t really been considered by the pundits very much. For me, personally, I’m looking forward to not having to remember to grab my phone, at least for casual moving around — and eventually, it wouldn’t surprise me at all that the phone goes away as an interface and perhaps never leaves the pocket or bag in favor of whatever thing clients you want ot carry and connect: imagine instead of having a phone and iPad, you have a computing device and an iPad-sized screen and a pocket-sized screen and a wrist screen all connecting to that same device. It’d be cheaper overall and create interesting new leverage points. The watch is the first step towards that possibility to me.

[update the next morning: I ended up holding off buying one. Why? Sizing. I have a large wrist and double-checking the sizing charts, I realized the band I was most interested in (Milanese Loop) was likely too small, and the sport band listing was very close to being too small: my wrist is 215mm right now, and the only band that officially supports that is the classic clasp. So… before I buy, I need to schedule in a visit to try it on for fit and to see which ones I can wear (and possible modify to better fit) before I make a decision what band(s) to buy. The joy of massive bone structures… That shipping pushed out eight weeks almost immediately made it easy to decide I could wait a bit to go in and try the fitting… That the fitting reservation system crashed on me multiple times made going to sleep a smart thing — and then my 8AM meeting got cancelled this morning…

So I’m probably a couple of weeks from trying it out, and maybe not actually having it for a couple of months, unless something changes. And there’s a good chance I’ll have to modify the sport band to give it a bit more room for a comfortable fit, but that’s actually a fairly common thing with me and watches — chuq]

The New Macbook

The new Macbook is an interesting beast. It’s been compared a lot to the first Macbook Air with good reason — but it also reminds me a lot of the first macintosh to not use ADB and instead support USB — that was an iMac in 1998. A lot of the commentary is similar and I think the ultimate result will be the same, in that once we get through the first couple of machines, it will all be a a big non-issue.

I’m not close to replacing my existing system so I’m unlikely to buy this machine, but I admit to being intrigued by it. My preferred setup for a long time has been to live on a single machine, currently a MacBook pro 15″ that when I’m at home it’s attached to a dock which attaches it to disks and devices and a nice big monitor. That way, I don’t have to worry about making sure the right data is on the right machine when I’m out on the road or off to a meeting or a coffee house to work.

That said, when I took my last trip, I noticed just how heavy that machine made my pack, once I’d loaded in my Fuji camera, an iPad, etc. And that made me realize that for most of what I do on the road, a Macbook Air type machine would work just great.

This new Macbook has made me think what my computing setup ought to be in the next generation, and when I do refresh my gear, it’ll almost definitely be some kind of light and portable Macbook and a more permanent home computer with some processing power for heavy photo and video work. There really isn’t a perfect machine in Apple’s line for that yet — the iMac 4K won’t act as a monitor to a second computer, the Minis are underpowered, and the MacBook Pros feel like overkill. Hopefully by the time I’m ready Apple will have filled in the missing piece one way or another (I’d love a beefed up Mini, personally, but Apple’s made it seem like the feal future is in the iMac — I expect a future generation will ahve the connectivity I want, or I’ll have a good software option)

I think this new MacBook is a nice Road Warrior machine. More importantly, when Apple makes significant architectural changes like this, the first generation is generally this kind of machine, which seems aimed as much to pointing the third parties like Belkin at the future so that when the next machine hits, the accessory ecosystem has caught up to it. This machine is best suited to people who don’t need a lot of the devices some of us use — but it’ll get those devices out there by the time the next machines show up. We’re already starting to see the hubs and cables showing, and I think there’s a lot of opportunity here — so check back in six months. I sure will.

Until then, if you’re a road warrior who’s more an email and keynote kind of person, I think this is a killer machine…

The Apple TV

There’s been some disappointment at the slow speed of upgrades to the Apple TV. Apple has always guided to caution, being careful to define it as an interesting hobby. But recently they announced HBO Now and reduced the price to the existing unit.

The challenge here is that what matters for the success of the device is relationships and agreements with the media companies and not technology, and until those agreements are in place, major changes to the unit arne’t really relevant. There’s very little reason to put a V8 engine in a golf cart.

It looks like the media companies have realized the cable cutters, especially the under 30 group, aren’t coming back and won’t be channeled into existing product lines, and these companies have two choices: lose them completely or change their business to follow where this new generation of customers is headed. it looks like — finally — the important ones have chosen the latter, and change is coming to this landscape.

And with that, this latest set of moves by Apple is telegraphing that they’re going to be a player in that change. I expect an itneresting new device out later this year, probably announced at WWDC, because this device really deserves to have an App Store and really needs developers to make it interesting, because on top of streaming in your favorite media content, there’s absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t let you play games as well. Maybe not hardcore games like the Playstation 4 (but why not?) but at least more casual stuff, plus more typical apps. I expect it’ll be IOS-based, and I’ll be an early adopter because this concept was something I was arguing for even before I left Mama Fruit almost a decade ago. It’s taken that long for this market to mature to the point where it makes sense to make it more than a hobby, but that time seems to be almost at hand.

Finally. (he says non-ironically)