At this point, Apple’s iWatch—or whatever it decides to call its forthcoming smartwatch device—had better be utterly breathtaking. Whether it’s Apple’s intention or not, the level of hype is starting to get a just a little out of hand.
Our latest example comes via this story by New York Times reporter Nick Bilton, which repeats speculation that we’ll finally see this long-rumored Apple wearable next Tuesday. But Bilton also relays the second-hand news that, according to an unnamed Apple designer, company design honcho Jony Ive has been gushing about how cool the new device is:
[Ive] gleefully said Switzerland is in trouble — though he chose a much bolder term for “trouble” to express how he thought the watchmaking nation might be in a tough predicament when Apple’s watch comes out.
What does Sir Jonathan have against the neutral and imperturbable Swiss? Surely it’s not Apple’s brief spat with the Swiss Federal Railways, which complained after the company appeared to copy the design of its 1940s-era railway clock for an iPad icon two years ago. That flap reportedly forced Apple to pay $21 million to license the design.
Now, a news report citing an unnamed source who claims to have overheard Ive isn’t exactly proof that the Apple designer believes the Swiss are completely effed. But if it’s true, Apple had better have the goods to back up Ive’s sentiment. He is, after all, the genius who gave us nauseating parallax, “flatter” design in iOS 7, and other flourishes that did not, shall we say, debut to universal acclaim.
In other respects, of course, Apple seems to appreciate the Swiss just fine. For instance, it scooped up a Swiss watch executive from TAG Heuer just last month. Perhaps he was one of the country’s rare watchmakers who doesn’t diss the smartwatch trend.
If the iWatch arrives next week, it will enter a smartwatch market that’s more crowded now than it would have been had Apple launched the device at its Worldwide Developer Conference last June.
Since then, we’ve seen Google debut a new wearables platform called Android Wear, and several smartwatches have launched or are coming soon—including the LG G, a circular LG watch, Samsung Gear Live, Samsung Gear S, the Moto 360, rainbow-colored Pebbles and the Sony Smartwatch 3. And those are just the major tech companies. Factor in the lesser known guys, such as the Meta M1, the Burg 16A and analog watch brands like Swatch, and you’re looking at a huge number of competitors.
To be fair, that’s also a lot of competitors who have so far failed to gain much more than a toehold in this nascent market. Apple is clearly counting on attracting singular attention for its offering, and it’s almost certain to succeed at that.
But that raises the stakes considerably for Apple. If it can’t make a smartwatch fly, then it’s not clear that anyone can at this point.