In 2010, John Gruber wrote an article for Macworld called This is How Apple Rolls:
They take something small, simple, and painstakingly well considered. They ruthlessly cut features to derive the absolute minimum core product they can start with. They polish those features to a shiny intensity. At an anticipated media event, Apple reveals this core product as its Next Big Thing, and explains—no, wait, it simply shows—how painstakingly thoughtful and well designed this core product is. The company releases the product for sale.
Then everyone goes back to Cupertino and rolls. As in, they start with a few tightly packed snowballs and then roll them in more snow to pick up mass until they’ve got a snowman. That’s how Apple builds its platforms. It’s a slow and steady process of continuous iterative improvement—so slow, in fact, that the process is easy to overlook if you’re observing it in real time. Only in hindsight is it obvious just how remarkable Apple’s platform development process is.
I really like the idea of a Wearable generally, and I think the Apple Watch looks fantastic. But when it comes to software I’m concerned that Apple got away from this powerful process. That was at the root of my concern in Apple Watch: Asking Why and Saying No. As a follow-up to that article, I wrote in my subscriber-only Daily Update how I thought Tim Cook should have introduced the Watch:
If you’ll forgive my presumptiveness, this is what I would have liked to hear:
There is one more thing.
We just showed you the best phones ever. They are bigger in every way, allowing you to do more than ever before. But sometimes you want to do less.
For example, suppose you are walking to a place you haven’t been before; you don’t want to look at a phone screen, you simply want to know where to go.
Or maybe for you the iPhone is your primary computer, so you buy the new iPhone 6 Plus, and you keep it in your bag. How, then, do you ensure you don’t miss that important call, or quickly respond to a text? Perhaps you are at the park with your children, or out to eat with your partner. You want to stay in that moment, with those you care about, yet still be reachable.
I just showed you Apple Pay with an iPhone, but even then you still need to get something out of your pocket or purse. What if there were something even more convenient and natural?
For me, fitness is really important, but an iPhone, even with our new M8 chip, is at best a blunt instrument for tracking your fitness and health. Wouldn’t it be better to have something that was always on you, even while exercising?
For our customers, the iPhone is their life: where they work, play, and everything in between. But all of us have just a few people that mean so much more, to whom we are as close as can be even if we are miles apart. What if we could connect with those most important to us in a much more personal way?
We love the iPhone; it’s the best phone on the planet, and it lets you do almost anything. But, for just a few key things, we think there is a better way. A better product, one that is the next chapter in the Apple Story.
And then, a demo of these five use cases, and nothing else, with a clear emphasis that the Watch makes the iPhone better by doing just a couple of things really well, and looks absolutely fantastic to boot. No searching for movies, no SDK, just a simple and compelling reason to exist, with the patience to know that all of the other good ideas – and apps – will come to the platform in due course.
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On the latest episode of Exponent, the podcast I co-host with James Allworth, we go deep on this same point: why is Apple trying to do so much with Watch, and obscuring the parts that are truly remarkable?
Plus, luxury in Asia and console follow-up. You can listen to the episode here.