I love checking out new technology, part of the allure is the consideration of how the lives of folks who are barely making ends meet will eventually improve when those devices become ubiquitous and price appropriate. So you can imagine I was initially floored when I saw the prices of iWatch exceed the actual cost of my current car. There are watches right now on the market that have literally more sensors (admittedly not as lovely) and come in at a more accessible price (much less than $300).
Apple has produced some of the highest quality hardware and software combinations the masses have ever seen, not high end, but expensive enough to make you want to fully appreciate what you are getting. So what’s the deal here? What is this beloved company trying to accomplish by producing devices that are out of the range of all but the richest people on the planet? I think this is about making technology, more than technology [I know that sounds a bit like existential ravings but bear with me]. We have long since reached a point where our devices are more than utilitarian. In the way that we rarely make choices about what we wear based purely on the idea of keeping warm or covering our nakedness. Apple is attempting position the devices as aspirational, artistic, and even cultural.
I remember a colleague once fiercely insisting that we actually do not choose what we buy, that the choice in most cases has been made a long time ago. we simply fit into the categories assigned to us. Reminds me of a quote from the fashion executive played by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada (emphasis mine):
Miranda Priestly: [Miranda and some assistants are deciding between two similar belts for an outfit. Andy sniggers because she thinks they look exactly the same] Something funny?
Andy Sachs: No. No, no. Nothing's... You know, it's just that both those belts look exactly the same to me. You know, I'm still learning about all this stuff and, uh...
Miranda Priestly: 'This... stuff'? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select... I don't know... that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise. It's not lapis. It's actually cerulean. And you're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent... wasn't it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here. And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.
In this relationship Apple is positioning its products ahead of technology and into the category more akin to a fashion collection (as in runways, models, etc.). In this regard we are humble luddites only looking at what has trickled down to our local JC Penny and Gap store. We are positioned so far down the chain that it does not make sense to be even offended by the price of a $17000 watch. The device, and more importantly, what they represent are not meant for the masses in a direct way, they are created to inspire the design of the technology industry as a whole, in the way that any artisan would. If it sounds a bit out there I would agree, but you would be surprised what pricing a beautifully designed device outside of the reach of everyday people will accomplish.
“Oh, don't be ridiculous. Andrea. Everybody wants this. Everybody wants to be us.“ - Miranda Priestly
…and everybody wants to be Apple right about now.