Thursday, March 5, 2015

Apple Watch is not Sexy!

Those were the words of Jean-Claude Biver, the head of LVMH's watch division.

Image courtesy: Apple Inc.
He opines that the Apple Watch is condemned to become obsolete.  Even though Apple is making a Gold watch, it is just going to become a useless piece of Gold jewelry (if you can call it jewelry) after Apple releases the next version of the watch in their self cannibalization effort. 

He also aptly said “The smartwatch is an information device that tells you that you’ve got mail or a message, whereas a high-quality Swiss mechanical watch is a communication device that communicates to others who you are.”

A Swiss mechanical watch is a man's jewelry.  People do not wear it to tell time, they wear it to show who they are.

As I mentioned here, Apple should not be aiming at the watch market at all.  Apple should have thought outside the box and created a wearable computer.   A wearable computer that could be worn anywhere on the body.  Unfortunately, they chose the wrist and unfortunately, they named it Watch.

Here is a beautiful design where a watch is paired with the wearable computer.  There are many ways to pair a wearable with other accessories that people already wear: clothes, accessories like belts, necklaces, bracelets, finger rings, ear rings, underwear, etc. 

Companies should think outside the box and come up with wearables that just serve their purpose and not try to replace another device.  Stick to the minimalistic design.

Wonder what happened to Apple's inspiration from Dieter Rams' minimalistic design principles.

Planned Obsolescence

I recently watched a documentary on BBC about planned obsolescence.  It is an interesting view on the current marketplace and how companies have been designing for obsolescence. This phenomenon has been going on for a long time. 

I remember as a kid when all the ballpoint pens had refills, not just the high priced ones.  You bought a pen or two and kept replacing the ink cartridge refills.  Or, you used a fountain pen and bought ink bottles to refill the pen.  I must have gone through most of my primary education with just a few of these pens.

And then I came to the US where everything is disposable.  Bic pens were the first disposable ballpoint pens I used.  I was shocked to see people chucking pens in the trash as soon as the ink ran out. 

Fast forward to 2015.  People are chucking MP3 players and phones as trash as soon as the battery runs out.  Or, in some cases, as soon as the newer version is released. 

Thanks to the advances in 3D printing, we are coming up with technology to literally 'print' everything as a single unit.  No need of assembly, dis-assembly, servicing, replacement of parts, and such things.  You buy one unit and throw it away at the end of its life.  The end of life could be defined by either its functional usefulness or its capacity (battery life, ink, etc.).  This is ultimate consumerism at work.

What this is doing is making consumers spend more and buy more.  This will help corporations sell more and make more money, but we have to look at its global impact.
  • What this does to our environment?  
  • How is it recycled?
  • How do we separate the components for recycling?  
  • How much does it cost to recycle?
There is always a fine line between usability, design and being responsible to your consumers, to the environment, to the economy and to the world as a whole.

There are cases where this technology makes perfect sense.  Say, parts for a satellite which are never serviced once launched.  These parts need to work in harsh environments and need all the protection they can get.  These parts could be built as a single unit so that they are well sealed and can function optimally.

Nanostructures come to my mind as a great fit for this technology but unfortunately, the current 3D printing technology is still measured in mm and not in nm.  These structures are too small to assemble.  It makes more sense to just build them as one cohesive unit. 

3D printing is seen as a boon for making spare parts when none are easily available.  Companies are taking 3D printing to places where no man has gone before: printing food, printing prosthetics, printing tissue, printing organs and other areas that we have not imagined yet. 

We truly live in an exciting world today!