Sunday, October 14, 2012

Apple's Billion Dollar Mistake

While Apple's iPhone 5 announcement was big news to many, I have the iPhone 4S so I have another year until I think about upgrading. So the frame scratching, the rapid battery drain, the purple haze, and a whole host of other issues will surely be perfected with next year's "5S" model, the same way the iPhone 4S was a much better version of the iPhone 4. I have 2 simple hopes for the iPhone 5S - it's time for them to update to 128 GB of memory, and it's time to bring color to the device. Otherwise, there's not much else compelling to talk about.

But actually, this post isn't about the iPhone 5 at all, but about the new iPod. This was supposed to be the iPod I've been waiting for. The enhancement to the prior generation which touched on an amazing market potential. But instead, what we got was a kid's iPhone Jr - a toy with no market. Everyone who wants an iPod already has one. Everyone who is too young for an iPhone, has access to cheap older models. There is no market for iPods anymore. But Apple was on the verge of making a new market with the prior generation iPod and let it slip through their fingers with this latest model.

Here's the new iPod model (aka: iPhone mini?)

And here's the one they let slip through their fingers:

Did you miss it?  Look again.  The prior one is smaller, more like the Shuffle.  And... wearable.

That's not a watch in the center.  It's an iPod.  It's the same iPod pictured above.  The design wasn't revolutionary.  Dick Tracy wore this in 1946.  But no one has ever done a wearable computer that anyone has ever used en masse.  And then last year Apple made this.  The perfect shape.  A tad big and not enough battery power yet, but that was to be expected in a first gen model.  They could have made this next generation one nearly perfect just by building on the prior model, but they let that slip through their fingers.

Perhaps the idea of a wearable computer died with the iPhone.  My wife thinks I'm stuck in the 80's and no one wants to wear a watch or a computer.  Just having a device with you in your pocket or purse is the new "wearable" concept.  But maybe, just maybe, Apple had finally found a way to make a real wearable device happen.  Think about it - GPS, a payment system, a wifi enabled device, and Siri.  Perhaps some iPhone integration features.  Not to mention the health and medical applications.  FitBit is already leading the way in wearable wellness/biometric devices.  Apple had a chance to have all that and still the best portable music player on the market.  Maybe even a Skype app could make it a phone.  But even without being a voice communication device, it's still got loads of potential.  But Apple missed it completely.  Shrinking it a little and increasing the battery and adding some biometric tracking sensors and it would have made a beautiful v2.  Even if they just targeted joggers at first with heart rate and calorie burning tracking, they'd have seen millions of units fly off the shelves.

But Apple didn't even create that watch band for v1.  They didn't see the potential - someone else did.  That was the first clue that it was an accident that this device could be wearable.  And even then Apple didn't carry the design forward which confirms my suspicion.  And that's hugely disappointing.

No one with an iPhone wants or needs an iPod Touch.  And this new iPod is just a Touch Mini, which is completely useless.  But regardless of what tech you have already, there's a huge untapped potential for wearable computing.  Apple could have made a handful of simple enhancements and created a new market again.  Look at the power and popularity of XBox Kinect, and just imagine how they could have tied this in to iOS as a gaming platform!?  Instead, they went with the status quo.  Now that Steve is gone, is this the new conservative Apple?  Afraid to risk their cash cows?  That's exactly how Microsoft lost their throne too.