Microsoft had the Zune. Amazon had the Fire Phone. Ouya had…the Ouya.
Every company has its own piece of history that they’d rather forget: a product, hyped beyond all expectations, released with fanfare, then left to languish on shelves as it’s ignored by the public at large.
Nearly every major tech company has experienced this fail at least once. Even Apple had a spectacular failure. In 1990, then CEO John Sculley introduced a prototype of Apple’s PDA, “Knowledge Navigator.” It was produced and distributed in August of 1993 and failed miserably. And then there's the infamous Newton, which had a much-lampooned handwriting recognition feature that hardly ever worked.
History could repeat itself in the coming months.
Apple’s Watch is going to be further detailed in an hour or so, and, like all Apple product announcements, it will be subjected to a host of hype and speculation. Devotees will line up at the door to be the first to wear the new piece of techno-wizardry. Like the iPhone 6 ‘bend-gate’ kerfuffle, much will almost certainly be made over early perceived flaws.
Will it sell well enough to justify all this? Apple has series of hurdles to clear before it can deem the Watch (why isn’t it called the iWatch?) a measurable success.
First off, Smartwatches have been around since 2013. Have you ever seen anyone wearing one? They seem like a manufactured fad. In an era where we have become so accustomed to pulling out our phone to check the time, returning to a wrist-worn time-telling digital accessory is unnecessary. Who cares if it monitors my heart rate, tells me how many stairs I’ve climbed, or lets me pretend I’m Dick Tracy by talking into my wrist?
The Apple Watch - and all smartwatch manufacturers, for that matter - are going to have to be careful about carrying the same negative stigmas in 2015 as the Bluetooth headset did in the mid-2000s. That is to say, they’ll need to avoid being favored only by Wall Street upstarts and real estate agents.
It’ll also need to avoid the same pitfalls that befell Google’s ill-fated Glass in that they’ll have to make a concerted effort to not make their users look silly while using their product. (Fair warning, Oculus Rift.)
To add to that, Amazon has a heap of competition coming out of the Smartwatch gate. The Pebble, which cut its teeth as a crowdfunding project in 2013, has had two years on Apple in the smartwatch game, and is already into their third iteration of their product. They have also built up their own core network of devotees: their Kickstarter campaign for their latest offering, the Pebble Time, broke its $500,000 goal in 17 minutes. After just over two weeks on Kickstarter, their campaign sits at $17,000,000, with over 60,000 backers.
Then there’s the Linux-based offerings, based on the newly-released Android Wear and Tizen. Samsung has released their own series of smartwatches, and while their early releases had more than their fair share of issues, they’ve managed to work out a lot of the kinks, and their latest offerings are apparently quite appealing. Motorola is in on the game too, with the gorgeously-designed Moto 360, a watch with a rounded face that looks more like a watch and less like a tablet strapped to your wrist. There’s also a host of other fighters entering the ring later in 2015, such as Huawei’s sapphire-screened Watch.
By the way, all of these options are significantly cheaper than the Apple Watch, which begins at a hefty $350. Snazzier versions will presumably cost more.
Sure, Apple has the brand, the audience, and the status, but is that enough to keep it off clearance shelves? Only time will tell.
Click to see The 10 Biggest Tech Flops of the Century
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