Recently, Apple announced a bunch of new stuff, including gold MacBooks and expensive (upwards of $13k) new watches. In the aftermath of the keynote, tons of people took to social media, myself included, to discuss what they had just witnessed…
Many people were surprised at the price point of the Apple Watch. Even at the low end, to get the “Sport” model you’ll have to drop $350 to get access to Apple’s “most personal device yet”.
Yet to consider the Apple Watch as a tech gadget or an internet-connected smartwatch is to miss the point entirely. Apple has clearly moved away from being just a computer company (the Mac era of the ‘90s), to a lifestyle brand (the iGadget era of the ‘00s), to now a high end luxury goods company. They are not just selling the latest gadgets, they are selling exclusivity.
Exclusivity is accessibility.
Apple wasn’t always a juggernaut. There was a time when the Macintosh came out in a blue plastic case, and Apple not only offered innovative ideas in desktop computing, but the products were also functionally unique and different from the prevailing computers of the day (remember the simple latch opening of the Macintosh G4?). Of course, in those days, many computer users were more concerned with megahertz than user experience…
Our goal has always been to make powerful technology more accessible.
That statement came right from the Apple Watch page. But to whom are they trying to make technology accessible? Even at $350, it’s debatable how accessible it is for people.
If anything, these days Apple has been more about exclusivity, than accessibility. Or to put it in other terms, “Exclusivity is accessibility.” Even during the older era of the blue plastic Macs, if you bought a Macintosh, you were joining a private club of rebellious technophiles thumbing their noses at the grey boxed PC’s that ruled the day. And by joining this exclusive club, you gained access to a certain level of technology.
Today, the Apple Watch represents perhaps the pinnacle of that Orwellian mantra. Not only do you need to spend a lot to gain entry, but the penultimate Apple Watch Edition is only accessible to a select few.
Luxury is exclusivity.
This is somewhat true. But there’s much more to luxury than being hand-made. Having worked for a little while now for a purveyor of luxury automobiles, one key distinction that I’ve learned that sets luxury products apart is the perception of exclusivity.
Without exclusivity, products will struggle to be deemed as high-end luxury goods.
For instance, Apple has devoted an entire page that addresses just the materials used in creating the Apple Watch. And it’s not just aluminum that they use in the baseline model, it’s very special aluminum that you cannot get anywhere else! How luxurious! Things get even more intense as you reach for the gold Apple Watch Edition…
Anyway, the point of this kind of luxurious exclusivity is to get something that most people can’t. That’s what Apple will be offering in April.
Uninterested? Doesn’t matter.
Buying the Apple Watch will certainly place you among a certain class of people. Kevin Rose is going out on a limb and calling them “douchebags,” though his comments are strictly reserved for the $13k gold edition. I will admit that I am considering getting an Apple Watch, but probably the more conservative “Sport” edition. Until I win the lottery, or find a very generous benefactor, a $13k watch of any kind, Apple or not, is just too far out of reach.
Samsung, Pebble, Android, they’ve also got smartwatches out in the market. Unlike those others, Apple appears to be competing once again based on a certain kind of lifestyle, instead of just meeting a collection of functional requirements. But in addition, by offering products at an extremely high price point, they’re specifically targeting a much different kind of demographic than we’ve seen from other tech companies, to transform themselves into a category defining “luxury tech” company. It’s a huge gamble that I think will pay off, if for no other reason (and correct me if I’m wrong) than no other tech company seems to be currently targeting them!
Regardless, the bottom line is either you’re in or you’re out. Uninterested in Apple Watch? Fine. Doesn’t matter. You were never really part of the club anyway.