Apple Watch: I’ve changed my mind. Just not about the Watch.


Dick Tracy: Smart Watch Pioneer

Seven months ago, I wrote a post about the Apple Watch and how I was yet to be convinced of the need. Concerned that in the wake of the clamour for wearable tech, I’d suddenly become a Luddite, I decided to immerse myself rather than take the easy, skeptical route.

So in October 2014, I became one of the first owners of a LG G Watch R, which at the time was certainly the smart watch of choice.

I duly installed Android Wear on my HTC One and ensured I did all I could to exercise every feature of my new watch. On several occasions I even publicly addressed my wrist to ask for directions, drawing inevitable what-a-muppett looks from those around me.

But try as I might, I just couldn’t realise the value. Android already bombards users with notifications so if anything, having them duplicated on my wrist was actually an irritation. When I run, I’m not interested in analyzing the minutiae of pace and heartbeat. The fact I’m still alive after a 10k is sufficient for me. And if someone calls me, my phone tells me. If I’m too far away from my phone, the watch won’t ‘see’ it anyway. Changing watch faces is fun but that hardly constitutes the case for as opposed to the case against.

I tried, I really did. But its probably testament to the level of interest in wearable tech that a month later, someone bought the watch on eBay for more than I paid for it.

Days away from the launch of the Apple Watch, have I changed my mind? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that I’ve changed from an Android phone to an iPhone (those notifications and the lack of decent OS-level management of them eventually drove me to distraction) and no, in that I’ve still yet to be convinced about the Apple Watch.

Maybe sending someone my heartbeat will change my mind. Or maybe just running 10k and remaining alive will be enough.


Why I’ve no time for the Apple Watch. Yet.

Spare a thought for your Apple store assistant. A few years ago if someone wanted an iPhone phone, they offered them an iPhone. If someone wanted an iPad, they offered them an iPad. Even if someone wanted a computer the choice pretty much boiled down to desktop or laptop.

Now it’s all different. The emergence of Apple’s latest iPad and iPhone derivatives confirms, if confirmation were needed, that the simple, clear, clutter-free Jobs period is well and truly over.

The Apple store assistant now has to compare and contrast products with very little between them.

The Apple site even employs a comparison mechanism to help decipher the differences between available iPads and iPhones.

Steve jobs must be looking down from his iCloud in sad bewilderment.

WWJD? (What Would Jobs Do?)

Steve jobs must be looking down from his iCloud in sad bewilderment.

For a company that became so incredibly successful through it’s unequaled marketing, it seems odd they would choose to create so many derivatives and run the risk of diluting the iPhone and iPad brands that became instantly synonymous with the markets they themselves created.

This is the company that founded itself by introducing amazing products no one knew they wanted. Even the products that failed (Newton, Cube,) paved the way for products that eventually defined entire verticals.

I’ve no doubt the iPad and iPhone derivatives will sell  but I do wonder at the costs associated with manufacturing and supporting such an extensive product line. The logistics alone must be mind-boggling.

Which brings me on to the Apple Watch. It’s here that I really struggle. Effectively a tiny strap-on tablet device, the Apple Watch seems to bring little to the party other than some health-related apps and a way to send doodles to other Apple Watch users. In other words, not much more than a typical phone provides.

What do I gain by replacing my relatively individual automatic watch (which never needs charging) with a generic Apple Watch? Is this a product no-one knew they needed? Has Apple taken an existing concept and redefined, reimagined, reinvented, redesigned it to become so much better? In years to come will we wonder how we ever managed without it? I’m not so sure.

For now, I’ll bide my time. Using my old Seiko. After all, if the array of iPhones and iPads is anything to go by, they’ll soon be myriad Apple Watches to choose from. And one of them is bound to deliver something truly distinguishing, right?

This'll do

This’ll do

How being blunt can help small tech firms stay at the sharp end


Navigating the corporate world in the hope of finding a fertile spot to plant a seed is far from easy. Sometimes there comes a point when the cost of pursuing an opportunity becomes disproportionate for the return. But if the return can’t be measured purely in direct revenue terms, (the opportunity is with a halo brand that would most likely, if won, trigger interest from other aspiring brands for example), smaller companies are often left with a very difficult decision: pursue or abandon?

Whilst larger companies may have the fuel – the time – to extend negotiations, the small company is more exposed to the risk associated with the cost and of course, the possibility of not winning the business. Conversely, there is the risk associated with not pursuing the opportunity. In other words, what could have been.

It’s a tough call, but one that can be made easier by gaining the full understanding of the buyer as early as possible. It’s a premise I’ve no doubt applies to all businesses but for small tech companies in particular, it’s fair to assume interest from large companies is based on the innovation the small company brings to the table.

This being the case, it is vital the small tech company gets the corporate to acknowledge, and understand, that the innovation is what provides the difference. It’s what sets companies apart.

Why is it vital? Well, unless the tech company can convey the danger to the corporate in being draconian in their demands and their terms, the commercial and legal exposure can be debilitating. To the small tech outfit, it can be the difference between survival and failure.

In short, pursuing the Big Corporate opportunity means having to quell the tendency to kowtow; it means having to state, in no uncertain terms, that by exerting too much pressure in the interests of short-term gain, the larger company risks breaking the smaller company and as a result, losing the source of what attracted them in the first place: the difference they provide.

(picture courtesy Rogue Pictures Inc)

Cross-device publishing finally exists!

In May last year, I wrote a post relating to the abundance of systems (or rather posters and presentations of systems) claiming to represent the much-vaunted ‘content-goes-in-here-and-comes-out-working-everywhere’ solution.

At the time, I was working as Chief Product Officer at an international agency. The agency worked with many brands, all of which had a significant interest in – if the many presentations, posters and banner ads were to be believed – the myriad solutions available to them.

The problem, as it turned out after much research, was that none of the systems actually delivered on the claims. Sure, some excelled in one area or another, but none provided the ability to assemble, animate, integrate and measure the same content across the many devices our brand customers demanded. This represented a real challenge, especially as I was under pressure to propose a solution for a retail client desperate to provide its customers with an interactive derivative of their catalogue on iPad.

Working closely with the tech team, we architected a solution that drew upon some of the elements of some of the systems available. It was never going to be a scalable platform solution, and would certainly mean that processes and workflows would have to be duplicated to produce subsequent catalogues, but at least it would provide the vehicle for our client to launch an attractive, ecommerce-enabled catalogue on the iPad. It was pretty successful as well, going straight into the Guardian’s Top30 iPad apps list – much to the joy of our client. Everyone was happy. Until the second catalogue.

You see, the inevitable impact of not having a platform solution, a solution that addresses many of the repeat tasks associated with producing subsequent pieces, is that processes must be repeated. The producers on the project had to repeat tasks; Developers had to repeat tasks; Our customer’s own design team had to repeat tasks. OK, the result was going to look great but the work involved was also great. There was an unavoidable cost implication.

At this point I want to make something clear: I don’t write this blog as a means to publicize or promote. I write it purely as a commentary on what I experience in the industries in which I work. My opinions are my own and they are always considered. I feel it’s important to mention this given that I’m about to refer to a solution, a platform, in which I have a stake.

Let me explain: Having left the agency last year, I joined a small tech company with which I’d been associated a few years prior.  The company intended to launch the supposedly ubiquitous solution I’d been searching for: a SaaS-based platform providing the tools to create, animate, integrate and measure, interactive, shoppable content experiences that work across web, tablet and mobile. Sound simple? Of course not.

A few months ago, the first version was launched. We expected some hiccups and we had them. But since then, thanks to the brilliant product team and the scrum process to which they so diligently adhere, we have released no less than 20 new versions. And last night, we went live with undoubtedly the most significant version to date.

I’m not going to use this post as a feature list, or even explain the significance of yesterday’s update. All I’m going to do with absolute confidence, is say the solution, apparently ubiquitous in May last year, finally exists. It really does.

And guess what? the first live App, produced by Conran, with no need for coding whatsoever,  went straight into the Guardian Top30 iPad apps list! (This time for a fraction of the cost to the customer…)

The website is here. The product is truly impressive. And yes, mine is a thoroughly considered opinion!