WASHINGTON, March 9, 2015 – The market was modestly positive today. Well, more than modestly if you were in the right stocks. (Which the Prudent Man apparently wasn’t.) The Dow closed up 138.94 Monday, with the S&P 500 up 8.17 and the NASDAQ up a decent 15.07, getting it tantalizingly close to that 5,000 mark once again.
But the big news Monday, of course, was the second ritual announcement of the much-ballyhooed iWatch. Ooops, we mean “Apple Watch.” Three models will be available, with pre-orders commencing in early April, although watches won’t really be ready to wear until later that month.
The announcement really added some details to the giant tech company’s initial announcement last autumn, indicating that battery life would allegedly be better than expected, perhaps 18 hours under normal use, or a once-a-day charge. But as we all know, your mileage may vary, as your normal use might be very different from the Prudent Man’s.
The other problem is that you need an iPhone to charge this puppy up. That’s kind of irritating really, although it’s an excellent marketing ploy if people fall for it. But the cheapskate Prudent Man will have read the fine print to see if the new Apple Watch can charge from and synch with an iPhone 4s, given the change in connectors that came with the iPhone 5 models. It just goes to show you, it’s always something.
We are hearing, though, that Apple’s big product differentiating sales pitch is that the Apple Watch will be the world’s first “life saving watch.” The pitch is aimed, of course, at health nuts that will love the fact that they can check out their tickers 24/7, something that seems more narcissistic than life saving to the Maven.
In any event, as much as we love Apple products here (Mr. and Mrs. Prudent own four different Macintosh desktop and laptop models, an iPad 2 and a pair of those iPhone 4s models), the Apple Watch is conceptually tough to evaluate, at least for the Prudent, who was born into a Jurassic world where a keyboard was something you used on a Royal Office manual typewriter and all information came on paper.
The Prudent Man still has a Neanderthal-like tendency to prefer his obsolete but lightweight Motorola RAZR flip phone since he still generally makes phone calls on telephones. The rest of the bewildering array of app stuff is disconcerting, save for the swell live stock quotes the iPhone 4s can pluck out of the air in the damnedest places, so long as there’s a Verizon signal coming from a tower that’s in range.
Ergo, since he minimally uses all the cool stuff on his also obsolete iPhone, why would the Prudent Man want to add a bewildering, albeit “life-saving” watch to his tech toy cabinet, even if he is at the point in life where heart attacks and strokes become legitimate boogeymen?
Perhaps anticipating our current age of ubiquitous, nomadic, omnipresent and très costly electronic toys, Wordsworth once wrote, “The world is too much with us…” And indeed it is, except for millennials who apparently prefer instant messaging instead of actual driving when their cars are zipping down the road vastly in excess of the speed limit.
Which brings us back to the
iWatch Apple Watch and that key follow-up question; namely how many of these devices will the company actually sell.
According to CNBC, “Influential technology analyst Toni Sacconaghi said Apple could sell 1 billion watches as the device becomes an indispensable device for monitoring our health.” Indespensible? Seriously? Will Obama subsidize these things, too? That’s putting the cart WAY before the horse, Toni.
One billion? Maybe in aggregate sales, maybe sometime around when the Prudent Man’s disillusioned corpse is being embalmed. But soon? Like Internet writers, it seems CNBC pundits, internal or external, are always trolling for headlines, making real info hard to come by.
This is an expensive product, and owning it might end up a little bit like being DC Comics’ Green Lantern. His Power Ring runs out one an earth day, and if he doesn’t have access to his power battery —i.e., his green lantern—to charge it back up, GL will fare as poorly as either you or the Maven if some hyper-aggressive space alien shows up to destroy the planet at an inopportune time.
To actually purchase a costly product possessing a fraction of the power of a green lantern but with the same vulnerability to chance… well, that could be a stretch for a lot of folks.
The Prudent Man is actually considering buying one of the cheaper models, but for a weird reason. The watch he bought a couple of years ago at Costco has a design that only accommodates that brand’s own, costly, custom-designed leather band. That runs about $60 if you can find one, since the company was bought by a conglomerate last year and promptly forgotten. (You’ve gotta love businesses that have so much money they can afford to buy a product before killing it with neglect.)
In other words, the day is fast approaching when the Prudent Man will never actually be able to wear this damned Danish-branded watch again, since no band will be available to fit it. Which means another new watch. Which means that, since an Apple Watch is likely to be as available as Hondas or Chevrolets for years to come, there’ll be plenty of bands that fit the damned thing when the original band becomes dysfunctional as they all eventually do. Hence, serious, low tech consideration for considering an Apple Watch, although a cheap Timex could make more sense.
The Prudent Man has never been a Rolex kind of guy, after all, even though he lives in a city where the obvious cost of a given product still attracts positive attention and approving gazes unless you’re the Koch Brothers.
But how many people will really go for this Apple Watch? Clearly, for all the limitations built into its first iteration, the device would appear to be light-years ahead of competitors who are already out there. But is the first edition of an innovative product always the right edition to buy?
The Prudent Man confesses to have bought, used and actually liked the old early 1990s Apple Newton. Remember that one? It was sort of like a much smaller and more primitive iPad that actually did a pretty good job recognizing your handwriting on its touchpad surface (Garry Trudeau’s snarky “Doonesbury” jokes notwithstanding) and that boasted early, pre-Internet browser software that did tolerably well handling scheduling, phonebooks and other stuff you used to do with paper.
But those were the days when the more “serious,” post-Steve Jobs Apple computer was run by dull IT morons and accountants who were desperately trying to make Apple computers “value added” by transforming them into already commoditized PCs that could make pretty pictures.
Hence, when the Newton came out, it came out unfinished and half-assed. After an initial burst of sales, the device died a slow, horrible death.
Which brings us back to the
iWatch Apple Watch. With its umbilical cord-like tether to the iPhone required for charging, will the watch be so wonderful and “life saving” that people will kill to get one of the very first ones available?
Or will people wait for a new and improved model that can get powered up by itself and that Garry Trudeau won’t make snarky jokes about?
Or, as one provocative writer wrote a few months back, will the millennial generation—the kids this device is likely being marketed to initially—even care about a “life saving” watch, given that they can already tell time on their iPhones and do even more useless crap on it? And that, since they’re young, they’ll never die, rendering the concept of a “life saving” watch moot?
Tough to say. But one thing’s for sure: We’d sure as hell back off claiming that billions and billions of these puppies will be sold. Let’s wait and see. If optimists are right, and the Apple Watch takes off like a rocketship (or at least as fast as “Firefly’s” Serenity when running from the Feds), all of us, including the Prudent Man, will be sorry indeed we didn’t put every last dime of our IRAs in Apple stock (AAPL).
If the billions sold guys are off the mark, however, we might get a pretty good selloff in the stock this month or next, not only whacking the S&P 500, 100 and the NASDAQ where AAPL is a big presence; but also pancaking the DJIA, where AAPL is about to take up residence after displacing what’s left of the original Ma Bell (AT&T, symbol T) later this month.
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