CategoryAnalysis

Watching the watch watchers

In just a few hours, the speculation about the Apple Watch will be over (at least most of it) and we’ll have cold hard facts, lots of finger pointing about who got what wrong, and lots of spinning to explain how someone may have gotten it wrong, but they really didn’t mean it that way so they were actually right. We’ll also get a few people blaming Apple for their own wrong guesses. (Those are my favorite.)

For me, the most interesting questions have been around how much the watch will cost in its various iterations and what kind of upgrade path there will be (if any.)

On pricing, I’ll take the under on pretty much any published speculation. I agree with a lot of what Kirk McElhearn had to say on the topic:

The Apple Watch Edition is not a luxury watch; it’s just a gold-cased version of the cheaper watch. There’s nothing exclusive about it, nothing special. It’s not like more expensive watches where you pay for complex machinery. Yes, there is gold; that will make it more expensive than the other models. But not that much. Estimates of the cost of the gold suggest that the metal would cost less than $1,000.

As such, I think the list price for the base model Apple Watch Edition will be $1,999. There will certainly be a price differential by size, and it could be a couple hundred dollars for this version. In addition, the watchbands will cost as much as several hundred dollars. There’s just no reason to pay more. I repeat, this is not a luxury watch; this is a smartwatch with a gold case.

I’ve been saying all along that the Apple Watch, for all its fashion focus, is still primarily a piece of technology. A Rolex doesn’t cost tens of thousands of dollars just because of the weight of the gold in it. It cost what it does because it’s a finely crafted, mechanically complex piece of machinery-slash-jewelry, and it has the Rolex name on it. It — and other luxury watches — are heirlooms, designed and priced to be handed down from generation to generation. An Apple Watch may be finely crafted and technologically complex, but it it will be obsolete someday — probably someday soon. There is no Rolex 1.0, but there will almost certainly be an Apple Watch 2.0.

That’s why I think Daring Fireball’s John Gruber is off base. I think he sees the Apple Watch as a luxury watch — the former on equal terms with the latter. I also have trouble with the sheer number of SKUs (price points) he sees. Between different prices for watch sizes and bands, Gruber estimates 16 different price points. That feels unwieldy to me. Although I agree that the different bands have to come at different prices, it doesn’t seem Apple-like to me to charge different prices for each size of the watch. And before you start pointing out the price differences between a 16, 64 and 128MB iPhone, I don’t equate watch size with something like storage capacity.

Who knows? Maybe my pricing speculation is more wishful thinking than analysis, but I sure hope Gruber is wrong this time.

What about upgradability? If the Apple Watch is indeed going to be seen as more of an heirloom than an iPad, it needs to have some protection from obsolescence. There are two ways to do that: Make the innards of the watch easily swappable with new versions, or offer a buyback program to soften the blow of buying that Apple Watch 2.0. The first solution works if you think the styling of the Apple Watch is set for a good long time. That seems a long shot, given Jonny Ive’s and the company’s propensity for better, faster, thinner. Swapping out new “watch guts” also seems like a logistical challenge: Would Apple Store employees have to be trained in watchmaking so they could make the upgrade on the spot? Would one simply trade in your old watch for a new one, with Apple doing the recycling later? Or would there be a delay involved: Drop off your old watch and wait for it to be shipped to Cupertino (or China or Texas), upgraded and sent back to you or your local store? All that hassle makes a buyback program make more sense to me, but would Apple even address such a far-in-the-future issue at this event? Maybe not.

And then there’s the question of battery life — not just how many hours in a charge, but how many charges in a battery’s lifetime. If Apple is going to charge a premium for the watch — if it is going to be something we pass down to our children, there has to be a reasonable process to replace the battery. A watch that has to be charged every night is one thing; one that has to be charged several times a day because the battery’s old? That’s just not workable.

Even beyond the cost questions, I’m looking forward to hearing more about what the watch can do. Did we hear about all it’s features last fall? I doubt it. I’m eager to hear more about battery life

In any case, we’ll have at least some of the answers in a few short hours. At $349, I’m almost certainly in the market — if for nothing else than to be able to write about it. But I’m holding out hope that the stainless steel version is within my reach, and that Apple will have the right answers to all these questions.

‘Hanging by a thread’

I was a guest on the British Tech Network’s Mac Show this week, along with Chris Breen, Josh Centers, Adam Christianson and Host Ewen Rankin. We had a great time speculating on what Chris will do as he leaves Macworld for that “fruit-flavored technology company.” We also talked a lot about the Apple Watch, what Pebble’s Kickstarter project for its own smart watch means for consumer appetites, Apple’s March 9th event and other assorted nonsense.

As usual, it was a tremendous amount of fun with a great panel of smart, funny people. The Mac Show has a bright Chat Room as well, and they add a lot to the program. It’s worth listening to (and subscribing) whether you’re interested in hearing my ramblings or not.

The show can be found on the British Tech Network’s website.

It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy: Chris Breen leaves Macworld for Apple

Veteran Mac journalist and author Christopher Breen has left Macworld to join a “fruit-flavored tech company sandwiched between Santa Clara and Sunnyvale.”

Breen made the announcement on his personal blog, and confirmed it on Macworld.com.  “There are loads of reasons for the change, but blend them together and they add up to my desire to try something different before I don the large shorts and spend the bulk of my remaining days looking for my misplaced spectacles,” Breen wrote.

Chris has been a staple in Mac journalism for almost 30 years, and in that time earned a reputation as fair, honest, funny and smart. In addition to his work on Macworld, he’s authored several books, hosted innumerable podcasts and appeared on TV shows and user group meetings—all with a self-effacing, humble attitude that was as genuine as it seemed.

I’ve been a fan of Chris for more years than I can count, and have had the wonderful privilege of not only meeting him, but coming to count him as a dear friend, bandmate and colleague.

As a result of his new role, Chris will be retiring his tech persona. “I’ll be leaving the public stage as Chris Breen Technology Guy (though I may still pop up as Chris Breen Musician Guy at a saloon near you).”

As is typical of moves to that fruit-flavored tech company, Chris is mum about what his new role will entail. I can only hope that Apple knows what they have in Chris and that they take full advantage of his talents.

I couldn’t be happier for him and I wish him nothing but success in this new chapter of his life. It quite literally couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy: Chris Breen leaves Macworld for Apple

Veteran Mac journalist and author Christopher Breen has left Macworld to join a “fruit-flavored tech company sandwiched between Santa Clara and Sunnyvale.”

Breen made the announcement on his personal blog, and confirmed it on Macworld.com.  “There are loads of reasons for the change, but blend them together and they add up to my desire to try something different before I don the large shorts and spend the bulk of my remaining days looking for my misplaced spectacles,” Breen wrote.

Chris has been a staple in Mac journalism for almost 30 years, and in that time earned a reputation as fair, honest, funny and smart. In addition to his work on Macworld, he’s authored several books, hosted innumerable podcasts and appeared on TV shows and user group meetings—all with a self-effacing, humble attitude that was as genuine as it seemed.

I’ve been a fan of Chris for more years than I can count, and have had the wonderful privilege of not only meeting him, but coming to count him as a dear friend, bandmate and colleague.

As a result of his new role, Chris will be retiring his tech persona. “I’ll be leaving the public stage as Chris Breen Technology Guy (though I may still pop up as Chris Breen Musician Guy at a saloon near you).”

As is typical of moves to that fruit-flavored tech company, Chris is mum about what his new role will entail. I can only hope that Apple knows what they have in Chris and that they take full advantage of his talents.

I couldn’t be happier for him and I wish him nothing but success in this new chapter of his life. It quite literally couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

iRig Mic Studio looks like IK Mulitmedia’s next big hit

IK Multimedia has been on fire lately, with a slew of high quality, innovative products for musicians and podcasters. Today, the company announced its newest product—iRig Mic Studio.

The mic itself is an “ultra-portable large-diaphragm digital condenser microphone” for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, PC and Android. It has a 1″ diameter condenser capsule into an enclosure smaller than an iPhone, targeted at musicians, vocalists, home producers, podcasters, broadcasters, voice-over artists and more.

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Macworld article: ‘3 key things to know about Yosemite and security’

My newest Macworld article covers some of the new features in Safari for Mac OS X Yosemite and how the could potentially impact your security. To Apple’s credit, each of these features can be controlled by the user. I’ll show you what’s shared, with whom, how to change the default settings — and why you might not want to.

The full article is on the Macworld website.

Chuck La Tournous and Chris Breen to speak at NJMUG’s 30th Anniversary

I was honored to be invited to speak at the New Jersey Macintosh User Group’s (NJMUG) 30th Anniversary on Tuesday, October 21st. Macworld Senior Editor Chris Breen will be the featured speaker for the event.

My presentation will explore digital device security in the “new normal” of the post-Snowden era. Chris will take a look at the “Future of Apple.”

NJMUG has been helping people get the most out of their Apple devices since the age of the Macintosh 128K through the iPhone 6. The group will celebrate its 30th anniversary at a special meeting at the Meadowlands Quality Inn in Lyndhurst, NJ from 7-10 p.m. NJMUG organizers promise a “great night of eating, celebrating and reminiscing.” The group will also be raffling off “some goodies to those in attendance.”

The meeting is free to all NJMUG members; non-members may attend for a $5 admission fee, space permitting. More information is available on the group’s website.

The way we were: A look back at RandomMaccess’ first Macworld

With the announcement that Macworld Expo is going on an indefinite hiatus (more on that later), I thought I’d wax a little nostalgic and take a look back at my first Macworld — “The Show” — back in 1999. Although RandomMaccess had gotten press credentials before, this was the first time the show’s location made it practical for our little publication to attend.

This piece is undated, but was first published around July 27, 1999. –Ed.


Somewhere between Faith Healing Revival and Grateful Dead Concert you get Macworld Expo NY ’99: a rollicking joyride of new product intros, gee-whiz technology demos and the legendary Jobs “Reality Distortion Field.”

by Chuck La Tournous

I’ve said it before: although I’d never been to a Macworld Expo before, I’m an old hand at conferences and exhibits at the Jacob Javits Center in New York. But the sight of would-be attendees lined up around a New York City block stopped me dead in my tracks.

Something’s wrong, was my first thought; they haven’t opened the doors yet. But closer inspection revealed that the doors were indeed opened. They were opened because that’s where the line around the block snaked its way into the center. And across the entrance hall. And through the registration queue.

I’ve seen crowded shows and long lines at Javits, but I’ve never seen anything like this. What was even stranger was the fact that no one seemed to mind standing in a line that must surely still be winding through the hall as I write this — some 10 hours later.

Thank goodness for press credentials, I think, as I pass them all and follow the signs to the Keynote speech.

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Apple releases statement on ‘Bend-ghazi’ brouhaha

Following reports of Apple’s iPhone 6 plus bending in users’ pockets, the company issued a statement to media outlets (via The Loop):

“Our iPhones are designed, engineered and manufactured to be both beautiful and sturdy. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus feature a precision engineered unibody enclosure constructed from machining a custom grade of 6000 series anodized aluminum, which is tempered for extra strength. They also feature stainless steel and titanium inserts to reinforce high stress locations and use the strongest glass in the smartphone industry. We chose these high-quality materials and construction very carefully for their strength and durability. We also perform rigorous tests throughout the entire development cycle including 3-point bending, pressure point cycling, sit, torsion, and user studies. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus meet or exceed all of our high quality standards to endure everyday, real life use.

With normal use a bend in iPhone is extremely rare and through our first six days of sale, a total of nine customers have contacted Apple with a bent iPhone 6 Plus. As with any Apple product, if you have questions please contact Apple.”

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It’s still unclear whether the phones are being bent while in users’ pockets or under more unusual conditions, but fans of competitor Samsung have apparently jumped on the issue with an ad that shows the iPhone literally bending down before the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. (The ad has frequently been attributed to Samsung itself, but a spokesperson said he had no knowledge of the ad and pointed out that the company would be more likely to promote its upcoming Note 4 than its existing 3.) And, from a marketing perspective, that would be a risky move for the company if its phone shows a similar proclivity.

Goodbye to Macworld, but not to those who made it great

One of the mainstays in Mac publishing is no more. Macworld will cease publishing the print version of its magazine after the November edition. It says the web version will continue publication.

The company also laid off most of its staff.

The news began breaking yesterday on Twitter, with several of Macworld’s editorial staff posting that they had been let go.

Macworld Layoff TweetsIn addition to Roman Loyola, Macworld laid off Dan Frakes, Phillip Michaels and Dan Moren. Senior Vice President and Editorial Director Jason Snell announced he was leaving the company in a decision that had been made prior to the layoffs; Serenity Caldwell also posted that she had given notice last week, and would be leaving the magazine at the end of the month. Dan Miller posted that he would be “here for another month to assist with the transition.” Senior Editor Chris Breen apparently remains the only “big name” writer left with the publication.

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