Is Apple greedy?

watch-edition-solarApple, like all high-end watch makers, is targeting “more affluent customers” with its $17,000 18K gold Watch Edition, which goes on sale, as all Apple Watches do, on April 10th.

That insightful gem, that Apple is going after affluent customers, comes from Ben Bajarin, a Silicon Valley analyst. It’s one of many quotes to be found, from a variety of knowledgeable sources, in Wired’s recent and remarkable article, iPhone Killer: The Secret History of Apple Watch.

The Wired article is a must-read for anyone who is remotely interested in the Apple Watch, or in the legendary attention to detail Apple applies when designing new products.

But coming back to the Bajarin quote, it got me thinking about how Apple might be fundamentally changing. Should admirers of the fruit-flavored company be worried?

Apple’s mantra

By the time Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, the company had fallen on hard times. They had cycled through a series of bad leaders, bad product strategies, and bad results—the stock having fallen to a low of $4 a

Slowly Jobs and his team reinvigorated the company, overhauled the product line, and got the stock price moving in the right direction again.

Central to Apple’s strategy was simply making great products.

It was a message heard over and over again. Jobs said it. Jony Ives, Apple’s chief designer at the time, said it. Later, when Tim Cook became CEO, he said it.

Make great products, and the rest will take care of itself. This is the Apple mantra.

Apple ascending

Today Apple’s share price is up over $125, but if you factor in the 7-for-1 stock split that the company completed last June, the split-adjusted price would be over $875 a share.

iTunes_MatchApple has made many great products, and, indeed, the rest has taken care of itself, with the company holding approximately $175 billion in cash and securities.

Since Jobs’ return to Apple, and now with the Tim Cook era in full swing, the company has had hit product after hit product.

The iMac, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iPod, iPhone, and iPad have all been, and—with perhaps the exception of the iPod—continue to be extremely successful products for Apple. They are very good to great devices, and customers continue to buy them in droves.

It will be interesting to see if the Apple Watch adds substantially to Apple’s ascendance. Personally, I think it will be a hit. Perhaps not of iPhone proportions, but a hit, nonetheless.

So, is Apple greedy?

In a way, yes, but probably not in the way you’re thinking. Imagine if Antonio Stradivari was alive today and still making violins. His instruments are so coveted, collectors and virtuoso musicians pay millions of dollars for them.stradivarius

Of course, those prices take into account that they’re not being made any more, and haven’t been since the master craftsman died in 1737.

Even so, if he was still alive, Stradivari would probably continue to make and take joy from his creations. What a rush it must be to have the skills and the passion to make something that people consider to be masterpieces.

Apple is greedy in the way Stradivari was. They revel in making beautiful objects that also happen to be extremely functional and widely coveted.

The Apple Watch killer feature is not telling time

And, speaking of functionality, the Wired article describes the lengths to which Apple has gone to perfect what is essentially a brand new user interface for a very different kind of device: one you attach to your body.

saving_timeEvery human interaction with the watch had to be optimized, simplified, and easy to accomplish—and brief: no more than 5 to 10 seconds.

The title of the Wired piece includes the phrase “iPhone killer.” But it is not suggesting that the Apple Watch is going to kill the very device that is required to make it functional. Indeed, you have to have an iPhone to enable the Apple Watch—at least in its first incarnation—to fully function.

No, the “iPhone killer” phrase is meant in a different context. With the Apple Watch, you’ll be able to avoid those many times that you have to dig the phone out of your pocket or purse to respond to an alert, take a call, reply to an e-mail, or check on something else.

And by so doing, you’ll win back precious seconds. Which over time will add up to a great deal more time to spend doing other things—like interacting with your friends and family.

That’s the Apple Watch’s killer feature in a nutshell: not telling time, but saving time.

But $17,000 for a watch?

Come on, you say. Why on Earth would I buy a $17,000 gizmo that has the same functionality as the $349 version, and will be outdated in a year? What is Apple thinking? It’s nuts, right?17k-Apple-Watch

OK, well, why do people buy Rolex, Patek Phillipe, or Cartier watches? They don’t buy them because they need them. They buy them because they admire and appreciate them. It’s a personal statement.

The Watch Edition is made from high-end materials and looks very nice. If people choose to buy one, that’s their choice. I think that Apple believes that it has built the Watch Edition with the same attention to detail and passion as other high-end watch makers, so how can it not have a $17,000 version? And, frankly, I don’t think Apple cares if it sells very many of them.

However, between the Watch Sport, Watch, and Watch Edition, and the myriad of watchband choices that Apple has created, I think a great many people are checking their credit card balances, even as we speak. And you don’t have to break the bank to own one.

Me, my credit’s pretty good. I’m going for the $399 Watch Sport with the black wristband.

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