Apple showed off its much-anticipated SmartWatch during a special launch event yesterday, highlighting the new product’s look and features.
They started the event by announcing that HBO’s new streaming video service, HBO Now, will launch exclusively on Apple TV when the service starts next month. HBO Now, which will begin in time for the new season of “Game of Thrones” on April 12, and will cost $14.99 a month. Apple also announced plans to cut the price of its Apple TV product to $69 from $99.
The company also unveiled a new 12-inch MacBook that Apple calls it’s thinnest ever with a battery that can last all day. The device weighs just 2 pounds and will be available in gold. Prices start at $1,299, and it will begin shipping April 10.
The Apple Watch, the first new product in 4 years, is a big bet for the company, offering a potential new growth avenue that could ease Apple’s dependence on smartphones. For Chief Executive Tim Cook , it is a chance to prove that Apple can still produce the types of breakthrough products that defined the company under his predecessor, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
On Monday, Mr. Cook said the watch was the company’s “most personal device.” Yet, the watch faces significant challenges. The device needs to be close to an iPhone to have wireless connectivity or gather global-positioning-system location information. This makes the watch an accessory to a device that already performs most tasks well. So what does that mean in practice? If you want to access global positioning GPS data while on a run, you’ll have to run with both your SmartWatch AND your iPhone.
The watch also straddles the line between jewelry and consumer electronics, creating different types of expectations from consumers about quality, obsolescence and the overall buying experience. Many of today’s Apple consumers don’t even wear a watch instead relying on their smartphones for the time of day. That might make this pricey piece of jewelry a difficult sell.
Apple plans a range of watches at different price points, starting at $349. The company will also sell a stainless steel Apple Watch with a 38-millimeter case, beginning at $549. A watch with a 42-millimeter case begins at $50 more. A solid gold edition will start at $10,000 and be available in select stores only.
Apple said Monday that the watch will have 18 hours of battery life and will be able to conduct phone calls. The company also showed how the watch could be used to receive notifications, open hotel rooms and garage doors, and get song lyrics. The watch will also work with Apple Pay allowing wearers to wave their watch at checkout to make small purchases.
Preorders begin April 10, and the Apple Watch will be available in nine countries on April 24.
Marketing the Apple Watch, meanwhile, won’t be as simple as marketing past Apple products. The iPod was a way to carry a music collection in your pocket. The iPhone was a mobile phone plus Internet device, with a revolutionary touch screen. Apple sold the iPad as a simpler way to browse the Web, view photos and watch videos. Still, analysts expect Apple’s brand appeal and the company’s loyal customers to make Apple Watch the most successful wearable device on the market.
Apple is gearing up for a strong start, asking suppliers in Asia to make five to six million Apple Watches in the first quarter. Half of the first-quarters output would be for the entry-level Apple Watch Sports and one-third for the mid-tier model, which has stainless-steel casing and a watch face covered by sapphire crystal.
The total would be on par with Apple’s last major all-new product release. You may recall that Apple sold 7.5 million iPads in the six months after they went on sale in April 2010. Industry analysts estimate that Apple will sell 11.8 million Apple Watches in 2015, accounting for nearly half of all wearable devices, including fitness trackers and non-Android SmartWatches.
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