There’s a very nicely reasoned piece on Ben Thompson’s StraTechEry site this morning, arguing that Apple’s emphasis on design in the Apple Watch is the very thing that will create demand for new types of interactions with devices.
Essentially, Thompson argues, the function of wearables won’t matter unless people are persuaded to wear them in the first place:
There has been a bit of consternation about Apple’s focus on “fashion” and all that entails, but there is a very practical aspect to this focus: people need to be willing to actually put the wearable on their body. While “form may follow function” for tools, the priorities are the exact opposite when it comes to what we wear: function is irrelevant without a form we find appealing.
Furthermore, Thompson says, Apple is uniquely positioned to make an appealing mass-market wearable. Think about it: name another tech company with the design chops of Apple for personal devices — ones that you want near your body. Even Samsung, which makes very nice phones, makes things that are nice for phones. I wouldn’t think of Samsung as a design leader, not even for its bread-and-butter products like TVs or washing machines. (I wonder, in fact, is one of the things that’s keeping Apple out of the TV business is an inability to differentiate the TV itself as an obviously Apple product.)
This is related to the argument that we find ourselves making here in New York around the fashion world: if the clothing industry doesn’t get on the stick, we’re going to find ourselves wearing clothes designed by Intel, and that won’t end well. We’ll make an exception for the Intel/Opening Ceremony MICA cuff, which is lovely. But it wasn’t designed by Intel, and it isn’t clothing.
Make something nice, and people will want to wear it, even if its function may be limited. Make something with endless function, and people won’t wear it if it’s ugly. And until you get people to wear your gear, you’ll never have the chance to design new kinds of interactions that can change the world — which is exactly Apple’s game.