Selling the Apple Watch in Ireland

A big question for Apple Ireland  In 2015 is- where will they decide to sell the Apple Watch (aside from the official Apple Online Store)? 

There appears to be three choices:

  • - Apple Authoised resellers, such as Compu b, Mactivate, iConnect etc
  • - Jewellery and fashion stores such as Brown Thomas
  • - "Computer" stores such as Harvey Normans, PC World / Currys

In terms of presentation, it seems likely that they will go for the first group, but limit it to those with the space and staff to deal with sales. With 38 versions of the Watch, it seems likely that the Watch Edition will be a special order product and stores will focus on the more main stream versions: the Apple Watch Sport and the Apple Watch.

However given that Apple have done deals with fashion stores in the UK, such as with Selfridges, it is likely that they will hand pick some other stores for the ranges, including the Apple Watch Edition. Selfridges offer a try-on appointment service and this could be replicated in Ireland. But my guess is that they will choose these links carefully and not all resellers will have this offered to them. 

Today you can walk into many stores to buy an iPod, Apple laptop, and iPhones are sold in a variety of network carrier stores. But the Watch is a different category and the presentation of the Watch is (and should be) of paramount importance to Apple and its brand.

Our Guide to Choosing a New MacBook Laptop

On April 10th, Apple started to take orders for its new MacBook laptop. This muddied the waters slightly as they already had two ranges of laptops for sale. So how do you choose the right laptop for the task in hand- here is a run down:

MacBook

MacBook: this is the new range and comes with very set options: all have a 12" Retina Display and there is a choice of two chip/storage options and three colours.  The colours are gold, space grey and silver and the two chip/storage options are 1.1Ghz chip/256GB or 1.2Ghz chip/512GB (there is also a custom-built option of a 1.3Ghz dual-core Intel Core M chip, costing around 150 extra).

The MacBook is aimed at the traveller, student and people who want to prioritise weight and small size over power. The MacBook is Apple's thinnest laptop and is very light at around less than 1kg.

The MacBook is not the fastest laptop but most users would notice little difference between a MacBook and MacBook Air when using everyday apps.

The MacBook also comes with only one port- a new slim USB-C port which is smaller than a standard USB. You can buy Apple adapters to add external devices if you wish but this laptop is aimed at wireless users. This is a perfect laptop in the age of iCloud Drive, Dropbox, AirPrint, Bluetooth and WiFi.

I see this as the future- this will be the point to which Apple will head with the MacBook Air range. There are relatively few choices with the MacBooks (choose bigger or smaller storage/chip speed, and then pick a colour) and this matches the buying experience when you go to purchase an iPhone or iPad. This is a great mainstream laptop and we expect to see lots of these be sold in 2015.

MacBook Air

MacBook Air: this is still the default laptop for many people as it has most of the lightness of the MacBook, but has a wider range of ports with USB, Thunderbolt, audio and MagSafe 2 power. There is more flexibility on screen sizes with a choice of 11" or 13" displays and you can customise a MacBook Air to come with a 512GB SSD drive instead of the standard 128 or 256. 

The MacBook Air is the middle choice- they stand between the ultimate lightness and portability of the MacBook, but are smaller (and slower) than a MacBook Pro. For people who need to plug in their printer or iPad and aren't ready to choose the minimal ports of the MacBook, the MacBook Air is a safe choice.

MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro: becoming more of a specialist choice, the MacBook Pro offers more processor and graphics power options, along with larger screens- 13" or 15". MacBook Pros come with 128, 256 or 512GB of storage and some allow an upgrade to a 1TB SSD drive. These are the fastest Apple laptops but the top 15" costs twice as much as the top of the line MacBook Air.

If you need a bigger screen, lots of power, extra storage and the extra ports, this is the beast for the professional video editor and power user.

Summary:

In 2015 we see most people going for a MacBook Air.  The lighter MacBook will appeal to many of the busy business travellers, a students, and home users who don't need to connect extra devices. The MacBook Air is cheaper and so will suit many homes and users on a budget, plus the extra few ports will mean that it will be a safer bet for those who say "what if I nee to connect my...". 

But I expect to see the MacBook Air phased out towards the end of 2016 or 2017, with the MacBook taking its place.

The MacBook Pro is the only option for those needing the bigger 15" screen and for people who work with power hungry apps (photographers, video editors, website and graphic designers, etc.). The new MacBook Pros are a lot lighter than a few years ago and come without a Superdrive (except for a legacy version which is still old). For most users, the MacBook Pro does not hit the mark, due to its extra weight and the higher price.

If Apple are to keep their traditional two laptop line-up, expect the MacBook to drop in price next year and to slowly take the place of the MacBook Air, with the MacBook Pro keeping is role as the all-powerful, professionals choice.

Simon Spence/2015

Becoming Steve Jobs

Looking forward to starting this book. I always found the Walter Isaccson biography to be one dimensional and fixated on what made Jobs seem different- unusual and abrasive. But to have built a team at Apple which stuck around for years, there must have been more to the man and he seemed to be more of a draw for talent. 

Given how Apple executives have contributed to this book, it seems like they are attempting to reset the clock and retell the story from the start. 

Simon Spence/2015

Apple Watch Guide-
Details of Ranges and Options

Here our guide to the Apple Watch:

Starting points:
- all Apple Watches do the same thing- there is no functional difference between all 38 watches in the ranges
- the differences come down to style- size, materials used, look, wrist bands


Choice steps:
The first choice is size- the Watch comes in 38mm or 42mm faces (measurement is the height of the front of the watch).
There are then three groups of Watches:
1: the Apple Watch Sport (least expensive models, made from aluminum) http://www.apple.com/watch/apple-watch-sport/
2: Apple Watch (the middle range, with the main body made from stainless steel): http://www.apple.com/watch/apple-watch/
3: Watch Edition (most expensive and made from precious material such as gold and diamonds): http://www.apple.com/watch/apple-watch-edition/
Once you decide on a range, you can then choose a band from that range- prices will vary depending on the band choice.
Here is a gallery on the Apple Store of the new ranges of Apple Watches:
You can begin to explore prices on the Store:
Here is a run-down of the ranges:

Apple Watch Sport
• Silver Aluminium Case with White, Blue, Green, or Pink Sport Band: $349 (38mm) / $399 (42mm)
• Space Grey Aluminium Case with Black Sport Band: $349 (38mm) / $399 (42mm)

Apple Watch
• Stainless Steel Case with White or Black Sport Band: $559 (38mm) / $599 (42mm)
• Stainless Steel Case with Black Classic Buckle: $649 (38mm) / $699 (42mm)
• Stainless Steel Case with Milanese Loop: $649 (38mm) / $699 (42mm)
• Stainless Steel Case with Black, Midnight Blue, Soft Pink, or Brown Modern Buckle: $749 (38mm only)
• Stainless Steel Case with Black, Bright Blue, Stone, or Light Brown Leather Loop: $699 (42mm only)
• Stainless Steel Case with Link Bracelet: $949 (38mm) / $999 (42mm)
• Space Black Case with Space Black Stainless Steel Link Bracelet: $1,049 (38mm) / $1,099 (42mm)

Apple Watch Edition
• 18-Karat Rose Gold Case with White Sport Band: $10,000 (38mm) / $12,000 (42mm)
• 18-Karat Yellow Gold Case with Black Sport Band: $10,000 (38mm) / $12,000 (42mm)
• 18-Karat Rose Gold Case with Rose Grey or Bright Red Modern Buckle: $17,000 (38mm only)
• 18-Karat Yellow Gold Case with Black or Midnight Blue Classic Buckle: $15,000 (42mm only)

Dates:
- Pre-Oders start on the 10th April
- The Watches start to ship on 24th April
Other useful guide:

Summary:
At the end of the day it comes down to four questions:
  • Which range?
  • Which size?
  • Which band?
  • Which Watch can you afford?!

Apple Watch to Re-Define Language of Gender?

On Monday 9th March Apple will reveal details of the Apple Watch. As I have set out on this site in the past, we know a certain portion of the information already, but there are many aspects which have been held back until now. 

One part which I have noted over the past few weeks is the issue of gender- the size of the Watch and the way Apple handles the promotion of the 38 and 42mm models. In the well-established watch market, small is for women and large is for men.  "Ladies" vs "Gents" is a tired old cliche which lasted through the 20th century and is still apparent in watch advertising today. 

Example from watchshop.com front page

Almost the first choice made when you enter a jewellers is to walk over to the men's or ladies' section of the store- with a gender choice coming before all other decisions. The established watch market falls into two gender-based categories: watches for men which focus on strength, rigour, power, sophistication.  This stands in opposition to the "ladies" watches which aim for femininity, style, glamour, elegance, lightness. 

Apple don't belong here. Apple don't do gender.  

In all of the years I have followed Apple and their products, they have never focussed on gender or marketed along sexist lines. The iPhone has never aimed to divide the products lines along male vs female: the choice of colour matches a lifestyle choice, not part of a gender equation. 

The closest we can find might be the iPods.  When Apple launched the range of colours for the iPod nano, it could be argued that the colours were aimed at different categories. But again Apple did not lead us down a path- there was never a stated aim of marketing a pink iPod at women only, and say blue for men.  The range of colours were left open to the consumer, a personal choice based on lifestyle, the iPod's purpose and without the constraints of gender-based limitations. 

But now we are in wearables, Apple's first product to specifically enter a style market. I fundamentally hope, and believe, that Apple does not intend to enter this market and adopt the old cliches set out by an ageing marketplace. We deserve better and if any company is going to lead to break up these types of segments, it is Apple. The Watch information pages on apple.com do not make any mention of male vs female or "ladies" and "gents" editions.

I believe that tomorrow Apple will launch two categories of Watch- a choice of large and slim. Why can't slim be athletic, light, lean, a perfect choice for any consumer irrespective of their gender (those who prefer the slimmer shape, not those who fit into a "slim watch segment"). Apple have always been to the forefront of the marriage equality debate, and I believe that old gender issues are not something that they will want to reinforce.  Now is the time to break with old conventions and Apple seem set to break the old categories seen on almost all watch manufacturer websites.

I look forward to seeing Apple's adverts and how they will define who will wear each of the devices. Apple are likely to reject the old assumptions of what a watch does and the functions contained in a wrist-based device, they will also change the language used to define this category. A freshness in design would be well matched by a fresh approach to language and how the Watch will be marketed.   

Simon Spence/2015

Apple Watch Wish List

Next Monday Apple will unveil more details about the Apple Watch. The event in Autumn 2014 revealed the Watch's existence, with a ship date of early 2015, but was short on some of the details. We know there will be a number of editions of the Watch and the price will start at $349, but we do not know the full price range and many of the features of the Watch are a mystery. 

Here is what I will be looking out for:

1/ battery life: this will be a key element as I would expect the Watch to last a full day. Anything less will be irritating as you will need to remove it in the middle. The idea of topping up your watch in your car or at work might put people off. We really hope Apple can stretch the battery in the Watch to a reasonable span, such as 12 hrs or more. 

2/ health: it would be wonderful to think that the Watch would track heart rate and blood sugars-  I know this is almost impossible. But as a diabetic I would like to think that the Watch could communicate with other gadgets for health and make health info a more regular part of life, not something you need to find out at your doctor's surgery. Blood pressure will be possible with the sensors, so I will be watching with interest. I will be disappointed if it simply also tracks steps and distance, the same as any other Nike-type monitor. 

3/ connection to iPhone and Mac: how are we going to load apps and sync info to the Watch (music etc). I still am not a fan of the way this is organised in iTunes- installing and arranging apps in the iTunes window is fiddly at best. I hope Apple have a great way to organise your content for the Watch. 

4/  tactile communication: the ability to send a "buzz" your Apple Watch friends is great. I love the idea of this way to communicate- more than text or email. It is a physical way to communicate and this will be catchy. It also works for routines- the Watch will vibrate if you have not stood up in a while- good for those of us looking after bad backs! Apple seem to have thought through the personal side of the Watch, and the ability to vibrate on your wrist is far more immediate and intimate than a buzzing iPhone. This will be an interesting one to keep an eye on as it could develop into a whole new, personal, way to communicate. 

5/ security: the Watch strikes me as the new thing too steal, and so I will be interested to see if Apple have thought this through. The iPhone is now a nightmare for a thief as the user can use Find My iPhone and can lock/wipe the device. We hope that the Watch, so publicly visible on a wrist, has these types of features and more.  

6/ Apple Pay: we expect Tim Cook to give an update on the new payment system, Apple Pay.  Hopefully he will announce that it is coming to Europe and we can't wait for it to arrive here. It will be a fantastic way to pay without having too pull out our cards at checkouts

7/ price: this thing won't be cheap! The starting price point of €349 is for the most basic version, but we expect the range to be big, and into the thousands. The more limited edition Watch, with gold, is likely to have an eye watering price to match. It is also likely that most people will be spending around $400-500 after they have selected a better strap or gone for a slightly better face.

8/ sizes: the Watch comes in a 38mm or 42mm size and I hope that Apple do not market this as a "ladies and gents" versions. I really hope the point of the sizes will be personal use and not gender based. If you look at a traditional jewellery store, the smaller watches are for women and the larger faces for men.  This irritates me and hope that Apple stick to breaking this type of gender-based stereotype. It would be nice to see the faces as a personal choice, the same with the straps. 

9/ don't expect this in your local shop: the Watch is likely to be an Apple-only purchase, so for Ireland it will be bought on the Apple online store. I do not believe that they will supply the Watch to third-party retailers, at least not at the beginning. Given the number of faces and straps available, this is a custom-build, so online shopping makes more sense. But there again not being able to hold or touch a Watch in Ireland before purchasing could be a  problem. Strong demand at the start will mean that Apple won't care about this, but expect to see Apple Watches in stores in a few years time as the product matures.

10/ this is the new iPod: the iPod range has not been updated in a few years and this is likely to continue. The Watch, along with Bluetooth headsets, is likely to be the new iPod. 

11/ what does the Digital Crown do?? The dial on the side of the Watch has not been discussed in detail. Look out for more news on this on Monday. Tim Cook did not refer to its purpose in the Autumn release.

12 surprise: Apple almost certainly held back on revealing significant functions of the Watch, so that this is revealed closer to the launch date. This means that competitors do not have time to try to copy its features. Expect a few show-stopper features to be revealed next week. 

We look forward to learning more on Monday. 

Simon Spence/2015

ClubMac- Dublin Mac User Group

Many thanks to ClubMac for inviting me along to speak to their meeting yesterday.  ClubMac is a Dublin Mac user group and provides s great forum for people to gather to discuss all things Apple. They hold regular news update and Q & A slots, for members to ask technical questions, and then have keynote presentations from invited guests. 

My own topic was publishing books on the iBooks Store, something I have done for a few years now with my children book series, Early Myths

I received a very friendly welcome and I would recommend the group to anyone starting out with a Mac who would like an opportunity to meet fellow users to learn more. Thanks to Tom and his colleagues for a very enjoyable evening. 

For more information check out the ClubMac website: www.clubmac.ie

Apple's New Data Centre

Great to see such a huge investment in Ireland. This carries on a long relationship between Apple and Ireland with the company having a long history in Cork. 

In the 80s and 90s Apple manufactured Macs in Cork, such as the PowerMac. In recent years they based their European call centre there. 

[Link to Irish Times story]

Apple Watch: All to be Revealed

So many aspects of the Apple Watch are yet to be revealed.  We expect to see Apple launch the watch at a special event in April where we will finally find out more about the capabilities of the new devices. Items such as what the digital crown does, the health features, and many of the built in apps are yet to be discussed in depth by Apple.

There is also the battery life- likely to be a breakthrough for this new market, but also likely to be widely criticised in the press. The Watch wilt meet expectations in this area, as the expectations are too high.

My own personal interest will be in the health apps, and whether this will benefit a Type 1 diabetic such as myself.  It is possible that the Watch will sync with blood-testing devices to help diabetics control blood-sugar levels, something truly revolutionary for diabetics.  The health apps will also track steps, distances etc and begin to help in your lifestyle. A Watch vibrating if you have not moved from your desk in an hour will certainly add a helpful prompt in our daily lives, and possibly for the better. Many of us need a reminder!

Simon Spence/2015

New iTunes-Beats Streamng Service Revealed

Not sure we learn a lot from this article by 9to5Mac but if true it will be good to see Apple compete head on with Spotify. The one interesting aspect will be the price point. $7.99 per month is still quite a commitment for many users, as it is close to buying an album each month, something which will not attract the majority of users. The speculation on a lower point of $5 would seem tone far more attractive. 

The rest of the article seems to be as informed as educated guess-work: Beats bring integrated into iTunes, new employees clashing with existing employees, slight delay in expected launch date? All a bit standard. 

[Article Link]

Simon Spence/2015

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