Apple remains one of the world’s, if not the world’s, most valuable company. With it’s stock, after it’s 7:1 split, sitting at just over $100 at the time of writing, it’s value has surpassed what many thought would be a hard limit. But, when it comes to making things, Apple, like the rest of us, has to start somewhere.
The first iPod stored 1,000 songs in your pocket. It had a clickwheel that moved, and 4 physical buttons between the screen and the wheel. The screen was black and white, and it only worked with a Mac through Firewire.
Five years later, there was a whole range of iPod, the smallest of which was incredibly small and still had enough space to store a thousand songs. The larest of which could store hundreds of hours of music, had a colour screen, was extremely thin compared to its forefathers, and worked with Windows, Mac and Linux (at a push) through USB 2.0.
It was, I think we can all agree, the iPod Apple had been waiting to show the world from the start.
The first iPhone, revealed to the world in January 2007, completely changed what we thought of as a smartphone. Not bad for a device that had 8GB of storage, a 320 x 480 display, 2G connectivity through GPRS and EDGE, and couldn’t run apps.
The iPhone 6, announced just last month, is a completely different beast, but one that has a roots in the handset Steve Jobs so proudly showed the world nearly 8 years ago.
But why am I bringing these up? Becuase I think some of us are missing the point when it comes to looking at the products Apple are showing us now, and not remembering that the device Apple originally shows us is often not the realisation of their true vision. For examples of this, I think we need to look no further than Health/HealthKit and Apple Watch.
When Apple announced iOS 8 this summer, they showcased their long awaited Health app and HealthKit. The goal to bring the disparate health information stored in a myriad of applications across the platform. Your weight would be stored in one app, your heart rate in another, and your jogging distances in yet another. Health was to bring all this data together, keep it safe on your device, and let applications save to and read from it.
When iOS 8 hit devices on October 17th, the application had been stripped bit a little from what was shown in early versions of the Beta, and at WWDC. Some pieces of information that were said to be stored were removed (it can still store over 60 types of information), and it took until 8.0.1 (and a further 8.0.2) for HealthKit applications to be enabled on devices.
What I think we saw here is Apple planning to do a lot more off the bat with Health, and either limitations appearing during development, or the law (and HIPAA) stepping in to limit the amount and types of data that can be stored.
I’m sure we’ll see much more from Health over the coming months, especially with the launch of the device I’m about to talk about.
Depending on who you ask, the Apple Watch is either another 2007 (but with watches instead of phones), or an ugly hunk of metal that’s going to weigh down your wrist. (The latter, often from people who’ve not even seen the device in real life, let alone worn it).
I’ve said it multiple times on Twitter, and I’m happy to repeat myself on this:
“The Apple Watch we saw Apple announce last month is not the Watch they wanted to announce, it’s the Watch they had to announce.” - Me
What I mean by this is that the Apple Watch we saw is like the original iPod or iPhone, in that it lays down the foundations, and the user interface, for a whole new category of device for Apple. A watch sized device, with a touch and pressure sensitive Retina Display, a digital crown, and wireless connectivity (albeit to the iPhone, when I’m sure we’ll see Apple Sim enabled versions in the future).
What we’ll see over the coming years is a gradual improvement of the device, with some leaps as the technology catches up with the ambitions and ideas of the designers. Within a few years we’l have the iPhone 5 moment for Apple Watch, where we all wonder how they fit all that power into something so thin.
Key to this evolution will be sensors. Whilst the current version of the Apple Watch has only a heartrate sensor and accelerometer, it’s possible to see this evolve over time (as the technology advances and miniaturises). I can imagine a time where all of the sensors we find in a modern iPhone, as well as many more that require skin contact or proximity to function, are all packed into our Apple Watches and storing data into Health. Data that can then be used to improve our health, and alert us of any negative trends.
We’re seeing it wrong
Many people are still seeing pre-2011 Apple through rose-tinted glasses. Apple under Jobs, it appears many think, was infallible and made blockbuster products that instantly did everything they would ever do, and they never made mistakes, iterated, or had slipups.
The Mac, iPod, iPhone and iPad are all examples of how Apple, even when Steve Jobs was at the helm, started with a simple idea and iterated on it. And when they had a product that was ready to release, they released it. Then they looked at how people used it, looked at the new technologies coming ot market, and they iterated. And iterated. And iterated.
It’s this way of working that brought us the 1997 iMac, the iPod Video, the iPhone 5 and the iPad Air. It is this way of working that will bring us a HealthKit and Apple Watch that blow the current iterations out of the water.