iPad Pro and the toaster-fridge

In 2012 Tim Cook answered a question about merging OS X and iOS by saying:

“You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those aren’t going to be pleasing to the user.”

This year, at the BoxWorks conference, Cook was again questioned about whether OS X and iOS would merge. His response was similar:

“We don’t believe in having one operating system for PC and mobile…We think it subtracts from both, and you don’t get the best experience from either. We’re very much focused on two.”

The philosophy behind these statements is, of course, that the best user experience comes when the software is perfectly suited for the form of the device it will be running on. Devices intended to be put in one hand or two hands or on a lap or on a desk are radically different. Cook’s argument is that this requires that the OS itself be suited to the form of the device. Apple has consistently refused to make toaster-fridges. With one glaring exception: iPad. Continue reading

Watchscreen: Jan Dawson, tech analyst with JackDaw Research and TechPinions

Each week, I ask someone to share their watchscreen, examining how they’re using Apple Watch, what apps are useful, and tips or tricks they have. This week, I’ve asked Jan Dawson (Twitter, Blog, Company) to share his screen.


Jan has been a technology analysts for thirteen years, having founded the Jackdaw technology research & consulting firm, writes actively for Techpinions, appears on the highly recommend Techpinions podcast, co-hosts the new and excellent Beyond Devices podcast, and writes frequently at his personal site, BeyondDevic.es. His thoughts are always insightful, full of perspective from years of following the technology industry yet matched with a perceptive understanding of the human side of technology. I’m excited to see his perspective on Apple Watch!

So, Jan, show us your watchscreen! Continue reading

My answers to Apple’s Apple Watch survey

Today I received an email from Apple asking for my feedback on my Apple Watch purchase. Partway through the survey, I decided to copy some of my answers and post them here so you can see some of the things I would change or some frustrations I have with the device. While I’ve written positively about Apple Watch in general and love the device, that’s not to say there aren’t some frustrations. Here are some of my answers: Continue reading

Guest appearance on WatchAware podcast & expanded shownotes!

I am honored to have been the first guest on the podcast of WatchAware, co-hosted by Abdel Ibrahim and Julia Mayhugh. In it, we discussed a wide variety of subjects, including how China is the most important market for Apple Watch, how Apple approaches its products in a more human way than other tech companies, and how we see great potential in the form factor of Apple Watch. I’m biased, of course, but I thought it was a stimulating discussion and I highly recommend you check it out. If you like this site, you will like the podcast.

Listen to it on iTunes or in Overcast — and if you like it, be sure to rate it in iTunes or recommend it in Overcast!

Continue reading

The Irreducible Reality of Form

In the second to fourth centuries, the philosophy of Gnosticism became popular. Though it had many variants, a key tenet was that matter was a lesser emanation of a kind of divine spirit. Human spirits were thus spiritual and good, but human bodies and matter were physical and evil, a limitation that had to be escaped in order to achieve true gnosis or enlightenment.

Why on earth do I start an article about technology–and this is an article about technology–with an ancient philosophy?1 Because good design of technology has to be based on an anti-gnostic notion that humans, fundamentally and irreducibly, are physical creatures and use physical products in a physical world. Those physical products, just as fundamentally and irreducibly, have a specific physical form that can be well or poorly suited to a human’s physical body or to the physical world.2 These forms both limit and enable functionality that is unique to that form. This interplay between a form’s function, it’s suitability to the human body and it’s appropriateness for the physical world is what design considers–and it is the interaction of these elements that has led to the success and failure of many technological products.3

Continue reading

Two Months with Apple Watch

I’ve had my Apple Watch now for a few days shy of two months and I’m not giving it up. Back in March, I had thought,going to graduate school and working full-time, that the value proposition of Apple Watch was not worth the expense. Then, as an incredible surprise, my awesome wife contacted my family and friends and had them go together to get me an Apple Watch for my birthday. It has been life-changing.

Others have panned Apple Watch and “broken up” with it.1 In my assessment, most of those bad experiences were caused by wrong expectations. What are the right expectations? The ones that Apple told us at the very start: time-keeping, communication, and fitness. Though I’ve written about Apple Watch each week for the last two months, I purposefully haven’t written about those tentpoles as they’re not things you can assess in a week. Now that it’s been two months, it’s time. Continue reading

Apple’s Localization for China at WWDC

(I’m taking a break from my weekly review of Apple Watch to comment on WWDC. The last in the series will be posted next week.)

As you may be aware, after spending 5 years in China and marrying a Chinese woman, I’m incredibly interested in China. In WWDC, Apple’s increasing attention to China was on full display, in a wide variety of ways, but not all obvious to Westerners. Apple is adjusting its software to solve clear needs in reaching the Chinese market. Continue reading

The Future of Apple Watch (WWDC and beyond)

This is part 4 in ongoing series of reflections based on my experience with Apple Watch. Previous pieces are: Week 1: You Can’t Put Delight In a SpreadsheetWeeks 2-3: Its Form Is Its Function, Week 4: A Foundation for the Future.

It’s that time of year again, when Apple critics, analysts, and skeptics release their expectations, analysis, and wish lists for WWDC. In this piece, I hope to approach the pre-WWDC ramp-up somewhat differently. These other approaches are based, typically, off of rumors or personal frustrations with the software. I hope to present a more timeless list of strategic wrist-centric ways where Apple Watch should mature in order for its long-term potential to be reached. Continue reading

Apple Watch Week 4: A Foundation for the Future

This is part 3 in ongoing series of reflections on my experience with Apple Watch the first months its out. Other pieces are: Week 1: You Can’t Put Delight In a SpreadsheetWeeks 2-3: Its Form Is Its Function, & Week 5: The Future of Apple Watch (WWDC & beyond)

The expectations we have about a product immensely in shaping our evaluation of it, perhaps more than the quality of the actual product. If, we, as the Little Mermaid humorously did, think that the purpose of a fork is to brush one’s hair, then we will note that it frequently snags hair, has an uncomfortable handle, and is, on the whole, a failed product. If you expected Avengers to be a romantic comedy, you’d be sorely disappointed. And those who expected Apple Watch to replace their iPhone have been disappointed as well.

Can Apple Watch do everything now? No. Can it replace your phone? No. Is it bug-free? No. Is there room for improvement? Yes. Are any of those expectations appropriate for the first generation of any product? Of course not. Apple Watch is not a perfect product, but many people are forgetting that neither was the first iPod, the first iPhone, or the first iPad. Rather than evaluating whether the product is already mature, a better question is to ask whether Apple has laid a foundation on which Apple Watch can grow. The answer, I believe, is a resounding yes. Continue reading

Apple Watch Weeks 2-3: Its Form Is Its Function

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In my first piece in this series, I wrote that the value of Apple Watch can’t be explained monetarily, but I’ve found in these last weeks that the value is hard to explain in functional terms. Part of the reason is that its delight comes from tiny moments of joy that compound over time, a compounding that outside observers don’t experience.1 But another part of the reason is that what the watch does is so different than what many expect.

This last week, I was on vacation with my family (who gave the watch to me) and at a conference where my watch was noticed (a lot!).2 Amidst the oohs and ahs and  people calling it iWatch, I was repeatedly asked the question, “What does it do?” As I answered that question, I realized that the functions of Apple Watch are unique to its form. It’s an oft-quoted maxim that “form follows function,” but in the case of Apple Watch, I believe the exact opposite is true: the Apple Watch’s form is its function. It is Apple’s discipline to allow the form to dictate its function that has set up the Watch for success in a way only Apple could. Continue reading