It has been weeks since Apple announced its decision to buy Beats for $3.2 billion. And while I have maintained that it is about the music discovery service, others believe that headphones are part of the reason why Apple ponied up so much money. That didn’t make sense to me, considering that Apple is a hardware company and could easily turn up the volume on its headphone business. However, when I recently read Khoi Vinh’s post about the “go to market strategies” of the two companies, it all started to come together.
Vinh points out that it is hard to create variability at scale — that is why even iPod and iPhone come in only a handful of colors. In comparison, Beats’ middle name is variability. It offers 60 different types of headphones. In Vinh’s mind, the Beats catalog is akin to the Nixon watches catalog. What does he mean by that? Like Nixon, Beats’ “primary selection criteria are looks and style” whereas in Apple’s case, you pick your model before picking your style, he argues.
Apple is a company that makes tech which becomes fashionable. Beats makes fashion that is powered by technology. Today’s smart watches are essentially technology that hopes to become fashionable, but the current generation are aesthetically challenged to say the least. Arguably, Apple is highly aware of this, and is therefore thinking how it becomes the company that makes watches aka fashion powered by technology. And it is not just watches — but other consumables.
Robert Brunner, chief design officer of Beats (and formerly of Apple) recently suggested that fashion is a tribe you belong to or you aspire to belong to. Beats he argued was a tribe people want to associate with. Apple is doing its best to make sure that, as it starts to make more products outside of the traditional computing sphere — iWatches, for example — it successfully crosses over to becoming a fashion company too.
This certainly explains why Apple has been hiring fashion people from the fashion and watch business. Maybe, in the near future people will give Apple CEO Tim Cook some credit for thinking different. I have my reservations about the company and the lack of its Internet DNA — but have every confidence in Cook.
3 thoughts on “Beats, iWatch & Apple’s fashion forward future”
Reblogged this on Taste of Apple and commented:
Some interesting points here. I think that Apple has limited certain options (colors for example) for reasons aside from scale (though scale is definitely one part of the equation) and cost. Focus and making the very best products are at the core of Apple’s DNA. I’ve said it over and over – Tim Cook is doing a great job and history will likely look back on his time at Apple as one of the best eras of Apple’s reign. He is setting Apple up for the future and there are products and forward thinking decisions that will support this long term view. He’s definitely the best choice to lead Apple at this point.
What Apple needs, is people from the toy industry and Casio, because the iWatch is in the same realm as all the toys you see in Spykids and James Bond. The remote control watch and the temperature sensor all fall in the same category.
The iWatch is going to be the ultimate cloud device, even more than any other mobile device.
Function before fashion.
Do you think Apple’s limited variability is a matter of scale? I think it’s a strategy of simplicity: Keeping things simple make the purchase decision easier and in turns it makes it more likely for consumers to become buyers. Apple could easily make 20 versions of the iPhone and people would eat it up, but by making three colors and three capacities they make the purchase process easier.
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