Last week Mark & I were working through the various aspects of what we consider two incredible products of technical genius that have both been initially tarnished by poor customer communication.
- Angela - Apple Store Lines are a Good for Apple
- Over / Under: Angela Ahrendts out by June?
- New MacBook Still Vaporware, But High In Demand
- Apple MacBook: Failure to Launch
While a perfect launch by Apple would have produced an ample supply of Apple Watch and MacBook, to meet the excitement and demand created by Apple, the reality of manufacturing each of these these bleeding edge technology wonders in mass quantity has proven more difficult than anticipated — even for one of the best company on the planet who is known for building incredibly complex items at an incredible pace.
My brother and T-GAAP colleague wrote an article yesterday, “Over / Under: Angela Ahrendts out by June?” We have never in our four year history seen such a lightning rod for positive and negative comments about the same article. Mark was called brilliant and an idiot at the same time (funny because sometime I think he is a brilliant idiot — but that’s another story).
In all seriousness we at T-GAAP are very aware that the problem with the Apple Watch launch isn’t solely due to Angela Ahrendts’ new way of launching a fashion item via the Apple Store. That said, her new methods did not help any. While the Apple Watch production has been rumored to be plagued with low display yields by LG, or another manufacturing process, we don’t think this is a supply chain issue. A supply chain problem would have reared its head long ago, so Tim Cook would have known about it before his March Keynote that things were going sideways. Apple flubbered big-time in its communication to customers. Apple set expectations one way, based on the history of delivering products, and then has failed to come close to meeting those expectations. The problem is as much a marketing problem as a manufacturing one. The pre-order system only inflated Apple’s woes. And Apple Watch isn’t the only casualty in this process as MacBook has suffered the same fate. Today, you can go into an Apple Store to look and touch, but cannot walk out with one of Apple's two new products — a cardinal sin for retail sales.
The amazing Apple Watch was once available to own starting April 24, 2015. Now the watch is only shipping to customers who have pre-ordered the device on April 10th. Yesterday Apple removed their 04.24.2015 date stamp on the Apple Watch’s home page, replacing it with "The Watch is coming." According to The Telegraph, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail and Online sales, Angela Ahrendt, sent out a letter to Apple retail employees explaining the watch will not be available until June.
Apple Watch has only been available for pre-order and by-appointment-only trial for less than a week, and just about everything the watch can – or cannot do – has been revealed in hundreds of reviews. What I discovered yesterday during my try-on appointment was that the Apple Watch experience was vastly different compared to any other time I’ve stepped into an Apple retail store to check out a new product.
On Friday, April 10th, Apple Watch pre-ordering was launched, and by-appointment-only demos were available for would-be buyers in order to get some personal time with Apple’s first wearable device. Another Apple product, largely overshadowed by Apple Watch, was also launched. Or was it?
The all-new MacBook was to be available for purchase – not just pre-order – on April 10th. Friday morning, I gathered in line at Portland, Oregon's downtown Apple store. Upon entering it appeared that roughly a 1/3rd of the people in line were waiting to get their hands on the new MacBook. Unfortunately those hoping to make a purchase and walk away with the new laptop were sorely disappointed, because there were no MacBooks in stock to buy from Apple. Two customers I spoke with had flown in from Utah, and another had taken the day off to drive several hours in order to purchase the MacBook. Needless to say, customers were not happy about the news — No MacBooks available in store for purchase.
April 10, 2015, Apple Store Pioneer Place, Portland, OR, 8:15 AM. Most all Apple retail locations state-side open at 10 AM, and at least in Portland, OR, no lines exist – yet. One lone guy was pacing the front doors, wanting to get a look at Apple Watch, but if he tried to use Apple’s Concierge system after 12:00 AM last night, he was out of luck at least in this region. Many were unsuccessful in using Apple’s Store app to schedule an Apple Watch appointment, as it appears Apple’s system was apparently overloaded.
If you think massive lines will accompany the Apple Watch launch tomorrow, you may be in for a shock. Apple is deploying a new strategy in an attempt to eliminate long waits and roped off lines. The goal is to avoid sticking would-be buyers in lawn chairs and tents for hours or days on end. Apple's new retail rollout, spearheaded by Angela Ahrendts, Apple's VP of Retail and Online Sales, may help reduce lines, but try as she may, odds are high that consumers will still be waiting in some form of line tomorrow and on through the weekend.
The first change to Apple's line-elimination-strategy, is to soft launch Apple Watch. While the Apple Watch is available to try on and explore tomorrow, it is only available for pre-order, and will be available to purchase and pickup at Apple retail locations April 24. For the "gotta have it now" crowd, seeing it without being able to walk out of the store with the Apple Watch in-hand may delay their impulse shopping, spreading out that buying contingency over a few weeks time.
It has begun. Just days before the new Apple Watch will be available for the public to look at, try on and order, the attention seeking, anti-Apple press have started launching their missiles at Apple and its latest device.
Yahoo! is running a story by Reuters which quotes Geoffrey Fowler of the Wall Street Journal, Nilay Pitel of The Verge and Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times. All of them make silly statements, like Fowler’s, “I won't pay the $1,000 it would cost for the model I tested, only to see a significant improvement roll in before too long.” Fowler's false premise assumes no one values a $1,000 version of the watch — wrong. If Fowler does not think the Apple Watch is worth $1,000, then he can always buy a less expensive model, and that is one of the beauties of Apple Watch: the innumerable choices and price points for all types of people. Evidently Fowler has missed that obvious point. Fowler myopically reviews Apple Watch from a tech point of view only, thus his review is terribly flawed. It misses half of what Apple Watch is all about — fashion.
If you hadn’t noticed, Apple is on what can only be described as a never-ending tear of success, and their enemies seem incapable or inept at stopping them. But this does not mean other tech players aren’t trying to wear their big-boy pants — they just continue to come up short at competing effectively. Perhaps the worst offender is Microsoft. Under former CEO Steve Ballmer, the Redmond software giant became very good at making lofty promises, delivering failures, demonstrating vaporware or throwing an occasional chair. Today’s Microsoft, run by Satya Nadella, is now a softer, gentler software vendor, but has yet to be any more effective at defeating the iPhone, iPad, Mac, and soon to arrive and dominate the wearable market, Apple Watch.
Nadella showed initial promise by downplaying the consumer electronics market, turning his focus on enterprise solutions. Old habits die hard. Microsoft is once again is pulling out their Fisher Price "My First Marketing Playbook" in another attempt at capturing the consumers eye with Surface 3. Will a cheaper Surface, whose best feature is the 5 seconds of switching between a poor tablet and so-so ultrabook, backed with a massive advertising budget, be enough to derail Apple’s best laid plans?
When we all saw iPhone for the first time we immediately understood how much more useful and elegant it was compared to our current mobile phones. We could quickly imagine how much better and how much easier life could be with iPhone. The use cases were obvious and numerous. But for Apple Watch, while it sure looks beautiful and seems like it would be nice to own, the question that has lingered in our collective T-GAAP minds has been, “What problem does it solve?” In other words, how is it enhancing my life?