2015年3月18日 星期三

Can Apple Disrupt the Luxury Watch Market? It Depends How You Define 'Disrupt'【典範轉移】

Can Apple Disrupt the Luxury Watch Market? It Depends How You Define 'Disrupt'
After the initial shock and awe wore off when Apple AAPL +1.73% announced its eye-popping price point for the gold version of its smartwatch – $10,000 to start – speculation turned to which industry and/or industries such a watch would disrupt.
The fitness wearable industry comes to mind first, but then it’s hard to imagine who would wear a $10,000 watch for a sweaty workout. The cheaper versions, though, would work nicely as a disruptor in this space.

Other services or functions that are delivered through a mobile device are more likely to be affected – but only until they have adapted to the smartwatch as another mobile form function. Which is already happening—it tookSalesforce.com CRM +1.69%, all of about a day or so to announce three apps for the Apple Watch.
The obvious answer, of course, to the question which industry is the gold Apple Watch going to disrupt is the luxury watch industry. Forbes contributor Ewan Spence made that case last year in this post.
But Tim Cook’s goal is much higher than that [selling cheaper watches to tech aficionados]. It’s not just the reinvention of the smartwatch category, it is the disruption and potential domination of the luxury watch industry that Cook will seek to challenge during 2015.
Spence’s argument makes intuitive sense, of course. Who else would buy a $10,000 watch but someone used to investing in Rolex or similar item. Certainly not a typical Apple user who, while a fan of the brand, knows that new technology quickly becomes obsolete technology, which is fine when you are talking about a $389 smartwatch but not a $10,000 one.
But there is another theory to consider about the Apple Watch and the luxury watch market and it opens up a larger discussion of what is disruption.
Last month Vox.com singled out a profile in the New Yorker of Apple design chief Jonny Ive. This is what Vox.com zeroed in on:
Sebastian Vivas, the director of a watch museum maintained by Audemars Piguet, the Swiss manufacturer, recently described his industry as unperturbed by Apple’s plans: “We’re not afraid; we’re just a little bit smiling.” It would be a greater threat, he told me, if men widely accepted that they could wear gemstones without a time-keeping pretext.
Vox.com translated this to mean that right now watches serve as a form of jewelry that fits within conventional social ideas about masculinity.
But fashion is fickle and gender norms change over time. Vivas’ view is that the real threat to the watch industry isn’t that some new product will “disrupt” it, it’s that different ideas about masculinity might render the watchmakers’ expertise at building mechanical timepieces entirely irrelevant.
Now we are getting at something and it is not just who wins and loses with the Apple Watch. The concept of disruption is much more fundamental than that, according to Salim Ismail. Ismail has spent the last four years as Singularity University‘s founding executive director and current global ambassador. Before that, he was a vice president at Yahoo YHOO +0.6%, running Brickhouse, Yahoo’s internal incubator. His most recent claim to fame is a book he published last year called Exponential Organizations.
ExOs, as he calls them, use such resources as big data, the community and accelerating technologies to achieve at least ten times performance improvement compared to traditional business. He gives the example of Proctor & Gamble taking about 300 days to go from a new product idea to a Walmart shelf, but Quirky , an ExO, achieves that same result in 29 days.
True disruption is the competitor that companies never see coming, or if they do, they don’t consider that company to be a threat, he tells me.
He gives me another example: Soylent a nutritional drink developed by software engineer Rob Rhinehart that includes all the nutritional requirements a human and can serve as main or sole food.
It began shipping last May and this year January Soylent received $20 million in Series A round funding, led by Andreessen Horowitz.
“It isn’t something the food industry would take notice of right away – it is not a director competitor, but it will carve out some marketshare from their industry,” Ismail says. A food marketer might be watching social media for competition but a food supplement might not make it onto the radar. Ditto a trip to the grocery store where Soylent will be in the nutritional aisle, not a food aisle.
Or what about a supplement like Red Bull or another energy drink, he continues: Soylent could conceivable challenge that category as well. If it does, it will almost surely be by surprise. “They would see sales dropping but never figure out why or how until it was too late.”
Sometimes the competition is not even a commercial event. Ismail tells of the curious study of car wash facilities in Buenos Aires that have seen a significant drop in revenue in the last several years.
The competition is not another car wash or some new product that washes a car without water. Rather it proved to be Mother Nature herself – aided by improved weather forecasting. “Our modeling of the weather is now 50% better than in previous decades so people get a better idea of when it will rain.”
So yes, luxury watchmakers are likely to be concerned about losing some sales at the margin with the debut of the gold Apple Watch. But if they are looking for something to really panic about, they should talk to Sebastian Vivas. Or better yet Salim Ismail.

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