Apple doesn't launch "new" products very often. Sure, it introduces updated versions of existing products, like the massively successful iPhone 6, but truly new products? In the past 15 years, there have been precisely three: the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. All were hugely successful, and all put a new twist on what came before.
Now, we have the Apple Watch. According to Apple CEO Tim Cook, development on the Watch is on schedule and shipments are expected starting in April. The company has launched a somewhat limited developer program — more APIs will be available over time — but nonetheless, app makers are already testing out apps in a watch simulator on OS X.
"The creativity and software innovation going on around Apple Watch is incredibly exciting," Cook said during the conference call last week, according to Seeking Alpha. "We can't wait for our customers to experience them when Apple Watch becomes available."
In true Apple fashion, Cook wouldn't commit to any sales predictions aside from some predictable generalizations.
"My expectations are very high on it. I'm using it every day and love it and I can't live without it," said Cook. Some Apple employees seem to be enjoying it as well. Readers on the MacRumors Forums have been collecting photos of Apple Watches spotted in the wild, suggesting that more and more Apple employees have been issued the devices for early beta testing.
Unlike the iPhone 6, which launched within weeks of its introduction last September, the Apple Watch will go more than six months between its public reveal and its on-sale date. Something similar happened with the iPhone, which was six months from introduction to launch, and the iPad, which was around 3 months.
When the iPhone was introduced, the App Store wasn't even in the cards. Steve Jobs didn't think it was necessary, but he was eventually turned around, and the App Store launched a year later. The iPad could run all of the iPhone's apps, and developers quickly began developing apps specifically for its larger screen. As for third-party apps? "We're seeing some incredible innovation" on the Watch, said Cook on the call.
Some very special developers got an early peek at the Apple Watch before it was even launched, and I'm sure there are high-profile developers who currently are working on Apple Watches ahead of everyone else.
The Watch isn't going to be a massive $100 billion revenue generator for Apple — it's an accessory to the iPhone, and a pricey one at that. Instead, it's going to be one more piece in the ecosystem that keeps customers locked in. Apple's churn, the amount of iPhone owners who leave for another smartphone platform, is extremely low. Much of this can be attributed to the App Store and iTunes, but for every Apple product that someone buys in addition to their iPhone, that's one more reason for them to keep using Apple's products rather than switching to a competitor.
I have a handful of friends who have dropped their iPhones for Android (with one married couple coming back to the iPhone after just six months with their Samsung Galaxy S 5s), but all of the people who have left owned, at most, an iPhone and an iPad. Once they embrace the Mac and the rest of Apple's ecosystem, they are very unlikely to leave.
That's the goal of the Apple Watch — locking customers in. The revenue generated by the device will be a nice bottom line booster, however.
Will you be getting an Apple Watch? Let us know in the comments below.
Jordan Golson is an Apple Columnist for TechRepublic. He also writes about technology and automobiles for WIRED and MacRumors. He has worked for Apple Retail twice and has been writing about technology since 2007.