Reviews are In, HBO Now, Windows Phone RIP

Reviews, Reviews, and a Limit of ONE

The hotly anticipated Apple Watch is about to come into our lives, and now that tech writers everywhere have gotten their hands on one…wrists on…you know what I mean, it’s time to see what they have to say. Resoundingly and unsurprisingly the watch is being touted as the best wearable on the market. But reviewers aren’t without their reservations. John Gruber, in his very thorough review, said that while all the bells and whistles are as impressive as you think they’ll be, the “digital touch” aspect, “only works, only becomes a thing, if Apple Watch becomes a thing.” In other words, this supposedly revolutionary mode of communication only has value if the people you’re communicating with also have an Apple Watch. Wide adoption is necessary for some of these features to take off. And therein lies the question – will consumers adopt a completely new technology? As Gruber points out, the iPhone and iPod were successful because they performed an existing job better than all the competition. But in some sense the Apple Watch has no direct competition; at its level of sophistication it’s pretty much alone in its field. Getting people to adopt a new and unknown piece of technology might be an uphill battle.

Neil Cybart notes that it’s the “first Apple product designed from the beginning to be worn and have a purpose dependent on the user…The Apple Watch doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone.” Can users be bothered to figure out its utility for themselves, or will they reject it for being an admittedly very cool but nonetheless unfocused toy?

Almost all the reviewers suggest that it’s too early for smartwatch adoption, and that Apple is presenting revolutionary products before the populace is ready to receive them. That argument seems specious; it’s too early until it’s not, and someone has to break that ground (we know, there’s the Pebble and the Moto 360, but, while those are great, they don’t have the cachet of the Apple Watch). The next 365 days will be the real test. Does the watch shine so brightly that it can justify being worn every day and charged every night?

Pre-orders opened at 12:01 this morning, and they’ve already sold out. Typical Apple launch. In an uncharacteristic move but one in line with the very personal nature of the watch, pre-orders are only available online or through the app (and limited to a single watch per person), and you can only walk into an Apple Store and buy the watch if you’ve made an appointment to try it on. This creation of implied scarcity should increase demand, and makes getting one seem like an event more than a shopping trip.

HBO is Coming

This week HBO’s online streaming service, HBO Now, launched on Apple TV. The first big but certainly not last defector from the cable company stronghold, HBO will offer its much-lauded programming (yes, including GoT) to people outside the cable company system. Cable companies have long held the reins when it comes to content of any quality, but this break strikes to the heart of their supremacy and may be the tipping point needed for many to cut the cable cord.

This isn’t just a story about how soon you get to see Khaleesi next. It’s really a story about the Internet disrupting the previously lucrative and powerful distributor in the content supply chain. This isn’t a new trend. We’ve seen the same thing with record companies. It used to be that their main reason for existing was how they could front the huge cash to produce a record and manage the complex en masse distribution to a bevy retailers. The Internet has taken the highly entrenched behemoth that was the record industry and turned it on its head. With HBO’s defection, TV is in for the same inversion.

If the Developers Jump Ship, the Platform Dies

Yet another developer has opted out of designing for the very ill-fated Windows phone. Game developer Kabam released a statement saying,

“Kabam is now concentrating development on AAA quality games for Apple and Android mobile devices and has decided not pursue development for Windows Phones. Kabam is concentrating its resources on the biggest market opportunity, which is Apple and Android devices worldwide.”

Way back in January we read about the droves of developers abandoning the platform, and it seems that exodus has continued unabated. Chase Bank even took the radical option of pulling its app from the Windows Phone Store rather than simply abandoning it to age out. It’s clear that there aren’t enough users on the platform to justify developers continuing to pour resources into development. But what’s worse for Microsoft is the downward spiral that is picking up pace. Without users, developers aren’t willing to spend the time or the marketing dollars to drive traffic to the platform. Without a thriving app ecology users will flee.

Ben Evans has said that the platform war between iOS and Android is over and they both won. In a market that is won by momentum and scale we have seen the likes of Amazon, Blackberry, and once great Microsoft cowed. With a new innovative and open minded Satya Nadella in the driver’s seat and with their recent Cyanogen investment it may be just a matter of time before Window Phone goes the way of the Zune.

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