Apple Watch: Function Over Form Otherwise It’s Just a Fad

So yet another technology company wants to put some jewelry on my wrist.  Good luck.  You know it’s not that I don’t want the Apple Watch to succeed.  It’s just that I’ve been down this path already.

This past weekend I was reading a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle by Thomas Lee, “Why we need Apple to fail.”  While I’m not really buying Mr. Lee’s line of thinking – my ego is not going to be bruised one way or the other should Apple fail or succeed with this product – it did start me thinking.

My father was an employee at Hewlett Packard back in the good old days.  One of the latest and greatest products of those days was the desktop calculator.  It was a time when each successive year found significantly more computational power in much smaller footprints.  Eventually someone said, “Hey, we could make a calculator as small as a watch now.”  So they did.

I don’t know how many watches HP produced over the lifetime of the product but suffice it to say this wasn’t an iPod moment.  Strike one for high tech companies that go into the jewelry business.  Now Apple has jumped in with a Watch.  I have to admit I’m just a little skeptical that this will be a big hit for Apple.  This will be the first big test of whether Apple’s Marketing still has their mojo post Steve Jobs.

I hate wearing jewelry.  I think it’s some peculiar form of claustrophobia.  I’ll occasionally wear leather wristbands or something with beads that my son or daughter made for me, but I haven’t worn a watch consistently since the one my wife gave me on our honeymoon stopped working ten years ago.  I think this is the first hurdle for Apple.  Many people just don’t like to wear watches.  But that’s ok.  People like me will put up with items hanging or dangling on us for some reason.  For instance, I’m in to fitness.  If you tell me that my Watch is also going to keep data on my heart rate, daily walking/running distances, etc., and make it immediately accessible on my Watch, iPhone, MacBookPro or iPad, I’ll put up with it hanging on my wrist. The Apple Watch does have Activity and Workout apps that do some of this, so maybe it’s on the right track.

After reading Thomas Lee’s article it hit me.  The “cool” factor of any product eventually will wear off unless there is meaningful practical value.  Function over form, otherwise it’s just a fad.  This started me thinking of the parallels this has in the network management product space.  There is an incredible amount of data riding over various networks these days.  There is also an incredible amount of control information being gathered to help monitor and manage the data transiting networks.  We used to think that just providing tabular data with a few graphs was not only “cool” but also was sufficient to keep tabs on what was happening in the network.  Wrong.

Complexity in the networking world is exactly what is driving the rush to Software Defined Networks.  It’s almost as if we’ve raised the white flag on being able to manage networks with traditional tools.  Today, dashboards with latency and other performance measurements, aligned with router and link data, cross-referenced with logical or physical path visualization is becoming the critical need in the network management world.  This is the “function” over form.  This is the meat in the stew.  Network management products that can’t be a part of the Software Define Networking world or provide holistic views of various network performance metrics are going to be the fads of tomorrow.

Time will tell (no pun intended) on the Apple Watch.