The Day I Rubbed Shoulders With

The feel of Apple’s September launch event was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Familiar in the way all Apple events I have attended since 2001 have felt. A similar format with many familiar faces but also unfamiliar because of the dramatic increase in the number of attendees. A casual observation by any regular Apple event participant would have seen a more diverse crowd from events past with even a number of high profile celebrities in attendance. There was also the feel something big was in the air because of the energy and buzz of the crowd.

After an hour or so of mingling with friends and colleagues, we filed into the Flint Center. Usually, at events like WWDC or Google IO or other large scale events, the media is allowed to get very close to the front to make a mad rush for the best seats before anyone else. These events have a very “running of the bulls in Pamplona” kind of feel. However this year, the same immediacy to get in was duplicated on the way out. The primary reason was because Apple had just announced and shown the Apple Watch minutes before.

As most of the crowd sped out of the Flint Center to get their pictures and “hands on” experience, I casually made my way outside to do on-camera interviews with some of the major news networks. After I completed them, I finally got a chance to experience the Apple Watch for myself. Which proved to be more difficult than I imagined.

The crowds surrounding the tables where the Apple Watch could be seen, held, and demoed were five rows deep of people. On the edges of the crowd, people were standing on their toes, or holding their cameras up as high as they could reach to snap pictures. People were pushing their way forward just to get close to the Apple Watch. I joked that seeing these crowds must have been what it was like observing people trying to see Jesus. Knowing the odds were against me, I decided to make a go and hope I didn’t have to wait an hour to get a demo.

I picked the least crowded table I could find and tried to get close. I was still at least three layers of people deep but at least I could see the Apple Watch and some of the demonstrations. As I watched intently, I felt another person press up against my back and lean over my right shoulder. At first I didn’t think anything of it until they started leaning on me with even more force. I turned to see why they needed shove their way to see the Apple Watch so badly. When I did, I recognized my inquiring compatriot as

I turned to look at him and his gaze intrigued me. The only way I could describe it was a stare of simultaneous shock and awe. He was mesmerized and fixated on the Apple Watch. He seemed so infatuated with it he didn’t noticed I had been staring at him for at least ten seconds as I tried to figure out the look on his face. I assumed he must have been simply amazed and marvelling at the quality and craftsmanship that would bridge technology and fashion for the first time. His intense gaze fascinated me because it was a look I have rarely seen on another person. As I talked with others after the event, I made mention of rubbing shoulders with and how much he seemed to like the Apple Watch. forward about a month and takes the stage at a conference put on by and announces a smartwatch of his own. It was a device that, while decent in concept and vision, it was left wanting in design. As I watched the news and saw the image of’s smartwatch, I recalled our bumping into each other and the look on his face — it made perfect sense. He was looking at a product that had just made his smartwatch obsolete. He knew he was going to be on stage in a month and release a product that couldn’t hold a candle to the Apple Watch. If I were him, I would have had the same look on my face. A look I misinterpreted as shock and awe was was really a look of defeat.

What this story reminds me of is how difficult hardware is. More specifically, how hard it is to create mass market hardware products that are at the “intersection of technology and liberal arts”. Those who look well positioned to accomplish this because of their ties to entertainment, fashion, and culture are, in reality, not necessarily equipped to do so. It helps us appreciate what Apple has accomplished in creating mass market technology products that truly are at that intersection. Perhaps those in entertainment and fashion will learn the lesson that not just anyone can be a hardware/technology company and reconsider future aspirations.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

10 thoughts on “The Day I Rubbed Shoulders With”

  1. “Perhaps those in entertainment and fashion will learn the lesson.”

    The problem is that when a company does something well it looks easy, so others assume it *is* easy.

    1. Or just steal it, with little comprehension of why it works, so long as the dummies who buy solely on price continue to do so.

      1. Now that’s not nice! You speak of seeking to minimize price as if it’s a bad thing. What are those that would buy at any price?

        Do you root for the dealer when you’re at the Blackjack table?

        1. There’s only so much you can minimise price before the product stops even pretending to fulfil the job to be done, that’s why we’re in the mess we’re in economically (in the west anyway). I’m not talking about insane prices like for jewellery, fashion (watches, clothes, cars, whatever) just because some crooks or fashion victims have money to burn and can’t help flaunting it or their lack of style and taste. I’m talking about fair prices for products that work as advertised. Taste or style here is a bonus. While Apple might make healthy margins on many of its products, you get many of the services as part of the deal, plus you need liquidity to achieve your goals product wise, not for the directors and the rest of the suits to siphon it off for themselves.

  2. The most interesting piece of this for me is that Apple knew he was developing a smartwatch – he’d publicly showed it off on a talk show months before the Apple Watch event – and Apple invited him anyway.

    1. I guess they don’t regard current or proposed “watches” as any threat. That will come once the Watch is released.

  3. If only you were wearing Google Glass you could’ve captured that moment.

    The GIF of Will cartoon-ily driving a car has already made its away around the internet but what surprised me most about his demo of that ridiculously large smart-cuff was that he was simulating driving. Did he forget that both Apple and Google already announced dashboard companions or is he counting on that market not existing for another year or more leaving room for his device?

    Never mind that a lot of cars already have the Siri-hands free button on their steering wheels, it just seems odd that he would choose driving as a viable use-case for his watch when there are so many alternatives. I’ve used my Bluetooth headset to have Siri dictate texts, set reminders and make/take calls. That’s all I really need and Will is trying to convince us that having a huge smartphone attached to our wrist is the way to go.


    The jump-the-shark moment was seeing him navigate that microscopic keyboard.

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