Apple [AAPL] and iconic UK fashion brand, Burberry, will use iPhone 5S handsets to film and photograph next Monday's Burberry fashion event -- some may see that as PR, I see it as Cupertino creating relationships with top tier fashion labels as it seeks further adventures in wearable computing.
[ABOVE: A Burberry fashion clip shot with an iPhone 5S. [Source: Burberry].]
Wearables: chic, not geek
As I see it, any tech firm can grab together a bundle of components, slap an operating system on top of these and tweak the look of the thing until it's just about acceptable enough to propose as a wearable device: take a look at that recently released Samsung smartwatch, for example: it doesn't set a new landmark in watch design.
Apple understands the value of design. Today that's all about iPhones and iPads and the purported iWatch, but this isn’t how things will remain. The momentum in the mobile industry is massive -- time for some stats:
- In the US, people spend around 2.7 hours each day socialising on their mobile device.
- In the UK, around half of men and women become anxious if they can't use their smartphone.
- One half of all local searches take place on a mobile device
- 86 percent of mobile Internet users use their gadgets while watching TV.
- Around 4.4 billion people are expected to be using mobile apps by the end of 2017.
These stats all seem rather impressive, but it's important to remember they reflect the growth of the mobile Web within today's devices: phones, iPads, and a few others.
Imagine how these statistics will grow as new devices paradigms reach market. Watches, glasses, clothes…By this I mean no matter how impressive today's statistical predictions might appear to be, we're at the beginning of a disruptive wave, not the end. The implications on human behaviour are staggering.
[ABOVE: iPhone 5S used to capture Burberry's assets. [Source: Burberry])
On the catwalk
You might imagine the iPhone event in conjunction with Burberry to be nothing more than a way to drum up some publicity. In the short term I'd imagine you to be right. It is however interesting in light of Apple's recent hire of executives from Yves St Laurent, Nike and others.
The company is already recruiting staff with a background in fashion, and I think this is unlikely to be a step toward the creation of an Apple apparel range (despite its handy high street presence for such products).
Then there's the PR statement from Burberry to ponder:
"This collaboration celebrates our relationship and shared foundation in design and craftsmanship. We have a mutual passion for creating beautiful products and unlocking emotive experiences through technology, which has made it intensely exciting to explore the capabilities of iPhone 5s,” said Christopher Bailey, Burberry Chief Creative Officer. “We’re inspired by what this could mean for the future as we continue to explore the merging of physical and digital experiences.”
The evolution of the technology industry continues. It hasn't been about beige boxes for some time. The truth is technology became mass market many years ago. The iMac ushered in an age in which the appearance and capabilities of the device became as important (perhaps more so) as the technology inside the box.
The invisible computer
These days' computing has moved into smaller boxes: smartphones, tablets, watches and -- obviously in future -- your clothes.
Design is critical to all these steps, but especially to the next migration when computing transcends the device to become completely personal.
You will want to wear what you like; you won't want to be limited to some technologist's dream of what makes a good fashion statement, you'll want to be wearing things that suit you; things which may, or may not, also host a little intelligence inside. You'll want choice, and you'll want good design.
So where should a technology firm on the edge of a truly mobile future forge new relationships in order to place its solutions at the center of the next step in that evolution?
I'd argue that technology firms across the planet are likely to emulate Apple (as always) and begin attempting to woo fashion houses. I'd also note that it's typical of Apple to explore opportunity at the top of the fashion food chain.
It's a positive that Apple's market strategy leaves plenty of space for others in the industry to provide utilitarian wearables to address those that premium product strategy leaves behind. Not everyone wants, or can afford, a Porsche -- some just want a Ford. I, however, would wear a Burberry.
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