Soft launch: Why the Apple Watch isn’t getting the ‘blockbuster’ debut it deserves

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It’s no secret that Apple’s launch plan for the Apple Watch hasn’t gone as well as the original iPhone and iPad launches.

Extremely limited supplies have led to long wait times for pre-orders. The lineup of choices is so complex that the company needed to give people weeks to try them on in stores before they were supposed to be available. And the confusing online-only purchase process advertised in Apple’s retail stores didn’t initially disclose that stores won’t have any units in stock on launch day. No part of the process has thrilled potential customers.

Yesterday, Apple’s SVP of Retail Angela Ahrendts sent an internal video memo to employees about the Apple Watch rollout in an attempt to help answer questions and assuage concerns about the many issues plaguing the launch, not the least of which is the lack of a “blockbuster launch” at retail outlets that customers and employees alike have come to expect from Apple. Some people took the video as an admission of guilt by Ahrendts. But although she may share responsibility for some of Apple’s missteps, she isn’t solely or even largely responsible for the issues.

Here’s where I believe things fell apart during this launch…

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Ex-Apple SVP Scott Forstall is now a producer on a Broadway musical

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Less than 24 hours after a report surfaced revealing Scott Forstall began serving as an advisor to Snapchat last year, the former iOS chief has announced via his Twitter account an unrelated project: a Broadway musical.

I’m thrilled to be co-producing the Broadway musical Fun Home opening this Sunday. Bravo to the phenomenal team!

The announcement is especially notable as it marks the first time the former Apple executive has surfaced in public since his ousting at Apple under current CEO Tim Cook in late 2012. Read more

Tim Cook says Apple Watch “orders are great” in visit to Palo Alto Apple Store, wears custom watch with red crown

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Tim Cook visited the Palo Alto Apple Store today to check out the Apple Watch buzz, as people around the world attend try-on appointments and (failed to) pre-order Apple Watch online. In an interview with CNBC, Cook said that customer response has been extraordinary and “orders are great”.

The interviewer asks Cook what he wears day-to-day. Cook says he swaps out bands depending on the occasion but likes the Apple Watch stainless steel with the white rubber Sport band. Weirdly, Cook’s watch features a custom red crown that is usually only found on certain Apple Watch Edition models. Photo below …

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Apple confirms Apple Watch orders are exclusively online for the launch period, expects demand to outstrip supply

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Leaked delivery details from Apple.com indicated supply would be constrained.

Update: A reader got a reply from Apple CEO Tim Cook about the situation. See below.

Apple has today posted a press release reaffirming that Apple Watch try-on sessions and preorders start tomorrow, Friday April 10th. It also confirms that Apple Watch orders will be exclusively online for the launch period.

Angela Ahrendts says that Apple expects demand to outstrip supply at launch on the back of tremendous interest from customers viewing watches online and in the Apple Store app. As such, this has forced the company to limit orders to online only for the time being.

“We are excited to welcome customers tomorrow and introduce them to Apple Watch, our most personal device yet. Based on the tremendous interest from people visiting our stores, as well as the number of customers who have gone to the Apple Online Store to mark their favorite Apple Watch ahead of availability, we expect that strong customer demand will exceed our supply at launch,” said Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president of Retail and Online Stores. “To provide the best experience and selection to as many customers as we can, we will be taking orders for Apple Watch exclusively online during the initial launch period.”

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Pharrell shows off Apple Watch on The Voice as Tim Cook wears it to national championship game

Last week we noticed that Apple had started seeding Apple Watch review units to the media, and this evening the device is getting more promotion. On popular TV show “The Voice,” coach Pharrell Williams can clearly be seen wearing the Apple Watch. Likewise, Apple CEO Tim Cook is attending the NCCA national championship game with the Apple Watch clearly strapped on his wrist.

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Tim Cook reflects on the role of running a post-Steve Jobs Apple as Fortune names him “greatest leader”

Fortune has today named Tim Cook #1 on its list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, publishing an extensive profile of the Apple CEO in which he reflects on the lessons he’s learned in the time he’s been running the company.

Taking over from Steve was not, he said, an easy transition, and he gained a new appreciation for the way that the co-founder had shielded him and the rest of the team from public criticism.

What I learned after Steve passed away, what I had known only at a theoretical level, an academic level maybe, was that he was an incredible heat shield for us, his executive team. None of us probably appreciated that enough […] but he really took any kind of spears that were thrown. He took the praise as well. But to be honest, the intensity was more than I would ever have expected.

Claims that Apple had lost its ability to innovate under Cook’s leadership were, he said, something he had to learn to block out …  Read more

Five fascinating revelations from ‘Becoming Steve Jobs’

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Becoming Steve Jobs, the new biography of Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, will be officially released tomorrow by Crown Business/Penguin Random House, and is currently available as a pre-order from Amazon ($12+) and Apple’s iBookstore ($13). Here are just some of the interesting revelations found inside, including some details regarding Jobs’ evolving attitude towards the media.

Jobs’ return to Apple was almost certainly not a strategic takeover. Despite speculation that Steve Jobs may have strategically orchestrated a takeover of Apple during his sale of NeXT — a view shared by Bill Gates and former Apple CEO Gil Amelio — the book suggests that Jobs was truly uncertain about his continued involvement with the company. Avie Tevanian and Jon Rubinstein, “the two men whom Steve trusted the most at Apple… agree that Steve did not intend to become Apple’s CEO,” and that they didn’t think they were going to be working for him there. Despite Jobs’ love for Apple, the company was in a precarious financial situation, and he had competing demands for his time.

A year later, Jobs told the authors that just as Bob Dylan would “never stand still,” and was “always risking failure” — the mark of a true artist — “[t]his Apple thing is that way for me.” Confronting the risk of failure and the consequences for his reputation, family, and Pixar, Jobs “finally decided, I don’t really care, this is what I want to do. And if I try my best and fail, well, I tried my best.” Jobs adopted the term “iCEO” or “interim CEO,” reflecting his continued uncertainty about the position…

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Apple Store retail plan for Watch: 15 min. appointments, 10+ try-on stations, Experts for Edition

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Apple will introduce several major initiatives to ready its retail stores for the Apple Watch’s launch in April, according to sources briefed on the upcoming changes. Starting on April 10th, Apple will allocate 15 minutes per customer for in-store try-on appointments, using 10 or more try-on stations to manage what’s expected to be a steady flow of customers interested in having hands-on time with the Watch. While customers will not necessarily be required to have an appointment, they will be time-limited and guided during the hands-on experience. Additionally, they will be given the opportunity to place a reservation at the time of try-on for a particular model, and make a follow-up appointment to pick the watch up during the April 24th launch date. Stores will also have launch day stock for walk-in appointments.

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FastCo interview: Tim Cook talks Apple philosophy/legacy, Apple watch skepticism, new Campus & more

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Fast Company has an extensive interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook, focusing on what has changed and what has stayed the same since he took over from Steve Jobs. The interview comes a day after FastCo published a sizeable excerpt from the book Becoming Steve Jobs, in which Cook criticized the portrayal of Jobs in Isaacson’s biography.

Cook said that while much has changed, the culture–the fundamental goal of the company–remained the same.

Steve felt that if Apple could do that—make great products and great tools for people—they in turn would do great things. He felt strongly that this would be his contribution to the world at large. We still very much believe that. That’s still the core of this company.

The company has never tried to be first to market, he said, but rather to “have the patience to get it right” …  Read more

From ‘Becoming Steve Jobs': Cook says Isaacson book was a tremendous disservice, succession planning began in 2004, more

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Fast Company has today published a sizeable excerpt from Becoming Steve Jobs ($12 Amazon, $13 iBook), the upcoming book about the Apple cofounder’s’ life and his mannerisms. Unlike previous efforts, Apple is openly promoting this book and many executives, CEO Tim Cook included, have participated in interviews. This has yielded some very in-depth, intimate and interesting stories.

Following the story of Cook offering to give Jobs his liver, Cook is quoted as saying the Isaacson book did the late CEO a ‘disservice’. In very similar words to how Cue described the (unrelated) film about Jobs at SXSW, Cook says ‘The person I read about there is somebody I would never have wanted to work with over all this time’.

“The Steve that I met in early ’98 was brash and confident and passionate and all of those things. But there was a soft side of him as well, and that soft side became a larger portion of him over the next 13 years. You’d see that show up in different ways. There were different employees and spouses here that had health issues, and he would go out of his way to turn heaven and earth to make sure they had proper medical attention. He did that in a major way, not in a minor, ‘Call me and get back to me if you need my help’ kind of way.

Cook also recalls how Jobs would call up his mother on the pretense of finding Cook, but in reality just wanted to talk to his parents about convincing Cook to have more of a social life. ‘Someone who’s viewing life only as a transactional relationship with people…doesn’t do that’.

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Upcoming biography reveals Steve Jobs turned down liver donation from Tim Cook, wanted to buy Yahoo, and more

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More details about the upcoming biography Becoming Steve Jobs have been revealed through the book’s preview on Amazon (which has since been cut down significantly), revealing several interesting tidbits about the Apple co-founder’s life that were previously unknown (via Cult of Mac).

One example is a story about an offer then-COO Tim Cook made to Jobs when the latter was battling cancer. Cook says that he discovered he shared a blood type with Jobs and decided to undergo numerous medical tests before offering to donate part of his liver to the executive.

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