1. 15
  1.  

  2. 15

    By the end of this year, a billion people on earth will be able to use and wear virtually exactly the same phone, laptop and timepiece that the billionaires and millionaires will be using and wearing — the best that money can buy.

    I don’t think the author really understands how the luxury market works.

    Billionaires don’t pay for quality, they pay for uniqueness. So, they might have an Apple watch but that doesn’t mean Apple is taking away from the luxury industry. The fact that Apple watches will be common limits its penetration into the luxury market.

    1. 7

      HIs examples are correct though—millionaires use iPhones and MacBooks, not custom-built Clevos. I’m just having trouble thinking of why the watch market might be different (assuming the Watch is the iPhone of watches), even though my gut tells me it must be.

      1. 10

        Apple made their phone the choice for luxury in a market that didn’t have an established luxury brand. Same for laptops, I guess. But just because rich people choose a product doesn’t mean it’s a luxury good.

        People have been buying watches for fuck you money for as long as watches have been made. I’m entirely unconvinced an Apple watch will compete in the same market as Patek Phillipe does.

        1. 6

          Imo the laptop market might even be ripe for a luxury brand at the moment. The Macbook Air initially sort of filled that. It wasn’t ultra-high-end in the sense of being something only a millionaire could buy. But the wedge-edge thinness was unusual and striking, and there were not that many of them initially, in part because it had a price significantly higher than the Macbook Pro. I certainly met some people around 2008-09 who were treating them as at least mid-level luxury items. Now that it’s cheapish and common, it no longer serves that market.

        2. 5

          Centuries of tradition, probably.

          The transition he’s talking about already happened in the watch market with the introduction of the digital quartz wristwatch, which were invented in Switzerland in 1967 (miniaturizing a 1927 Bell Labs quartz clock) and popularized by Japanese manufacturers in the 1970s, devastating the Swiss watch industry. In number of “complications,” in precision, in sturdiness, and in light weight — in short, in all the ways that mechanical watches historically competed with one another to show workmanship — a cheap quartz wristwatch excelled any mechanical watch.

          So what happened? Swiss watchmaking employment fell by two thirds, and the remains of many of the watchmakers reorganized into Swatch.

          1. 1

            Because he thinks of watches in terms of functionality and features.

            As somebody who owns multiple $1000+ watches, none of which can compete with time precision and other features with basic $50 phone (that gets correct time from network), I can tell you that cost effectiveness is not the reason why I wear them. What watches are is functional jewellery and you should look at that market to understand how they are sold and why they are bought.

            1. 1

              The main thing is a phone and laptop have to integrate with the rest of the world. So you’re limited to little more than packaging something expensively, it has to be the same crap underneath. Watches can live on an island as they just sit on your wrist. Because of that you can have expensive (or allegedly expensive) innards. Take the movement of a watch. What’s the high end, rare, processor you can use for a luxury laptop and have it still be useful? You’re stuck with Intel, more or less. But most watches have some unique movement.

          2. 7

            Opinions about Apple products aside, the final question is brilliant. Further, how would a higher standard of living change the world and culture if that standard was uniform?

            1. 2

              I agree, this is what I took away most. If companies in those sectors dedicated meticulous detail and truly wanted their products to be the pinnacle, it would be for the greater good.

            2. 7

              A couple of quotes that are perhaps apropos to the article. (Endorsement unintended.)

              Andy Warhol talking about Coca-Cola: “You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.”

              Steve Jobs talking about a trip to India when he was young: “It was one of the first times that I started to realize that maybe Thomas Edison did a lot more to improve the world than Karl Marx and Neem Karoli Baba put together.”

              1. 1
                1. 3

                  Best Coke. No, wait, I can’t decide

                  Is the rule that every programmer’s conversation eventually trends to alcohol written or unwritten?

              2. 6

                Except it’s not necessarily the best thing money can buy - it’s just the defacto item rich people go for, because it is good (enough, though not necessarily the best), and because it has the status of being a fairly expensive, stylish item.

                Rich people don’t buy Louis Vuitton or Rolex or Mercedes or … because they’re so much better than the competition. They buy them because they are established as stylish luxury items that project wealth. Same with iDevices, except they are less astronomically expensive compared to the competition.

                I also thing the author underestimates the price of a luxury Apple Watch. Sure, it may function the same as a $450 sports model, but a $10 watch also has most of the dials and features you find on a $30,000 Rolex.

                1. 3

                  I was thinking this as well. Apple devices are generally good quality. It doesn’t make them the best. Desktop gamers generally get more upgradable/serviceable computers. When a power user wants a phone they generally get an Android/FireFox/Ubuntu phone as they are more open by default. The inevitable iWatch may break the mold and allow modifications or extensibility. But I doubt it. My general rule of thumb is if you have an iDevice then you are not a power user. Obviously there are web developers, software developers and sys admins on Macs, but everyone else is generally not a power user.

                  1. 1

                    So you basically said no power users use Macs besides the power users who use Macs. But I totally get where you are coming from. I just couldn’t help it, sorry.