The physics of failure

Tim Cook and the Apple Watch

Reading Amanda’s Dear John letter to Apple, expressing her disappointment over the Apple Watch, reminds me of an interesting dynamic of product launches. Not much more complex than the proverb ‘success has many fathers, failure is an orphan’, we know that the sound of a winning product is a constant stream of jubilant announcements and endorsements. The sound of failure is a deafening silence.

This is hardly the first time we’ve (not) heard it. Blackberry had a particularly extended quiet time. Windows 8 was eerily silent.

But for Apple, its new territory, at least when they look back on their history over the past 5-10 years.

Now of course, I could easily be wrong about the Apple Watch. I’ve been wrong in the past at least as often as I’ve been right about these things. I still haven’t lived down the assertion that the iPad wouldn’t take off. Perhaps generations 2 and 3 will resolve some of the issues of the first watches. They may even solve the “purpose” question. I hope so. There’s something reassuring about a world where you can rely on Apple to always get it right.

For the rest of us, failure or rather failed products is likely to be a much more consistent theme. Even with the best thinking, insight and experimentation, you can expect to get it wrong at least as often as you get it right. Do you plan for that? Do you think through how you will know when to stop and move on.

It will be fascinating to watch (sorry) over the next year how Apple deals with it’s first orphan. And conversely how the market (and arch-copycats Samsung in particular) responds in turn.