Khoi Vihn at Subtraction:
This reminded me immediately of what I wrote wrote last month about “Wearables, Fashion and iWatch”: iWatch, if it exists, will need to be more of a fashionable good than Apple has ever created before; fashionable goods depend in part on variability in order to satisfy individualized consumer expression; and creating variability at scale is the key economic challenge of wearables. It’s very difficult to successfully produce and deliver truly variable technology goods; that’s why iPods have never come in more than four or five colors and why Apple had such a hard time creating a white iPhone on its first time trying.
It seems that the Beats team has figured this out, at least in part. Sixty different SKUs for headphones alone is a lot of items to manage, a lot of materials to source in the pipeline, a lot of shipping logistics to orchestrate. This number also shows how finely Beats has been able to parse consumer desire and to create product variations that map to them—who knew hip-hop fans would want a matte black version with a German flag-like design? Beats knew, and they’re apparently selling tons of them.
Now that I think about it, Apple has not been successful with colors of their hardware. The colors never seem to take off market-wide. The red iPod is sometimes "cool" but the other colors are always changing and I’ve heard a lot of consumers say they’re disappointed in the options.
When Apple colorizes the iPods, the end results scuffs easily. The color sometimes fades away. They show dirt easily. Not only do these wear-and-tear problems easily arise, but the products sometimes fail to even represent the color correctly, as in the case of white iPhones.
Beats has the colors of wearables down to a science that actually clicks with consumers. If Beats by Dr. Dre doesn’t assist Apple’s production of wearables like the iWatch, or expand the color options for iPods, then I feel that Apple is wasting a great resource. They probably would have some logic to not using Beat’s production expertise, but the market would miss out on a more colorful Apple product line.
So Khoi is probably right. ∞