Benedict Evans shared his thoughts on ways to think about watches.
In fact, one could argue that the closest precedent for puzzlement is the mobile phone itself. If you tell the young people of today this they won’t believe you, but in the mid 1990s most people thought that mobile phones were an expensive niche product without mass-market potential. We already had phones, and pay phones, so why would you need this other thing? Mobile operators around the world (the disruptive innovators of the day) had to run advertising campaigns suggesting reasons why having a mobile phone might be useful. Price was obviously one reason this was hard to imagine, but there were more basic factors. Simple behaviors we take for granted today were different. People made plans to to meet their friends before going out in the evening, for example. We managed without mobile phones, and had to be persuaded into them.
It seems to me that there are two kinds of puzzle around a new… thing. One is that you already have a thing that does this. For tablets this was the PC (and the smartphone) and for the iPod it was the Walkman – for the iPod the advantage of the new thing seems obvious now, but people took some persuading even at the time, and for tablets the scope of replacement remains unclear. But for another kind of new product, you don’t already have a thing that does this because there is no ’this’, and it’s not clear what ’this’ might be. A mobile phone is not a landline that doesn’t have a wire – it changes large parts of how you can live your life, so much so that it was not obvious in 1995 what would change. So too a smart watch. Yes, it tells the time, but what else?
We had discmans and walkmans, why would anyone want a portable MP3 player? We had mobile phones that came with keypads, why would anyone want a smartphone with a touchscreen? We have netbooks and laptops, why would anyone want a tablet?