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My New Theory

Here’s my new theory. Maybe I’m nuts.

The new Apple Solo loops are not about the Watch. They are an operations experiment, to see how well Apple can manufacture at grand scale products that are more personal and customizable than ever before.

Some industries would laugh at this being a challenge. But tech companies are not used to this level of customization at all. And no company manufactures product at the scale of Apple at this point.

When Apple got into wearables with watches, they started out small. Two case sizes. Various bands you could bundle in or purchase separately. I think there were roughly 20 different SKUs at launch.

That already was far more customized to individuals than anything Apple had done before. (5 different colors of iPod were probably the closest they had come.)

Fast forward to a few years from now, when Apple starts delivering their next big wearable device. Glasses are the current rumor. Have you ever seen one style of glasses frames that looked good on everyone? You’d need dozens of different frame styles, in many different sizes, to even begin to reach mass market appeal. When I go to buy glasses, I try on at least five different frames before I find one I like, and that’s after I dismiss the obviously wrong ones. It’s hard enough to convince people who don’t need glasses to wear them. If the frames look terrible on me (Hello, Google) Apple is never going to reach the market scale they want.

Factor in prescription lenses for many of us, and you’re talking about a made-to-order product. Built at Apple scale. That’s never been done before by anyone.

Make no mistake: This will be the biggest operations challenge Apple has ever faced, by a long shot.

So, to help them get ready, we get baby steps. Individualized watch bands. In 9 different sizes. 7 different colors. Two styles (Braided and Sport). For 44 and 40 mm watches. It’s not nearly as much of a challenge as glasses will be, but it sure looks like a step in that direction.