In April, Supply Chain Matters made an observation that two of the world’s most competitive supply chains, Apple and Samsung, would continue to respond to different business needs and outcomes. Yesterday, yet another important precedent was set in this highly visible battle of supply chain response and market agility capabilities.
Samsung again upped Apple in its market introduction and media buzz concerning its brand new Galaxy Gear smartwatch. This new wrist device is scheduled to go on-sale later this month and retail for $299. This follows prior Galaxy smartphone announcements from Samsung that have been strategically timed to steal the market thunder from Apple.
In its reporting of the launch event, the Wall Street Journal opened its article with the following: “Samsung Electronics Co. planted its flag in the battle over wearable devices Wednesday, unveiling a digital watch than can run apps and interact with its own family of smartphones.” Of even more interest, the WSJ reminds its readers that Qualcomm also announced yesterday plans to ship its own new color-display Toq smartwatch later this year, available in a “limited edition” for $300, while in June, Sony unveiled an Android powered smartwatch expected to also ship later this month.
While these initial smartwatch models can arguably be described as first generation, they have been designed to extend the features of existing smartphones and will compete for consumer wallets this upcoming holiday buying season. They enter the market ahead of Apple where numerous information leaks indicate that an “iWatch” has been in the development pipeline. In our Supply Chain Matters posting in mid-July, we called attention to business media published reports indicating that high level external hiring by Apple raised questions over hard engineering problems and that Apple’s in-house teams have apparently not been able to solve and the ability of its in-house engineering team to develop wearable technology on a market timely basis. A published Financial Times article speculated that a new wrist computer device may not be introduced until the latter part of 2014. This obviously leads to speculating that Apple has desires to introduce market notable product innovation in a smartwatch, and has been willing to accept a delay in market introduction to achieve a more innovative product perception. Continual information leaks from various Apple supplier sources also attest to designers constantly changing product specifications almost to the final moment, which was a tenant of the prior Steve Jobs product design culture of the company.
A lot can change in the coming months and perhaps Apple will announce its rumored smartwatch later this year. A shout-out is certainly in-order for Samsung as well as Qualcomm supply chain teams for their efforts in supporting a well-timed announcement.
Our readers who stem from product lifecycle management roles can well attest to the arguments for either being first in the market or being a later entry with more compelling product features. Invariably, supply chain teams, and in particular, that of Apple will again be called upon to translate product design to high volumes of production in near record times.
Consumer electronics and high tech supply chains remain the crucible for the needs for tight linkages among product development and supply chain teams to meet highly competitive and compressed time-to-market and time-to-volume objectives. The prior walls among these teams is quickly evaporating.
Disclosure: The author of this commentary is a current holder of Apple stock.