Apple shared new details Monday at an event to promote its first new product in five years, a computer masquerading as a wristwatch whose price will range from $350 to $18,000 and that will be available for purchase on April 24.
At just over 90 minutes, the event at an auditorium in downtown San Francisco was a signature Apple (AAPL) presentation, evoking the unveiling of famous Apple product launches over the years. CEO Tim Cook smilingly emceed, sharing a stage with a handful of other Apple executives as well as HBO CEO Richard Plepler, who announced the exclusive availability on Apple TV of HBO’s upcoming video streaming product. (HBO Now, a subscription product available without a cable subscription, debuts in April in time for the April 12 season premiere of the cable channels blockbuster series Game of Thrones.)
Disney’s (DIS) Mickey Mouse even appeared in the form of a version of the new digital watch. The image on the face of the watch is a classic homage to the version beloved by children everywhere, with Mickey metronomically tapping time to the second.
The Apple Watch comes in three “collections.” An aluminum sport version starts at $349 and is geared toward casualwear. A steel version is Apple’s nod to fashion and ranges in price from $549 to $1,099. A luxury version, called “Edition” is made of real gold and will retail for prices beginnning at $10,000. The watch bands come in multiple colors and styles.
Apple showed numerous ways it envisions customers using its latest creation, from the mundane (checking weather reports and flight status) to the magical (paying for goods using Apple Pay, conducting “gait analysis” experiments to diagnose Parkinson’s Disease, showing an electronic boarding pass at the airport). Partners who won coveted mentions during Apple’s presentation included Salesforce.com (CRM), MLB.com, Twitter (TWTR) , American Airlines (AAL), The Weather Channel, Tencent’s WeChat application, Instagram, SPG’s W Hotels, Uber and Shazam.
The watch represents Apple’s latest entry into a field popularized but not necessarily yet made successful by others. Samsung, Pebble, and LG are a few of the manufacturers that make so-called “smartwatches.”
Apple’s version is designed to work with its popular iPhone. It brings to life the boyhood dreams of many a Dick Tracy fan, including Apple’s CEO, who was notably relaxed and in command during his presentation of the first truly new Apple product since the iPad. Noting that a microphone will allow the watch, used with an iPhone, to enable phone calls to be made from one’s wrist, Cook said, “I have been wanting to do this since I was five years old.”