When you look at an Apple Watch, the last thing that comes to mind is the iPod. On the surface, there's isn't a whole lot of correlation between Apple's first wearable device and its classic MP3 player, save perhaps a clever navigation tool and a music app. But while the two might not share much in the way of physical similarities, they actually have more in common than the ability to play your favorite tunes. In fact, Apple Watch might end up being just as important as the iPod was all those years ago.
Back when the iPod was still Apple's main squeeze, it was said that its influence was so strong it created a halo effect that boosted sales of Apple's other higher-priced products (namely Macs). Over the five years following the iPod's release, Mac sales practically doubled, no small feat considering the declining trend in the industry. And they've been strong ever since, even though the iPod's halo effect has long worn off.
But while it might be little more than a footnote in Apple's earnings reports, the spirit of the iPod is still very much alive. These days, the iPhone has assumed the mantle as the angelic successor to the iPod, dutifully peddling MacBooks and iPads to satisfied customers, but the halo effect is about to return to its roots, thanks to a little help from the newest member of Apple's family.
Much like Apple Watch, when the iPod was originally released, it relied on another Apple product to properly function. But there was a small problem: Apple wasn't quite as successful as it is today. It had a built-in loyal following of fans who plunked down $399 to buy one, but for the most part, Apple struggled to convince non-diehards to buy a Mac so they could buy an iPod.
It wasn't until Apple opened up the iPod to Windows users---first with Musicmatch Jukebox and later with iTunes---when iPod sales truly took off. The iPod may have been the best MP3 player on the market, but Apple needed to embrace its biggest competitor before the halo effect could take effect. Apple knew the Windows experience paled in comparison to the Mac's, and once people fell in love with their iPod they would inevitably check out the Mac. The worse the Windows experience, the better it was for Apple's strategy--the halo effect worked best on customers who had bought an iPod to use with their aging PC. It wasn't even the iPod itself that spurred Mac sales, it was the iPod-Mac experience.
Once Apple Watch makes its debut on April 24, it will be playing a similar game. While its mission isn't nearly as monumental as the iPod's was--what with a built-in community of hundreds of millions of iPhone users--Apple will be using it much in the same way it used the iPod.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.