Lost amid all the talk about how much the Apple Watch will cost is an equally important and equally unanswered question: how much will the Apple Watch bands cost? Drew Breunig on the matter:

While the band mechanism itself was mentioned only briefly last week, I think it’s one of the most important components announced. The connector allows Apple to address the luxury and mass markets, allows them to ship a personal product by isolating the part which will go obsolete, and locks up a lucrative market which will provide margin cushions for the Watch itself, allowing for competitive pricing.

My guess is that these bands could range anywhere from $50 (for the sports bands) to $500 (for the high end ones) or maybe even more. Again, that’s aside from the watch itself.

And yes, the margins will be insane here for Apple. But these bands will also presumably be usable as Apple continues to iterate on the Watch itself. I assume they’ll come out with new bands over time, but it seems like these original ones are being engineered to last.

And it sure seems like Apple has engineered them with the notion that you’ll probably own at least a couple, and will swap them in and out as situations dictate.

Fascinating profile of Michael Larson, the head of Cascade Investment LLC — aka, the secretive fund that invests most of Bill Gates’ wealth. A couple fun tidbits from Anupreeta Das & Craig Karmin’s reporting:

The firm owns at least 100,000 acres of farmland in California, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana and other states—or an area seven times bigger than Manhattan.

And:

Cascade employees are expected to be frugal. Even though Mr. Gates owns nearly half of the Four Seasons Holding Inc. luxury-hotel chain through Cascade, the investment firm’s executives stay at less-expensive hotels, even when traveling on Four Seasons business.

They also own the Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, and a 490-acre ranch in Wyoming once owned by William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody.

The initial reviews are in, and no surprise, everyone seems to love the device(s). There are definitely some strong opinions as to which one people prefer (example: John Gruber vastly prefers the iPhone 6 while Nilay Patel loves the iPhone 6 Plus).

Two other interesting tidbits reading the reviews:

1) A lot of folks seem to feel like the iPhone 6 Plus is more like an entirely new device than just a bigger iPhone. It’s a sort of hybrid between the iPhone 6 and the iPad mini. I find this interesting. I wonder if we’ll see more Plus-specific elements, like the landscape keyboard.

Like many others, I wonder what this means for the iPad mini as well (incidentally, I’m typing this on an iPad mini, but I’ve always preferred the iPad Air). I assume Apple will update it with the other iPads (next month?) but do sales plunge with this new device out there? And if so, does Apple shift the iPad line to go bigger (as has also been rumored)?

2) A number of reviewers bake in these weird, pre-emptive apologies to fans of other devices because they say they love the new iPhones. I mean, I get it: no one likes to be trolled, especially by commenters. But you should never apologize for your honest opinion. That’s why we’re reading the review!

While the removal of Steve Ballmer and the ascension of Satya Nadella has gotten all the headlines, the changes to Microsoft’s board in recent months also seems extremely important.

The board is now quite different from just a year ago when I wrote this post — they have five new board members and a new Chairman (John W. Thompson, who had been a board member, but replaced Bill Gates as Chairman last February). And that strikes me as a very good thing. 

John Gruber:

Last week Apple only demonstrated a portion of Apple Watch’s functionality, gave a vague shipping date of only “early 2015”, and announced only a $349 “starting price” that I believe has grossly misinformed the expectations of many people for the prices of the steel and gold models.

I agree. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me how much I think the high end Apple Watch is going to cost. When my response is that I would guess it will be “thousands, not hundreds of dollars” they tend to gasp.

By only announcing the pricing floor, Apple is setting a certain expectation. And that expectation, rightly or wrongly, is that the high end Apple Watches will be within hundreds of dollars of the cheapest variety (as is the case with the majority of their other product lines). Like Gruber, I do not believe that will be the case here.

I think we’ll look back and laugh at the time that people were outraged when the rumor was that the device may be $400. Apple, as usual, was thinking differently.

One other point from Gruber:

But Apple Watch is not just a piece of jewelry, and it’s not a mechanical device. It’s a computer. And all computers have lifespans measured in just a handful of years before obsolescence. If you buy a $6,000 mechanical watch and take care of it, you can expect it to outlive you and become a family heirloom. Paying even $1,000, let alone a multiple of that, for a premium Apple Watch seems like folly if it’s going to be obviated by faster, sleeker, longer-lasting versions in just a few years. And I don’t see how it won’t be replaced by faster, sleeker, longer-lasting versions, because that’s how all computer technology goes. Apple Watch is not a tech product, but technology is what distinguishes it — and computer technology gets old fast. A Rolex purchased in 2007 is every bit as good today as it was then. (Arguably even better, given some of Rolex’s questionable design decisions of the last decade.) An iPhone purchased in 2007 is 85 times slower in CPU performance than an iPhone 6, and I don’t even want to think about how much slower EDGE is than LTE networking.

This is the biggest question mark about the high end Apple Watch, in my opinion. With all their products, Apple is on a regular hardware update cycle — and quite often, that’s yearly. Given the computer aspects of the device, you’d have to assume the same is going to be true for the Apple Watch. But who on Earth is going to pay $5,000 a year?

It’s possible that this is a new way for the super rich to show off their wealth: by upgrading their gold Apple Watches yearly. Or it’s possible, as Gruber briefly mentions, that they’ll be able to take their watches to an Apple Store and have the innards swapped out for new components, while the outside remains the same (perhaps just polished in store). 

Either way, it sure seems like Apple doesn’t care much about the notion that a watch is something most people only buy once or twice in their lives. Before the iPhone, people also didn’t upgrade their phones each year (I had my pre-iPhone device, a Motorola Razr, for almost three years before I got the iPhone — imagine that upgrade cycle now). This is different, of course. But I wouldn’t write off something Apple is doing simply because it’s different. That’s often when they do their best work.

This is not your great-grandfather’s watch.