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技术

苹果推出睡眠追踪功能

Chadwick Matlin 2011年07月08日

凭借为iPhone研发的新款睡眠追踪应用,Lark成为了苹果的零售合作伙伴。

    朱丽娅•胡与苹果(Apple)携手,销售帮助人们起床的小玩意。胡是Lark公司的首席执行官,这家初创公司生产的腕带能追踪你的睡眠情况,并在某一时刻开始震动,无声的将你“唤醒”,而不会吵到你的枕边人。你只需翻个身,用手指在你的iPhone上划一下,就能关闭震动。

    然后,你可以睡眼朦胧地查看Lark追踪的信息:夜里你醒了几次,什么时候醒的,都体现在一张睡眠图表里。这个小玩意很不错,一不小心就会上瘾。使用了几周之后,我开始用它的读数来为自己的坏脾气辩护。我一直对自己说,假如前一晚我不知不觉醒了24次,那么第二天说些刻薄的牢骚话是可以原谅的。

    如果你想阅读Lark的详细评测,请参阅其它网站。不过我更感兴趣的是Lark的商业模型,换句话说,Lark为何如此走运?因为当绝大部分创业公司还在费尽心思向陌生人推介自己时,Lark已经成功牵手了最重量级的合作伙伴——苹果。

    仅仅一次会晤之后,苹果的大佬们就决定将Lark放上北美洲苹果零售店的货架上。就这样,Lark将命运和苹果绑在了一起,就如同一只紧紧附着在船身免费旅行的藤壶(海洋里的一种甲壳类小动物——译注)。

    透过Lark的故事,我们能略微一窥苹果的零售运营是如何运作的。不过胡不愿意过多谈论此事。她在几周前,即Lark发布之前,向《财富》(Fortune)透露,“苹果要求我严守秘密,他们非常不希望我谈论任何相关事情。”

    其它几家公司,像无线配件生产商Jawbone、罗技(Logitech)和拥有iHome品牌的SDI科技公司等,都不愿评论自己与苹果的零售关系。苹果的合作伙伴们似乎都被苹果“大名鼎鼎”的保密文化同化了,或者说他们都很害怕苹果的报复。不过这就是接受苹果恩赐的代价吧。(苹果也拒绝对此置评。)

    下面我们来尽可能详细讲述一下Lark的故事:朱莉亚•胡毕业于麻省理工学院斯隆商学院(MIT's Sloan School of Business),她当时开发出了能正常工作的Lark的原型。2010年,胡通过一些人的安排,与苹果进行了一次会议。胡表示,“我当时以为苹果肯定对我们一无所知,我要向苹果介绍Lark是什么,我们又是谁。”不过苹果并不需要他们做任何解释。主管苹果配件销售的道格•理查森告诉胡,苹果已经关注Lark六个月时间了。理查森仅仅快速浏览了一下Lark,就决定将上千条Lark腕带放上苹果零售店货架。

    苹果首席视觉设计师杰克•克莱因帮助Lark设计了包装。胡表示,“我从他那儿学到了不少东西。人们希望感觉到这是一款怎样的产品。找到一种方法让他们能迅速联想到苹果,从而证明这是款让人舒适的产品。”胡深受启发,她按照克莱因的教导,重新排列了Lark包装盒内的部件。胡表示,“我基本上把苹果的人当作测试版的用户。”

    那些测试版试用者将成为Lark的独家零售商,至少在最初几个月是如此。作为交换,Lark得以加入到苹果的“路演”中。但事实上,似乎没有人乐意讨论苹果的路演究竟是什么。胡担心向我们透露这些信息将违反自己与苹果的保密协议。苹果当然也不会讨论此事。不过苹果的官方网站上还是有“K-12 IT路演”的信息。通过谷歌搜索可以看到,路演就是一种小型集会,人们可以参与其中并从中了解开发者对苹果技术的利用情况。胡显然认为苹果在会议上讨论Lark是大有裨益的。这再次证明Lark的市场营销现在与苹果紧紧捆绑在了一起。

    所有这一切的目的都是让Lark进入到尽可能多的人的视线里。根据投资与资本管理公司Needham & Co的调查,过去三个月,300家苹果零售店的平均客流量超过20万人。即便只有很少一部分顾客看到了Lark,但对Lark而言,也是很高的曝光率。苹果向Lark提供了推销渠道。很多互联网新创公司都会告诉你,渠道对于产生最初的客流至关重要,因为他们随后才能进行口耳相传。如果这渠道分布在300个不同得地方,每个地方都有成千上万人光顾呢?那就更好了。

    和很多应用开发商利用App Store一样,Lark利用苹果来获得关注。开发商们希望苹果的网络将帮助自己找到“观众”。 Lark的地位比其它开发商更加稳固。毕竟苹果明确邀请Lark进驻其零售商店,而这不仅仅是因为Lark没有违反苹果神秘的条件和条款文件。

    Lark获得了苹果的认可。对于苹果的死忠粉丝来说,这就如同得到了史蒂夫•乔布斯的临幸。是不是在床上倒无所谓。

    译者:项航

    Julia Hu got into bed with Apple (AAPL) so she could sell gadgets that get people out of bed. Hu is the CEO of Lark, a startup making a wristband that tracks your sleep until the moment it interrupts it. That's when it starts vibrating, a silent alarm that wakes you while your partner stays asleep. To turn it off you roll over and slide your finger across your iPhone.

    You can then blearily look at what Lark has been tracking: When and how often you woke up during the night, charted out on a sleep graph. It's a neat, addictive little gadget, and after weeks of testing, I've started to use its readings to justify any and all crankiness. Caustic grumbles are excusable when I know my sleep was unconsciously interrupted 24 times overnight. Or so I keep telling myself.

    If you want to read a full review of the product, look elsewhere. I'm more intrigued by Lark's business model, which is to say Lark's luck. Because while most startups have to shill to introduce themselves to strangers, Lark has already introduced itself to the one party that mattered most: Apple.

    After only one meeting with Apple, the people in Cupertino agreed to put Lark on the shelves of Apple Stores across North America. And just like that, Lark attached its fortune to Apple's - a barnacle along for the ride.

    Lark's story offers a rare glimpse into how things work inside Apple's retail operation. Not that Hu can say that much about it. "The Apple stuff is so under-wraps they don't really want me to talk about anything," she told Fortune a few weeks ago, before Lark launched.

    Several other companies, from Jawbone to Logitech (LOGI) to SDI's iHome, declined to comment on their retail relationships with Apple. Apple's partners appear to be assimilating to Apple's notorious devotion to secrecy – or fearful of its vindictive reprisals. But that's the cost of receiving Apple's blessing. (Apple also declined to comment for this story.)

    Lark's story, or as much as it can be retold, goes like this: In 2010, after graduating from MIT's Sloan School of Business and developing a working Lark prototype, Hu leveraged some contacts and got a meeting with Apple. "I went in there thinking it was going to be a completely cold pitch that we'd be explaining to them what Lark was and who we were," she says. But Apple didn't need an explanation. Doug Richardson, the man in charge of Apple's accessories merchandising, told her Apple had been tracking the buzz about Lark for six months. It only took a quick pitch from Lark to have Richardson put thousands of Larks in Apple's retail stores.

    Jack Klein, one of Apple's lead visual designers, helped Lark design the packaging. "He told us several things," Hu says. "People want to feel what they're sleeping with. Figure out a way where you could quickly have an Apple associate prove that this is a comfortable product.'" Hu, impressed, did as she was told, rearranging what was inside the box. "I consider them almost like beta testers," Hu says.

    And those beta testers, at least for the first few months, will be Lark's exclusive retailer. In exchange, Lark gets to take part in Apple's "roadshow," a – well... actually, nobody seems willing to talk about what Apple's roadshow is. Hu worried that telling me would violate her non-disclosure agreement with Apple. Apple of course declined to comment. Apple's own website, though, has information about a "K-12 IT Road Show." And a quick Google search shows it's a mini-conference for people to come and see what developers are doing with Apple technology. Hu apparently felt it was worth having Apple talk Lark up at these conferences. More proof that Lark's marketing is now inexorably hitched to Apple's.

    And that's what this is all about: Getting Lark in front of as many people as possible. On average, more than 200,000 people came through each of Apple's 300+ stores in the last three months, according to Needham & Co. That's great exposure for Lark, even if a small fraction of those shoppers look at Lark. For Lark, Apple offers a retailing portal to its product. And as any web startup can tell you, portals are the key to generating that initial traffic bump that starts word of mouth. If that portal has hundreds of thousands of visitors in each of its 300 locations? Even better.

    Lark, then, is using Apple the same way many app developers use the App Store: to be seen. Developers are hopeful Apple's network will help them find an audience. Lark's position is even more secure. Apple, after all, explicitly invited Lark into the retail store, and not just because it didn't violate its arcane terms and conditions document.

    Lark has received Apple's imprimatur. And for Apple diehards, that's as good as being touched by Steve Jobs himself. In bed or otherwise.

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