Is Apple serious about its “smart watch”?

Apple is secretive about their watch project, but reportedly have about 100 designers working on it.

This buzz about an Apple watch is just slightly puzzling to me.

Actually, I am surprised to hear that watches still represent a profitable (and expanding) consumer goods market niche. I stopped wearing mine about 30 years ago because it irritated my wrist. And I am surprised when people like my golfing buddy feel the need to wear a watch, even on the course. Yes, I occasionally ask him what time it is, but it’s not as though I couldn’t easily get that information elsewhere. I occasionally want to know what temperature it is too, but I don’t expect my friends or associates to go around wearing thermometers.

Yes, I know, this is exactly the market that a “smart watch” is intended to tap into. Apparently we’re talking about a device that can give us selected data at a glance: no need to dig a smartphone out of your pocket. Just glance at your wrist for the time, weather, latest headlines, scheduled events, or whatever other stuff you can fit into that little screen. Facebook or Twitter feed anyone? Maybe this actually makes more sense than a smartphone.

End of the dedicated device?

For the past number of years I have operated under the assumption that the need for a garish piece of jewelry dedicated to one and only one function, and uncomfortably weighing down your wrist, would have decreased as multi-function devices – virtually all with a built-in clock – have become ubiquitous: cell phones, microwave ovens, cable set-top boxes, etc., etc.

But no. According to some market analysts, there are compelling reasons to focus on the watch segment of the market. It is actually an expanding market, and a high-profit one at that.

Other companies have tried producing a smart watch. This is the Fossil watch, available originally in 2003.

The Wimm One from Wimm Labs aimed at “pushing the boundaries of mobile computing”.

The Pebble Watch from Kickstarter.

And, in spite of past largely unsuccessful attempts by others to market a “smart watch”, many feel Apple can pull off a bit of miracle by creating an entirely new product for many gadget-hungry people – “something consumers didn’t even know they needed”.

It will be interesting to see if the masses can really handle multi-funcion devices. Of course there is a large segment that eat this stuff up. But I have a feeling that many people just like their single-function watches, TV’s, range finders, gps’s. I remember arguing with friends that a smartphone golf course gps app would eventually make dedicated devices for this purpose obsolete. The result: within weeks our regular foursome had three different dedicated rangefinders (that give accurate distances from the hole, hazards, etc.) as well as already having dedicated devices on each of our golf carts. Can a golf watch range finder be far behind? (Oops, it already exists.)

Wither Apple?

If you weren’t already convinced, this really makes it apparent that Apple is not really an innovative computer company. It is a design company that focuses on developing attractive gadgets for its millions of dedicated fans. They got lucky with the ipod and spun it into an unbelievable success story with iphones and ipads. But is there much technological innovation coming out of Apple these days? Not really.

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