Monday, March 04, 2013

Would You Even Want a An Apple Watch

In what I expect to be another entry in my unbroken record of making incorrect predictions about future Apple products, why not comment on the rumored "Apple Watch" and the rumored 100 engineer team working hard to get one to market?
Interestingly, we're also told that Apple's chosen to rework the full iOS to run on the watch instead of building up the iPod nano's proprietary touch operating system — although the previous nano was already watch-sized and seemed like a great starting point for a wrist-sized device, Apple's betting on iOS across product lines.
If Apple actually figures out a way to get a useful interface to iOS onto the face of a watch, all the more power to them. I expect Siri would play a huge role... if you have an Internet connection.... But I find myself thinking back to my youth. Sure, the few remaining people who read the comic strip thought Dick Tracy's watch phone was cool, but the craze of the day was the digital watch. I recall the efforts to put more and more features into watches, including an effort to make a TV watch and any number of successfully marketed calculator watches. Tiny screens, tiny buttons. These days, the cool watches are once again analog.

I have to admit a personal prejudice: The only piece of jewelry I wear is my wedding ring. I have a watch, but I don't like to wear it. The idea of wearing a "smartwatch" of some type is not appealing. The more battery life you give it, the more you try to make it a primary device instead of a secondary device, the more you are going to load up the watch band with batteries, antennas and the like. For the advantage, I suppose, of being able to easily look at a tiny screen and perhaps make Dick Tracy-type FaceTime calls. I'm again taken back to the expensive, overly featured digital watches of my youth - wearing one could be cool, could indicate that you had money to burn, could prove that you're on the bleeding edge of technology, but was otherwise not very practical.

What about exercise? You are on the stepper at the gym or out jogging. You're seriously going to run your headphones to your wrist? An oversized wrist band isn't going to feel sweaty and gross? Granted, not everybody exercises, but.... Google glasses, by way of comparison, seem much more practical (although they face the same sort of issues if you try to make them a primary device as opposed to drawing their data from your cell phone.)

And what about heat dissipation?
Obviously Apple has time to resolve these issues, just as it had to when it reworked OS X to work on the iPhone instead of building up the iPod's operating system in the late 2000s. And it should be motivated to resolve these problems quickly: financial analysts are already starting to latch onto watch rumors as a growth opportunity for Apple's battered stock price since the fabled TV project looks increasingly unlikely in the current media climate. (That Bloomberg report is headlined "Apple's Planned 'iWatch' Could Be More Profitable Than TV," in case any investors missed the underlying subtlety.)
I used to wonder more about the Apple TV before I saw how my daughter interacts with her iPad. We already have Apple TV - a personal screen that supports streamed video - the parts that are missing are the licensing agreements that would make it a viable alternative to premium cable, and the software interface that would let you quickly and easily filter your options. I would not be surprised if Apple has a strong concept for the software, but without a licensing agreement there's not really a good reason to push beyond what we see in iTunes or the actual Apple TV product.

If analysts are anticipating that Apple's next big breakthrough is going to be a fancy wristwatch, even with due consideration to how popular wrist devices reportedly are in Japan, I think their focus is misplaced. Let's see... that gives Apple about six or seven months to prove me wrong.

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