Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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2/11/2013
06:43 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly

Squeezing a processor into an iPod Nano form factor mostly means a less-capable computing device, and adding a wristband doesn't change that.

Apple is reportedly experimenting with wristwatches made of curved glass, a project that could add another profitable product to the company's iOS arsenal.

Writing for the New York Times, Nick Bilton cited people familiar with Apple's tests and reported other signs of Apple's interest in wearable devices.

Apple is not the only company exploring this area, as can be seen by the departure of Richard DeVaul, one of its high-profile wearable computing hires from 2010 who left Apple to join Google in 2011. Google is expected to soon release a developer prototype of its Project Glass eyeglasses and the wearable era will face its first mass-market reality check.

Understandable as it may be that the tech industry would like to see wearable devices follow the same explosive growth trajectory as the mobile market experienced over the last six years, Apple, Google and other companies in this space have yet to demonstrate there's any mass-market value to buckling, strapping, mounting or otherwise attaching small, Internet-aware computers to one's body.

There is certainly niche-market value: The Nike + iPod sensor, the Nike Fuelband and other activity-tracking gadgets like the Jawbone UP wristband are loved by some. But these specialized gizmos will never have the broad impact of the iPhone.

The reason is simple: Having an Internet-connected computer with audio and video capabilities in your pocket turns out to be transformative. Having a strap to attach a less-capable Internet-connected computer to one's wrist is something less than that.

[ Want another opinion? Read Why Apple iOS-Driven Smartwatch Makes Sense. ]

The problem with wearable computing is that "wearable" barely matters as a modifier of "computing." Squeezing a processor into an iPod Nano form factor mostly means a less-capable computing device, and adding a wristband doesn't change that.

It may not always be so, once processor power consumption drops and energy generation through skin contact, radiant light, nano-chemistry and motion rises to the point that devices regenerate power at the rate they use it. But by then "wearable" will be far less interesting than "implanted" as far as computing goes.

"Wearable" matters more at the moment for Google's Project Glass, because the form of the device is critical to its function. "Wearable" for a timepiece is largely a matter of convenience and preference. Millions of people already have a Pocket iWatch, otherwise known as an iPhone. The wrist-mountable equivalent of the (as-yet) nonexistent iPhone Nano won't really being anything new to the table.

Watches and glasses are different from computers in that they're sold as fashion accessories and status symbols. The form matters more than the commodity function, telling time. Why else would anyone pay hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of dollars for a luxury watch?

Former Apple designer Bruce Tognazzini has penned an essay on the merits of an Apple iWatch. But I find it unconvincing. The two "killer applications" he cites, passcode management and iDevice location, are nothing of the sort. Rather than relying on the iWatch to eliminate iPhone passcode entry, the iPhone would be better off with biometric access support. And finding one's iPhone can already be done well enough through iCloud.

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AjoyB
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AjoyB,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/13/2013 | 2:17:11 AM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
It may be a less-capable computing device, but it's a vastly-more-capable wristwatch. Depends how you look at it.
Gadgety
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Gadgety,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/12/2013 | 9:55:20 PM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
Wasn't that what they told the Wright brothers? It'll never fly. There are endless predictions which are just hilarious in hindsight. Seriously Mr Claburn I used to have a SonyEricsson BT watch strapped to my wrist. The genius is in the hands free quick glanceability, discretion, the advantage of touch vibration alerts on your skin etc etc. It was flawed, however, as the OLED screen died a certain number of years after manufacture, which is the reason I don't wear one today. In addition your analysis may be too narrow or short sighted. Don't you think there's a demand for this when people started strapping non-BT equipped Nanos to their wrists as watches? Or when one of the most successful Kickstarter fundings ever, the Pebble, is a, hold on for it, BT wristwatch? Have you noticed how phones have grown to mini tablets - they're cumbersome to take out unless you want to surf the web, or text a message? The rest can be handled better without committing both your hands to an activity. Recharging could be taken care of while you sleep. People are used to it. It's no big deal. "You don't need an iWatch to make good personal decisions about exercise and diet. " True. In fact you don't need a diet, and if you don't own a car or any means of transport, you'll get free exercise. Despite this, pulse watches sell. In fact they sell quite well. And to many different segments of users. And look at the whole industry set up for dieting. Billions of dollars. Is it necessary despite exercise and diet is just common sense? Apparently. There's a demand out there.Your writing seems to suggest it'll replace a phone: "Squeezing a processor into an iPod Nano form factor mostly means a less-capable computing device", er, yes and so? Do people buy Nanos and a phone? Some, not all. It may be a niche product, yet Apple has the knack for producing high margin products and still sell in huge amounts. What about fashion? Apple products are design statements in and of themselves. If women like it for its look it'll take hold just based on that. If it adds functionality, so much the better.
Merlin1935
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Merlin1935,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/12/2013 | 8:56:58 PM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
Not less a person than Steve Balmer, the CEO of Microsoft, wrote off Apple iPad when it was first released, saying on live TV that it would not sell because there is no need for it.

Two decades earlier Bill Gates reportedly said that he did not see why anyone would need more than 1.44Mb of storage, concluding that the 1.44mb floppy drive was sufficient into the unforeseeable future.

Condemning the iWatch is like not learning from the past. People will first buy it because it looks "cool", then they'll figure out why they need it.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/12/2013 | 8:21:48 PM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
True enough. I hope Apple will prove me wrong. But Apple's success in those areas hinged largely on how badly everyone else had implemented MP3 music players, mobile phones, and tablets. I don't see a broad failure to deliver functional wristwatches that Apple could exploit. And adding new functions to the wristwatch would mean those functions could be added to anything, since they're not essential to time keeping. If we're taking watches as passcode tokens, we could just as easily be talking about any accessory embedded with the right crypto tech.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
2/12/2013 | 8:17:19 PM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
I believe there are already voice stress apps that purport to identify lies. I suspect they're not all that accurate, and that would probably be a problem with any facial expression analysis. If facial lie detection actually worked, I'd expect to see botox sales increase.
thaight940
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thaight940,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/12/2013 | 7:45:35 PM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
It may be that a killer app will come along and make eyeglass displays work. I propose an app that uses a camera to measure the facial expressions of a person you're talking to and display whether it's likely that they are lying.
GIGABOB
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GIGABOB,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/12/2013 | 5:57:52 PM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
Actually the watch becomes interesting when it replaces the phone. Combined with glasses and Bluetooth link between the two - this could very well be a winning combination. Imagine a pair of glasses with imaging, ear bud or jawbone on each end of the glasses for audio and BT link to the phone engine on the wrist. A nice intermediate evolution before moore's law takes us to a fully integrated compute environment in a lightweight glasses frame.
bknabe
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bknabe,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/12/2013 | 5:55:55 PM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
While I tend to agree with you, similar articles were written about iPods, iPhones, and iPads, so you might want to grab the salt shaker.
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