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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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Andrew Hornback
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Andrew Hornback,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/13/2013 | 5:01:43 AM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
Depending on the functionality needed and the level of craftiness of the user, you could create a band out of 550 paracord for an iPod Nano.

I wouldn't mind having one, if only to have my schedule on it so I'm not missing meetings, know when I'm free, etc. without having to dig out a device. I can also see this kind of device being used as an second-factor of authentication token or as a personal hot spot to power other devices, but then battery life may be limited - and if it's like the latest generation iPads, it may be a wrist warmer.

I just hope that if Apple does really go through with this, they learned something from what Casio did about 20 years ago.

Andrew Hornback
InformationWeek Contributor
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
2/13/2013 | 12:30:04 PM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
Actually, Bill Gates never said this about the 1.44 MB floppy. He did state that nobody needs more than 640 kB RAM. And now see where we are, can't even run Windows efficiently on a system with less than 2 GB of RAM.
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
2/13/2013 | 12:31:44 PM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
Apple will not need to prove you wrong. Consumers need to do that. And aside from bragging rights and having too much money I see no value in that gadget. Then again, I also see no value in a smartphone. So, keep the salt shaker handy.
Latichever
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Latichever,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/13/2013 | 3:02:32 PM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
If the watch was an extension of my iPhone as well as had some independent functionality, it would fly.

But what can a watch do that a phone can't? I tell my watchless kids that you can't surreptitiously check how much time is left to endure in a deadly boring meeting or class.
Bizlaw
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Bizlaw,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/13/2013 | 4:38:12 PM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
You're assuming the iWatch is designed to replace the smartphone. It can't. The iWatch has to be a complimentary device, something to give easy, quick access to your smartphone, which may be stored in your pocket, purse, etc. This would be particularly useful as smartphones grow in size (5" screens are getting ridiculous to hold up to your head).

This also means the iWatch doesn't need network capability, just a bluetooth link to your smartphone. It could be something that is passive, only coming active for bluetooth reception when your smartphone initiates communication, thus reducing battery drain.

And it's not true that smartphones do everything better than a watch. A quick look at the time is much better suited for a watch strapped to your wrist than digging your phone out of your pocket. A quick calculator, calendar, weather check, etc. would be faster and easier on your watch.

NFC is the great red herring of the tech world. It's been around for years but no one has ever adopted it in earnest. Smartphones will bypass NFC in favor of apps like Apple's Passbook, because then you can load your debit card, shoppers card, rewards card, VISA, etc. all in one place. Merchants won't have to buy new equipment (they already have bar code scanners), plus phone manufacturers won't have to squeeze another chip into their handsets (more room for batteries). And, it can be password protected so someone can't take your phone and waive it across the self-checkout at Walmart and buy themselves a 60" TV on your dime.
David Berlind
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David Berlind,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/13/2013 | 6:04:35 PM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
Regarding point #1 (wireless carrier subscription fees), I think it's fair to say that the wireless carriers are going to have to rethink their plans around the idea fo the Internet of Things (whether those things are watches, sensors, etc.). Today, carriers have plans like Verizon's "share everything plan" (see http://www.verizonwireless.com... that appear to target families where you have multiple phones on one plan, all digging into the same bucket of minutes and data. These share everything plans are a harbinger of things to come. W/hat will change is that they'll be marketed at individuals like you and me to support our cadre of connected things (phones, watches, tablets, cars, etc.). My hope is that the cost will come down too because that will be a gating factor in our plans to purchase and use these devices.

On the watch viability front, there's definitely an opportunity in the area of special purpose connected devices with a strap, like a watch. I own a Garmin 405 GPS watch and have the "cycling kit" to go with it. Garmin has newer models, but I've always like the promise of the 405 (not necessarily the implementation). It keeps time, tells me where I am, how to get back to where I started my ride, shows me total miles ridden, calories burned (I have the heart strap), current speed, average speed, etc, and it lets me post the maps of my rides up to the Web. I'm not saying that this is the killer app for a watch. But, to Merlin1935's point, the idea of a watch as one of my things (as in my personal Internet of Things) is limited by the imagination of what such a watch will do. I agree that squeezing an iPod into another form factor isn't necessarily a game changer. Especially given the compromise that would be introduced to typical iPod functionality because of power/battery challenges that such a small form factor poses.

But the interest in the Pebble on Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/pro... definitely proves that there's room for innovation and design.
jgeiss4p
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jgeiss4p,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/14/2013 | 3:04:58 PM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
The great trick here is to come up with a 'true' wearable computer experience! A combination head-band/glasses that you wear which has headphones, microphone, video camera, heads-up display and sensors to pick up brainwave activity (see the recent announcements of the 'Muse' headband).
Then, you add a watch which will talk to the headband via bluetooth. Large, flat curved screen (3.5 inches, or so) that wraps over the top of your wrist comfortably. It will be used for vibration alerts, and for an input keyboard/touch screen to the system.
Play music at any time. Watch video on the bus in the heads-up display. Has all of your appointments and reminders set. Phone. VidPhone. Everything you need, everything your phone currently does, in a two-part package that weighs a few ounces.
Add some medical monitoring (heartbeat, brainwaves, etc...) and include alerts to the appropriate people if it encounters a medical emergency.
Sounds like a good idea to me.
Xennex
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Xennex,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/13/2013 | 12:59:22 AM
re: Apple iWatch: 7 Reasons It Won't Fly
They've announced a in-vehicle system where the iDevice becomes the central component to the onboard display and entertainment/navigation system. Why not miniaturize that idea to fit on your wrist? Though when you think about it that way there's no reason a 3rd party company couldn't make one that supports ALL major mobile OSes via bluetooth or zigbee.
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