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The iWatch: What I Hope Apple Actually Does (But Probably Won’t)

By - February 21, 2013

(image AppleInsider) Back in April of last year, I pondered Pebble, the then-wildly successful darling of Kickstarter fame. Pebble is a wristwatch device that connects to iPhones and displays various smart things. In the piece, Does the Pebble Cause a Ripple In Apple’s Waters?, I asked whether Apple would allow such third-party hardware to play in their backyard. It struck me Apple’s entire business was about hardware. Pebble, I figured, was in for a tough road. No wonder it went to Kickstarter, I mused. VCs would never back something so clearly in Apple’s target zone. From the post:

If you watch the video explaining Pebble, it become pretty clear that the watch is, in essence, a new form factor for the iPhone. It’s smaller, it’s more use-case defined, but that’s what it is: A smaller mirror of your iPhone, strapped to you wrist. Pebble uses bluetooth connectivity to access the iPhone’s native capabilities, and then displays data, apps, and services on its high-resolution e-paper screen. It even has its own “app store” and (upcoming) SDK/API so people can write native apps to the device.

In short, Pebble is an iPhone for your wrist. And Apple doesn’t own it.

If we’ve learned anything about Apple over the years, it’s that Apple is driven by its hardware business. It makes its profits by selling hardware – and it’s built a beautiful closed software ecosystem to insure those hardware sales. Pebble forces an interesting question: Does Apple care about new form factors for hardware? Or is it content to build out just the “core” hardware platform, and allow anyone to innovate in new hardware instances? Would Apple be cool with someone building, say, a larger form factor of the iPhone, perhaps tablet-sized, driven by your iPhone?

Fast forward to now. The month’s Apple rumors have all been about the “iWatch” – the company’s next big innovation.  Apparently reliable sources – most likely now muted thanks to Apple’s exceptional PR machine – have said that 100 people are working on the device inside Apple’s HQ. And this week came news that Apple has even filed for a patent around the concept. 

If I’m Pebble, I’m not sleeping well at night.

I have no idea if Apple will actually create such a device – though I’m certain it must be testing one.

However, if Apple really wants the device to take off, the company should incorporate more than just iPhone connectivity. Here’s my wish list:

Open platform for connectivity. Any device can connect to the device, not just iOS. I know this is wishful thinking, but…for example, Google has opted for glasses as its next big thing in wearable computing. I certainly would like the two to work together. (And how cool would it be if it worked with Android? OK, sorry. Just had to ask.)

– Sensors and software that make the device the equivalent of the Fitbit or the Jawbone Up.

Integration with those apps, so that users don’t lose their data if they want to move to Apple’s hardware platform.

– As with Pebble, an open app ecosystem for the device, not one locked down into iOS. (I know…)

– A warranty on breakage. It’s one thing to ignore the criminal cracking that happens with nearly every iPhone in existence, because you can blame the consumer for dropping the damn thing. But if this thing is on somebody’s wrist, it’s going to get smacked around. And if Apple takes the same approach to breakage as it has for the iPhone, the device will be a failure.

That’s my major wish list. What would you want from the device?

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10 thoughts on “The iWatch: What I Hope Apple Actually Does (But Probably Won’t)

  1. Keep track of heart beats and other data from the human body (like Ph) to give real time updates and advice on health state.

  2. T. Harvey says:

    Hard to believe, but Dick Tracy has finally entered the building….and he is laughing his head off!

  3. george says:

    I still have a hard time understanding what’s wrong with a closed ecosystem (iOS) if it’s open to third party developers? Isn’t Apple just trying to control a better user experience…I don’t find anything uniquely better on open platforms.

  4. Brad Miller says:

    Integration with Nike Fit or other similar systems would be sweet. This is really just expanding on Manfredi’s idea — (see what I did there, Apple? Gave credit where credit was due). I imagine this could be easily accomplished on an open platform (which i advocate), but even on a closed platform, as long as Apple lets developers build apps specifically for the watch, it could work.

    I think Android support would be amazing, but is a long-shot.

    I worry about the comfort of a large, glass watch. The watch would need to be quite wide to have the ideal functionality and screen size. This could make the watch heavy and bothersome.

    Lastly, I echo your thoughts on durability. My metal watch is quite scratched up from standard wear and tear over a few years. If it were glass, I would have shattered it several times by now.

  5. Lucas F. says:

    Hello, I am writing my diploma thesis on Cloud computing with focus on Amazon,Apple, Facebook,Google and Microsoft. I would like ask if “The Internet Big Five” is your idea and if so, how did you came up with it. I am trying to find an alternative to Schmidt’s “Gang of four”, which would include Microsoft. Thank you very much for reply.