Apple is expected to plunge into the wearable computer game ala Google's Project Glass with a wrist watch that could ultimately replace the iPhone, according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster.
With analysts talking about an Apple TV for most of 2012---only to not get one---industry watchers need to focus on some next big thing. That next big thing is likely to be wearable computers. In a research note, Munster said:
We note that recent speculation from tech blogs suggests that Apple may launch a watch as a companion device to the iPhone. While we are unsure of the ultimate launch timing (likely 2014 or later), we believe that Apple will eventually introduce some type of wearable computing product. As we have previously noted, we believe that wearable computers will ultimately be a major future trend. We expect Apple could profit from the trend in two ways. First, the company could create products for consumers, like the watch. Second, we believe the company could expand its MFi program that licenses hardware manufacturers the ability to make products that connect to iOS devices. While we don't believe the watch itself is something that will excite investors, we believe the trend offers future revenue potential beyond the iPhone/iPad franchise.
The bottom line for Munster is that wearable computers over the next decade are likely to replace smartphones and mobile devices. In this vision, you'd carry a tablet that would complement watches and glasses and allow for calls, searches and other tasks.
We believe technology could progress to a point where consumers have a tablet plus wearable computers, like watches or glasses, that enable simple things like voice calls, texting, quick searches, navigation, etc. through voice control. Longer term, screens in glasses or projectors could replace the necessity of a screen from a smartphone or tablet. These devices are likely to be cheaper than an iPhone and could ultimately be Apple's best answer to addressing emerging markets.
The wearable computer trend would give analysts something to ponder for Apple going forward. In the meantime, Munster is expecting an Apple TV in November 2013, a "modest” iPhone 5 upgrade in September, and iOS 7 preview in June and an iPad Mini with retina display early in the year.