Rumor that Apple has is to imminently release a television has been replaced—temporarily, at any rate—by speculation that the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology giant is to release a wrist-mounted computer dubbed the iWatch.
Where, exactly, would this latest in a long line of mythical Apple devices fit into the wider Apple ecosystem?
Both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have both thrown their weight behind this story, which elevates above the usual Apple-related gossip story. Hiowever, as is usual with Apple-related rumors, both outlets are light on details.
Speculation related to an Apple smartwatch was heightened last week when long-time Apple interface designer Bruce Tognazzini offered up some ideas as to what might be possible with an Apple smartwatch. In his vision, the iWatch had almost limitless capabilities, doing everything short of curing cancer and deflecting an incoming asteroid. If the iWatch ended up doing a quarter of what was listed, it would be Apple's most versatile product to date.
If Apple does indeed have a smartwatch in the pipeline, I believe that it will be a more modest device than that postulated by Tognazzini due to price constraints, issues relating to miniaturization, and battery life—even adding solar power to a device doesn't eliminate the power constraints that a product has to be designed around.
My take on the iWatch is a little more conservative than Tognazzini. I believe that if Apple does indeed come out with an iWatch, it will be about one thing—integration into the existing iOS and OS X ecosystem.
While shiny devices such as the iPhone 5, iPad 4, and iPad mini have been what's caught our attention—and grabbed headlines—over the past few months, integration with existing services has been at the heart of everything that Apple has done in recent quartertly release cycles.
Apple isn't coming out with new devices randomly; it is building a carefully-crafted ecosystem. This integration would take on a number of forms:
- iCloud services integration: This one is a no-brainer. Extending services such as iMessage, Find My Friends, and Find My iPhone to a smartwatch would not only give the services a new platform to operate from, but also give a sales boost to the existing iOS lineup. The iWatch would become the ultimate accessory;
- iOS integration: Who just called you? Where's your iPhone? What's the battery level on your iPad? Which apps need updating? Imagine being able to see all this from a device on your wrist;
- OS X integration: Features such as authentication—perhaps via near-field communications (NFC), biometrics, or Bluetooth—and being able to control features such as scheduled backup and updates would handy if they were close to hand, say, on your wrist.
All that said, I do feel the need to inject some sanity into this debate. While it is easy to get carried away about a wristwatch that could count your laps in a pool, find you a coffee shop, and remotely wipe your lost iPhone, it's unlikely that the iWatch is going to be Apple's next iPhone or iPad, either in terms of sales or impact.
Why? Several reasons spring out at me.
- The iWatch is not going to pull in the same level of revenue that the iPhone or iPad does;
- The iWatch would be a companion device for existing iOS and OS X devices, not a new standalone device;
- Wristwatch buyers are fickle—just look at the extensive line-up that companies such Casio, Rolex, and Omega have;
- Since storage is unlikely to be an issue, unless Apple transforms the iWatch into some sort of wrist-mounted backup/storage device. Apple will likely find it difficult to squeeze higher revenues from a product by offering it at a variety of capacities;
- There's a limit to what you can accomplish with a screen that can fit on your wrist.
I see any iWatch being more of an iPod nano as opposed to an iPhone or iPad.