iWatch: Why businesses have one year to get ready

iWatch: Why businesses have one year to get ready

Summary: Dismissing smartwatches and wearable computing as a consumer gimmick could mean missing a big opportunity, so businesses should get ready now.

TOPICS: Mobility

Businesses that think wearable computing is just another consumer gimmick may be missing a big opportunity – and getting plans in place in the next year could be vital.

Tech companies including Microsoft, Google, Samsung and Sony have built smartwatches for years with limited success. These smartwatches tend to function as a second screen for a smartphone, for example offering a way of reading emails or other updates while the phone sits in a pocket, and have so far met with little interest from consumers.

Before the iWatch: A history of smartwatches, in pictures

Before the iWatch: A history of smartwatches, in pictures

Before the iWatch: A history of smartwatches, in pictures

But as smartphones become ubiquitous (in the UK 85 percent of devices sold are now smartphones) tech companies are looking at new form factors, and this has reignited interest in the devices, as has the success of the Kickstarter-financed Pebble smartwatch, and of course the long standing rumours that Apple is working on such a device.

Indeed, applications from Apple to trademark the iWatch name in Mexico, Taiwan, and Turkey, as well as Japan and Russia, have added to the speculation, with one analyst predicting the decision to move ahead with production may have already been made.

Still, the success of smartwatches this time around is by no means guaranteed, as among other things tech companies will need to convince consumers that they need to start wearing watches again (a market, ironically, killed by the clock on a mobile phone). And other form factors, such as Google Glass, are being tested out by vendors too.

But if they do take off, businesses that ignore the potential of wearable computing devices will kick themselves for missing a big opportunity said Richard Holway, chairman of analyst firm TechMarketView, who warned enterprises not to dismiss wearable devices in the same way that they may have dismissed tablets previously.

"Wearable computing will infect every part of corporate IT – from financial services (think mobile payments) to airlines (think e-tickets) through to healthcare (in my view its biggest market). You can ignore it. But, much more importantly, you could start to take real advantage of it. You probably have a year to get your plans into production," he said.

And he added: "This time Apple will not have the market to itself. We see many devices from armbands to glasses even to implants becoming part of our everyday world in double quick time."


Topic: Mobility

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • The trick...

    The trick is in creating a watch that you can wear without looking like a total dork. Remember when calculator watches first came out? The time span that elapsed between the moment you though they were the coolest thing on the planet and the moment that you realized that no one who wears one has ever been on an actual date could be measured in nanoseconds.

    The technology actually exists to produce an elegant smart-watch. Let's just hope it's put to good use.
    • I had a cool touchscreen calculator watch in the mid 1980's

      I'll agree with the latter point ... an elegant smart watch would be cool!

      But not the former point, not all calculator watches are uncool ... I bought one in 1985 without realizing it had a calculator (touchscreen) as well as the normal digital watch functions ... quite functional and geeky in a functional non-overt way. While I admit the Casio AT-550 (http://bit.ly/14MnWrz) might have been a bit more elegant I had bought the rather pedestrian Casio TC-50 (http://bit.ly/14MnXvm). Quite a cool useful timepiece almost 30 years ago!
      • Nerdware

        No matter how you slice it, it's still nerdware.
  • Doubt it.

    "Businesses that think wearable computing is just another consumer gimmick may be missing a big opportunity"

    I doubt it. As much as I still think it's clumsy to pull out a device just to check out the time, it's the way of things today. Convincing people to wear watches again is unlikely to happen.
    • Wearable Computing, Yes. Watch? Ha ha ha...

      Wearable computing will happen. Maybe even a wrist device. But it will not be anything like a watch.

      Wearable computing will need to leverage a wireless PAN to be reliable and cost-effective.

      Maybe one item could be a wrist pulse sensor, and/or another could be a wrist display. But a "watch", effectively I/O and a general purpose computer (much like a modern mobile phone) do not make sense. They only make sense to someone trying to build a market for "watches" that have higher price and profit margin than a Rolex.
  • Flaws with this guys logic

    Phones have been around for over one hundred years. Cordless phones have been around for decades. Apple did very little in terms of change the requirements to use their product. Given the OS is the exact same to its phone, Apple simply capitalized on creating a larger form factor (iPad) while providing the same experience. Now people think a watch will be successful. Apple has yet to create demand for a product in which it revolutionized how it is used. It has also never revolutionized a market that has seen a decline in popularity. To suggest otherwise is clearly ignoring history. People now look to Apple to make these killer products by creating enough hype for something that hasn't caught on (mp3 players, smartphones, and tablets were readily available and growing ever so slowly before Apple came in). Similar to AppleTV, this will be another situation in which Apple claims the iWatch is just a hobby to save face as a "technology savior". As it played out, the original iPhone wasn't even a great product with the same kind of interest people have now. That wasn't really until the AppStore came out with the second generation.

    Look at your history. I'm not saying history can't change, but the reality is Apple doesn't deserve its reputation. Yes, it has done tons of popularizing quality technology with common people that are not highly tech savvy. It IS curious that all this hype comes as Apple shares have continued to fall. If history tells us anything else it is that Apple fails to innovate without Steve Jobs. Sure, maybe he had some initial ideas for this or an iTV. The problem is he was known for trashing nearly final products because they weren't up to his standard. Tim Cook is no Steve Jobs. Perhaps the delays with iOS 7, shifting people from OS X, etc. should be seen as a sign that the wheels of history repeating itself are well under way. The good news for Apple is that has a much larger loyal following than years ago.
    • Why lecture people on something you know nothing about?

      In fact, instead of arguing from actual knowledge, you just make assumptions based on bias and ignorance, and then post deductions from your misinformation.
      Case in point:
      "the original iPhone wasn't even a great product with the same kind of interest people have now. That wasn't really until the AppStore came out with the second generation."
      Bull. Check your facts. The original iPhone sold out in a matter of days in most locations, and ignited a market that previously didn't exist. The original iPhone sold over 6 million units, dwarfing the sales of other phones at the time. Did the App Store add further to their popularity? Sure. Did it create it? In your AMA dreams.

      "Apple has yet to create demand for a product in which it revolutionized how it is used."
      Clearly you never used MP3 players prior to the iPod, or your would not be able to write this with a straight face.
      Then there is the original Mac. Claiming that the first commercially available machine with a GUI did not revolutionize how the computer is used is just plain ignorance of monumental proportions. And please, don't bother to give me that nonsense about XEROX PARC, or I'll laugh you off the internet. I, unlike you, actually used the XEROX Alto, so I know a bit about how it worked. But please, feel free to explain how the Alto Executive revolutionized computer use. This ought to be amusing.

      "It IS curious that all this hype comes as Apple shares have continued to fall."
      Seriously? Do you even bother to check?!? Hint: Apple stock is NOT falling. Google is your friend.
      So not only do you not know history, you have no grasp on current events, either.
  • 1 year?

    1 year to get ready? And if they are a day late, what is the consequence?
    Adam Russell
    • Consequences?

      The consequences? Chapter 7 liquidation, my friend. The stakes are that high. Any business that doesn't have a smart-watch application waiting in the wings might as well just hand the keys over to its competitor.
      • I sincerely hope you're being sarcastic...

  • Errrr.....

    Meanwhile, Apple also [quietly] announced that trademarks worldwide for “iCrap” and “iPoop”. Apple will be releasing a high tech toilet [using either or both name] where you can surf the Internet, access your mail, get hit with MacDefender like malware, etc. Apple denies every time you use the toilet, that the weight, date, time and personal information of what you flushed will be sent to Apple servers to be analyzed to improve the quality of the product.
    • That's iLoo to you...

      And in a related move they trademarked iWhatsit, believed to be a new and expensive technology that - well - when asked what it does we were told, "That's a secret. But you can buy it here first."
    • Oh shut up you idiot

  • Scaremongerging is not going to make the market for smart watches take off.

    Telling companies that they had better get ready and in line for the new revolution in watches, is simple scaremongering, and a devious tactic to try to create a market.

    Smart watches might be an okay idea, but not a ground-breaking idea, and not something that will revolutionize anything. It's technology overkill.

    Most of what people need from their watches, is the time, and if those watches get "smart", it means creating a tiny screen in which data will be displayed. So, in order for people to be able to read that tiny screen with the tiny data and with the tiny fonts, people will need smart glasses that, when people lower their heads and look at their watches, those glasses will automatically zoom the content for viewing comfortably; that would mean two devices, instead of the single device which already performs the tasks, that device being the smartphone. If people really need to know the time without looking down at a smartphone, all that would be needed is to ask "Siri" (or whatever others have for a voice interface) for the time.

    Besides, the corporate/business world isn't the real target for smart watches, no matter how much fear is struck into the business world's hearts. Consumers are the targets, but even then, consumers don't really need watches, smart or dumb or stupid. ;)
  • It's still one more device...

    Most people want to carry fewer devices, not more. Few wear watches anymore. Add this up and an iWatch is a non-starter. Trying to scare companies into supporting something won't make it any more successful. These recommendations are irrational, based on the long-term trend away from wearing watches. I see no reason anyone should risk resources to support a device which is likely to fail.
    • Although I personally have my doubts about such a device, you have given NO reason in your post to support your conclusion.
      1) So? So they substitute a watch for a phone.
      2) So? There is a reason few wear watches, a reason totally obviated if they replace their phone.
      3) There is nothing to "add up".
  • More useless rhetoric.

    A worthless format unless the iWhat is actually some form of wrist bracelet with a much larger display then you would have on a watch and which would will still need some connectivity with a smartphone or wearable computer.
    None of this technology is from Apple so finding R&D companies for that technology might again require approaching their competition.
    Like the Apple TV it is far beyond what they could do themselves.
    • Huh?!?

      "None of this technology is from Apple"
      None of what technology?
  • Hmmm....

    How much more useless and stupid can we get I wonder?
    It'll be interesting to see how far we can kid ourselves.
  • Watches?

    Geeks and dorks.
    That's what the world needs.
    Now you can have dinner and check your smart phone, tablet, AND watch while recording everyone with the oh so cool Google Glasses.