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The Smart Watch Is Already Here

I am even more convinced today that we live in a cocoon in the United States, self-insulated from developments and — surprisingly — technology innovations in other parts of the world.

How else can we explain the hoopla about the “smart watch” {complink 379|Apple Inc.} is reportedly developing to “bring technology closer to the consumer in the form of a wearable wristwatch computing device” as EBN contributor Nicole Lewis puts it in a recent blog?

Here's news for the electronics industry and Apple iWatchers: Similar devices already exist and have been around for some time. Japan's Sony has one and Samsung Electronics is reportedly working on its own. If the news about Samsung is correct, this will intensify the competition between the two companies — who knows, they might even end up duking it out in another courtroom soon. Click here for a slideshow compiled by InformationWeek on what it called “Smartwatches Past and Present.”

If Apple indeed manufactures a smart watch it would be using the same strategy late CEO Steve Jobs used to corner the digital music player, smartphone, and tablet PC markets. This consisted primarily of taking an existing product and elevating it to a stratospheric, customer-friendly high with great design and ease-of-use functionality.

Wow factor?
But will the Apple smart watch (iWatch?) wow the market in much the same way as the iPod, iPhone, and iPad? No, it won't. Not because the design and functionality would be less than what we've come to expect of the company, but simply because the potency of the Apple magic dust is waning and customers are being lured away by sometimes more fascinating products from competitors.

One such product in the smart watch category is the Slyde, the brain child of Swiss watch designer Jorg Hysek who approached EMS provider and design outfit Escatec AG with the concept and asked the company to manage the entire process from the design phase all the way to production. Escatec, based in Heerbrugg, Switzerland, coordinated all these as part of its specialized system of supporting OEMs with a wide range of services extending from design support to handling most functions involved in supply-chain management and sales support.

Raphael Bertschy, CEO of Slyde Watch SA, wrote in a statement e-mailed to me:

We went to Escatec with just a sketch and a new market niche of combining top-grade, Swiss watchmaking with the intuitive interface technologies of today to give a navigation system of unequalled simplicity and convenience. Their design team worked through all the stages solving all the challenges really quickly and finding suppliers who could deliver solutions to really complex and unusual specs.

Big ticket item
Alright. Let's get one thing clear. The Slyde isn't for the mass market. It retails for about $5,500 each and pricing for a custom-made Slyde (bedazzled with diamonds, for instance) can run into tens of thousands of dollars. I gingerly examined and quickly returned one during a visit to Escatec last year, but after recovering from the sticker shock, I marveled at the slick design and display. If I had $5,500 to play with, I would probably own a Slyde watch today. For technology watchers who care about the innards of the device, the Slyde is equipped with an ARM9 32-bit 400MHz processor, 1 GByte of flash memory, and 64MB of RAM.

Said Daniel Pfeifer, head of global R&D at Escatec:

The watch had to be slim to be elegant, We got it down to 10mm thick, which included designing a special USB-like interface for the watch that enables it to be recharged and have new software, pictures and video uploaded.

The Slyde is on display this week at the Embedded World 2013 Exhibition & Conference in Nuremberg, Germany. If you have the time, watch the video below to see how the Slyde works. It might just convince you whatever Apple has in development better be really good to win in this market:

{youtubenew|/embed/BcB8-qnEFb0|215|360}

33 comments on “The Smart Watch Is Already Here

  1. Brian Fuller
    February 26, 2013

    I might opt to spend the $5,500 just on diamonds. 

    Or a car. 

    Great piece, Bolaji!

     

  2. Ariella
    February 26, 2013

    As for the cost of the watch, while that is a lot for someone like me who usually spends no more than $10 on a watch, it is on the lower end for luxury models that can easily top 5 figures.  In fact, there are some that top 6 figures as you'd see here: http://coolmaterial.com/roundup/expensive-watches/

  3. Nemos
    February 26, 2013

    “Apple magic dust is waning, and customers are being lured away by sometimes more fascinating products from competitors”

    That is correct but the 5000$ watch it is not for the regular consumers , I don't know how many want to sell for that price or if the real cost is that high but with a high price, you give space to other players (as Apple is).

  4. Nemos
    February 26, 2013

    This amount of money for a watch it is extremely high. I don't know … are they so many luxury people out there?

  5. bolaji ojo
    February 26, 2013

    The cost is only one part of this and as you noted this won't qualify as one of the more expensive watches in the market. It's the process of bringing this to market that I found most fascinating.

  6. bolaji ojo
    February 26, 2013

    Nemos, It's certainly expensive and it isn't for everyone. However, as Ariella noted, this doesn't rise to the level of “expensive” in the watch industry.

    Still, I understand the point you are making about cost being a possible hindrance. Even then, the Apple iWatch won't be for everyone either. It probably will run into hundreds of dollars and there won't be a company out there subsidizing the watch so that people can sign up for telecom service!

  7. Ariella
    February 26, 2013

    @Bolaji you made me think of someone proposing an Apple iWatch scholarship fund. I can just picture teens demanding them as a necessity when their friends get one.

  8. Brian Fuller
    February 26, 2013

    Raise your hand if you remember when Sun workstations cost $5000 at the low end. If the semiconductor content in these watches could go for $5000, then we have a completely new and vibrant industry.

  9. FreeBird
    February 26, 2013

    Bolaji–I had the same reaction as you when reading coverage of the smart watch…yawn. If the rumor didn't have “Apple” attached to it, would anyone really care? I know there are watch-like devices already on the market, but my reaction was more of “why on earth do I want to wear my computer/smart phone on my wrist?” Does anyone even ask anymore “why do I need this thing?” Aren't phones and tabelts small enough? In all the coverage I read there was no compelling value to the smart watch except it was wearable. OK, maybe I wouldn't misplace something attached to my wrist …there's that…

  10. bolaji ojo
    February 26, 2013

    Ariella, Fathers who are all wrapped around their little girls' pinkie will probably get one. Hollywood stars and celebrities will go for it and the rest of us . . . As Brian said prices will come slowly down and we may pick up a “fairly” used one at the aftermarket sale!

  11. bolaji ojo
    February 26, 2013

    Apple's smart watch will be for the mass market. The company needs to have a huge win again and it must do so in the consumer electronics market. If the watch costs less than $1,000 many ifans will queue up for it! After that, even the $5,500 Slyde may suddenly go mass market and component suppliers will find themselves a new and unexpectedly large market for their products.

  12. Taimoor Zubar
    February 26, 2013

    @Bolaji: I think the $1000 price tag may be too high for the smart watch. That's the price Apple sells the latest iPhone model for and compared to that the watch would be smaller in screen size and be slower in performance on the hardware side. I wonder how would a rational consumer pay $1000 for it then.

  13. Taimoor Zubar
    February 26, 2013

    why on earth do I want to wear my computer/smart phone on my wrist?” Does anyone even ask anymore “why do I need this thing?”

    @FreeBird: Unfortunately, most consumers do not think on these lines. There's very little rational thinking behind the purchase decision and most decisions are guided by what others are doing and what's cool to possess. That's really the outcome of viral marketing.

  14. bolaji ojo
    February 26, 2013

    Freebird, Wait for the Google glasses! Combine that with the iWatch or wearable computer, the iPod, Samsung Galaxy phone, the iPad and the talking refrigerator that can sense when you need to buy milk, creamer and yogurt and life becomes simpler or does it?

  15. bolaji ojo
    February 26, 2013

    TairmooZ, The rational consumer? What's that?

  16. _hm
    February 26, 2013

    More interesting will be its interaction/interface with other apple products from imac to ipad. It will also nicely interact with your new automobile and your home network.

  17. prabhakar_deosthali
    February 26, 2013

    In my opinion what can create a Wow factor is not just another smart watch which looks like the oridnary chronograph but a smart gadget weraable on your wrist like a watch but does things which are totally different than the normal watch – the wish list could be – working as a remote for the TV, working as a radio with blue tooth connected earphones,  working as Wi-fi device to stream video to the TV, having interactive voice response system as an interface rather than a miniature LCD… and so on.

    Whether Apple will be able to deliver such a product ?  

  18. mfbertozzi
    February 27, 2013

    @p_d: good point and while I was trying to plan an answer, I thought in parallel to Apple community and I've found another question: are they interested in similar products? I keep some doubts about.

  19. FreeBird
    February 27, 2013

    Apple's mantra to date has been “take an existing product/need and improve on it.” They hit the mark with digital music and their phone/tablet offerings have done that to an extent (the phone maybe more so than the tablet.) But watches? They already tell me the time and date (so do phones); play music (set the alarm, anyway); and depending on the add-ons can point due North, tell me how far I have traveled, what the barometric pressure is, and other useful stuff if I were traveling in the Pinta, Nina or the Santa Maria. I suppose monitoring my blood pressure and heart rate makes sense if I am at risk, and maybe the watch will call 911 for me. But I don't want to want to send e-mial from a two-inch screen; watch video; or listen to music. Maybe Google should leapfrog Apple and embed all of these functions on its glasses–that would make more sense. 

  20. Wale Bakare
    February 27, 2013

    >>working as a remote for the TV, working as a radio with blue tooth connected earphones,  working as Wi-fi device to stream video to the TV, having interactive voice response system<<

     Those top technocrats are smarter people and very sure that would not happen.

  21. Taimoor Zubar
    February 27, 2013

    The rational consumer? What's that?”

    @Bolaji: A rational consumer is one who makes the decision based objectively on the merits of the product rather than being influenced by other people or marketing hype.

    Of course, these people are hard to find.

  22. Adeniji Kayode
    February 27, 2013

    @FreeeBird,

    I just noticed that Apple had realised that the only way they will keep being relevant is through innovation and they are trying to be on top of that.

    Time will tell if Apple had decided well on this

  23. Susan Fourtané
    February 28, 2013

    Bolaji, 

    I find it very interesting that all those smart watches already existed, but it was not until Apple started working on an iWatch that we are all talking about smart watches. Even more interesting that there is no real product in the market yet, but the iWatch is the most talked about smart watch today.

    -Susan 

  24. FLYINGSCOT
    February 28, 2013

    I am not convinced even the great Apple will make a truly successful smart watch. However I am usually wrong and it would be interesting to see this new product on the market.  Does anyone have an ideas what the spec of the device will likely be?

  25. Susan Fourtané
    March 1, 2013

    Flyingscot, 

    Why are you sceptic that Apple can make a successful smartwatch? 

    -Susan

  26. bolaji ojo
    March 1, 2013

    Susan, You identified the Apple mystique and it's still great. It also points to what's ailing Apple today; it cannot underdeliver. Not even when it didn't promise!

  27. Susan Fourtané
    March 2, 2013

    Bolaji, 

    “. . . it cannot underdeliver. Not even when it didn't promise!”

    Exactly. I believe Apple has to feel under pressure. Maybe for the first time? If Apple undelivers it might be the first step downhill. This time is better not to rush a product –as it happened with Maps–. 

    -Susan 

  28. Wale Bakare
    March 2, 2013

    There's panic amongst the top players in mobile industry and it might continue to affect them one way or another. As innovations emerge on daily basis so also prices drop of electronics devices are creeping in steadily. Surely, Apple's iwatch would try to beat the existing and extreme low price ones. But can it? If yes, how?

  29. Susan Fourtané
    March 2, 2013

    Wale, 

    “Apple's iwatch would try to beat the existing and extreme low price ones. But can it? If yes, how?”

    No, I don't think Apple is worried about beating the low prices of other products. That has never been Apple's strategy. Bringing interesting and innovative products is what Apple looks for. The question now is what is Apple going to come up with, with all these other smartphones already in the market. 

    Today I saw a demo of the Pebble smartwatch. It left me well unimpressed. So, I thought then that Apple is going to deliver something worth whatever price tag it has. 

    -Susan 

  30. Wale Bakare
    March 2, 2013

    >>Today I saw a demo of the Pebble smartwatch. It left me well unimpressed. So, I thought then that Apple is going to deliver something worth whatever price tag it has.<<

    The fact that, good things only exist in the minds of those who appreciate them, does not necessarily mean majority of consumers do not prefer quality over quantity. No doubt, i have an admiration for Apple's products upon which i'm still sticking to Nokia(phone) in as much as no degradation to its functioning parts.

    Dont forget that – the only permanent thing in OEM industry is change, this operates at a very faster rate. No matter what price would become an important factor too no matter the level of quality designs you have out there. If not now but soon.

  31. Susan Fourtané
    March 3, 2013

    Wale, 

    I bet you are going to have a Nokia phone for a long time. If one thing is good about Nokia is the quality of its hardware. 

    -Susan

  32. Wale Bakare
    March 3, 2013

    I have been using Nokia for a while, i also got Blackberry but unused often anyway. At the minute still meditating on which to grab next it could either Samsung or iPhone.

  33. Susan Fourtané
    March 4, 2013

    Wale, 

    What keeps you indecisive in the smartphone choice? 

    -Susan

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