Thursday, September 5, 2013

Age of the Smartwatch?

All the hype around smartwatches these days has got me thinking about the launch of the iPad a few years ago.  Back then, the media kept speculating whether or not this was the "age of the tablet." Now, they are speculating whether or not this is the "age of the smartwatch."

How can we determine whether this new device will be a huge success or a flop?  Well, what makes the difference in whether or not a device, any device, will be successful in the market?  Is it the features and specs - processor speed, the amount of RAM the device has, or the resolution of its screen?   If you read the tech blogs, you would think so.  However, in industry after industry, we know that this is not the case.

The product or service that wins in the market is that one that actually helps people get various jobs done better than alternatives.  The iPad has done well because, with all the apps that have been written for the device, it has become for many their go-to computing device. 

It has not put an end to the PC, because the PC still helps people get various jobs done (like creating presentations or building sophisticated spreadsheets) that tablets are not that good at, yet.  PC sales have slowed, no doubt, because the iPad and other tablets are better than PCs at helping consumers get some jobs done (like surfing web pages, reading ebooks, or playing games).  For many consumers, this is all they need from their computer.  As a result, the iPad has done well in the marketplace not because it "out specs" PCs, but because it does some jobs that people value better.

This brings us back to smartwatches.  All the news about the device is focused on the features and specs of the device.  I have yet to read anything that talks about what jobs these oversized watches will help me get done better than what smartphones can do.  Ok, it may be more convenient to glance down at a device strapped to your wrist to get the time or see that someone text you than go through the effort of pulling something out of your pocket or purse.  However, is this compelling enough to get folks to spend $150-$300?

I predict smartwatches will do well in the marketplace when someone can explain to consumers what job(s) this helps them get done better than what they can do today with their plain old smartphones. When someone can do that, then we have entered the age of the smartwatch.