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Watch Wars: Samsung Races Apple To Develop Wearable Computer
Consumers have only recently gotten used to smartphones and barely integrated tablets into their routines. Soon they’ll be presented with yet another mobile device: wearable computers (watches) from both Apple and Samsung.
There are other companies offering or developing versions of a “smartwatch” as well. One such device is the Pebble smartwatch (pictured at right), which raised a record $10 million through kickstarter. It integrates with the iPhone and Android smartphones.
The anticipated Apple iWatch and Samsung smartwatch would both integrate with their respective smartphones but also probably operate as stand-alone computing devices.
Yesterday Bloomberg repeated a statement made by Samsung EVP of mobile Lee Young Hee in Korea. He’s quoted by the news outlet confirming a Samsung smartwatch: “We’ve been preparing the watch product for so long.” News of Apple’s potential “iWatch” first leaked earlier this year in reports from the Wall Street Journal and NY Times.
Whether Samsung is merely saying that it’s been working on such a device or was motivated to do so by leaked news of the alleged iWatch is secondary. The smartwatch race is on.
Details of both devices are scarce. It’s not clear what functions they might perform, although they would have to rely on alternative input mechanisms (e.g., voice) instead of keyboards, which would be even less viable on a watch. Indeed, the advent of a smartwatch category could help push innovation for smartphones as well.
One such innovation I would very much like to see is the integration of “voice authentication” instead of conventional keyed passwords. Voice technology provider Nuance currently offers this capability.
Samsung is eager to present itself as an innovator and not merely an imitator of others’ products (as the San Jose patent infringement trial branded the company). The word “innovation” was used numerous times, very self-consciously by Samsung’s JK Shin during the recent (semi-disastrous) launch of the Galaxy S4.
The earlier use of an iPhone Nano as a watch face helped to jumpstart the recent “smartwatch” hype cycle (and perhaps product development). However the original Dick Tracy comic strip is the true inspiration for the smartwatch, just as the Star Trek “communicator” inspired early Motorola flip phones.
Google’s Glass also fired developers’ imaginations about a practical, coming generation of wearable computing devices. The big problem with Glass (beyond some of its aesthetics), however, is that it will be too costly for most people. A smartwatch could be priced at $300 or less (at a range of price points potentially) and quickly become a mainstream product — either as a smartphone companion or as a separate device.
The rumor is that Apple’s iWatch is to be a “full iOS” device. It will be interesting to see what that means in terms of apps and accessing the internet. Needless to say search and conventional display ads wouldn’t work on a 2-inch screen — although I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
Regardless it becomes yet another “form factor” and even “platform” for marketers and publishers to consider.