I was asked this afternoon by my friend what I thought of the possibility of Apple actually making an iWatch. While many folks seem to be clamouring over themselves to get one, none of them have thought much of the actual financials of taking on such an undertaking.
My question is more do I need one? To answer this question truthfully, we must first take a look at the history of the computer watch in the real world. Many movies over the years have shown one type of watch or another in science fiction movies and shows but until the late 1980′s there wasnt much to speak of.
Timex had a run at the watch or data watch realm with the release of the DataLink in 1994. Datalink synced data between the computer using an optical lens in the watch and data transferred as patterns on the computer screen. Several models were released but none have had any particular real mass appeal. I ran out and bought one of these the week they were released. While a fun toy, nothing of note other than the address book was really worth the money spent on it.
In 1997, Seiko Instruments created the Ruputer. An elegant heavy watch, the Ruputer came in 2 models. 128K of RAM and 2mb of Ram. 6 months later they produced the 4mb Ruputer Pro4 which was the same exact style but came in clear and black. Being a techno-geek, I had to have one the day they came out. I plunked down my 47,000 yen and bought both the 2mb model on its release day and then the 4mb clear or skeleton model on its release day.
Both of these watches served me well and although the bands had to be replaced with regularity along with the CR2025 batteries that powered the watch, it was always amazing to me that these watches were actually great for things outside of the computing and time realm. The infrared control on the watch allowed it to also be used as a remote control for your TV. I found this particularly useful when I found myself in a restaurant where the remote control for their big screen TV could not be found. I just looked up the brand in the list on the Ruputer, started the remote and turned on the TV.
But once again, the data sections were quite lacking in real capability, however the fact that the operating system and SDK for the Ruputer were Open Source made it a boon for those developers wanting to take it further. But this did not help the company sell more than 100,000 units in Japan and at most another 25,000 units globally.
Obviously, Apple will be keen to repeat the success of the iPhone and the iPad with the iWatch should it be developed. If the cost is any more than a couple hundred dollars, dont look for the watch to have any long term lifespan in the market. Also, if the number of units is low, this could become the second pet project, much like the iTV unit that Apple produces now with low numbers. Even the Pebble which syncs data from the iPhone only had just over 68,000 backers in their recent Kickstarter drive ( http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/597507018/pebble-e-paper-watch-for-iphone-and-android ). If this is any indicator of actual interest in such a device, then the numbers cant be looking too good to the Apple Inc. financial department. Tim Cook may just want to sit on this one for a while until more interest is there.
Shareholders are keen to keep the price of the stock high but it is doubtful that the iWatch will be the saviour that allows Apple to hit 700$ a share again. It will take something much more earth shattering much the way the iPhone or iPad were when they were released. Even those other players in the Watch department such as Samsung or Google are likely to find out the hard way that a great idea does not a great selling product make.
Photo courtesy of Antonio DeRosa