Whether it’s a main feature of Apple’s press event tomorrow or an off-the-cuff glance at work in progress that most reports say won’t ship until next year, a wrist device that does a lot more than track time is poised to become the next-generation market disruptor from Cupertino.
Everyone and his tweeting brother is expecting Apple to take the wraps off of iPhone 6 at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts extravaganza — will U2 be performing? — but “the bigger question surrounds a wearable device — the so-dubbed iWatch or iTime — which could in turn serve as a health-monitoring device that feeds information back to the phone for app-based analysis,” writes Marco della Cava in USA Today.
And “even just a preview of a wearable could be enough to trouble rivals such as Samsung,” PTT Research senior analyst Matt Margolis indicates to della Cava. “They have the potential to create a new market with a watch-like device, much like they did for the tablet segment when they introduced the iPad,” says Margolis.
“Apple already declared its intentions with some big-name hires and its HealthKit, a data repository created by Apple to work with iOS apps, storing information collected by various devices,” Elizabeth Dwoskin and Daisuke Wakabayashi report in the Wall Street Journal. “HealthKit can channel the information to doctors, app developers and others, with a user's permission.”
“When Apple does it, consumers perceive it as more mainstream," Ari Caroline, chief analytics officer for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, tells Dwoskin and Wakabayashi. And “people will have all the hardware they need to make the monitoring possible” with the Apple device, he says.
Sloan Kettering is among several major health-care institutions building apps to work with Apple's offerings with financial incentives, as well as patient benefits, as a motivator. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO John Halamka points out that the ability for doctors to remotely monitor patients could save “money because the Affordable Care Act penalizes hospitals that have too many readmissions.”
But it’s not like others haven’t tried to crack the market before. There are already more than 40,000 health apps already out there, according to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society data cited by the WSJ, and dozens of smartwatches — mostly worn by gadget lovers and serious fitness buffs.
Jan Dawson, an independent technology analyst for Jackdaw Research, conducted surveys with thousands of consumers and found that interest in some of the features in smartwatches, like fitness tracking and mobile payments, was low.
“Smartwatches, as they currently stand, are trying to meet needs which most people simply don’t have,” Dawson tells Brian X. Chen in the New York Times.
“Apple is trying to have another iPod experience,” writes Chen. It didn’t invent digital music players but they didn’t go mainstream until Apple’s device made everybody else’s an also-ran after its debut 13 years ago. “But if the company gets it right,” Chen continues, “it could be the first to make average people want to buy one of these devices.”
Sources tell Chen that Apple has had an “all-star team” working on the device under the scrutiny of several of its top executives.
Computerworld’s Mike Elgan points out that “the Mac, the iPhone and the iPad weren't the first of their kind in their categories,” either. “But the way Apple designed, built and marketed those products influenced the industry” — and he is expecting no less than “another revolution” with the launch of iWatch.
One of several reasons for Elgan’s confidence that Apple will again transform the consumer landscape is contained within a Sept. 3 piece by the New York Times’ Nick Bilton.
“According to a designer who works at Apple, Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design chief, in bragging about how cool he thought the iWatch was shaping up to be, gleefully said Switzerland is in trouble — though he chose a much bolder term for ‘trouble’ to express how he thought the watchmaking nation might be in a tough predicament when Apple’s watch comes out,” Bilton writes.
Indeed, “about the strongest hint that Apple does have a wearable to unveil next week is the fact that it has taken the unparalleled step of inviting top fashion editors to its event,” points out ZDNet contributor Adrian Kingsley-Hughes. But it will have to be much more than fashionable if it is to succeed — and time will be of the essence, even if telling time is not what attracts buyers.
“The iWatch has to go from ‘wow, this is new’ to ‘I have to wear this all the time’ in as short a time as possible,” observes Kingsley-Hughes.
In other words, remember the Apple Bandai Pippin?