business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

We’ve written from time to time here on MNB about the travails of the wristwatch - an item that was ubiquitous as a piece of personal technology not that long ago, but that for many people has become obsolete since they can use their smartphones to get the time and a lot more.

But the Los Angeles Times has a piece suggesting that “the watch may be making a comeback — and it will do much more than just tell time.

“As people have become equipped with smartphones, laptops and other digital devices with clocks, the importance of the wristwatch has diminished. But a bevy of smartwatches — devices that aim to alert users to text messages and phone calls, and even monitor health — are being rolled out in coming months by entrepreneurs who hope to create a 21st century relevance for a centuries-old gadget, the timepiece.”

One of the companies juicing the trend is - no surprise here - Apple, where its Nano iPod has an application that allows it to be used by many people as a wristwatch. And, the Times writes, “a small industry of Nano wristband designers emerged to take advantage of a new application for an Apple product. When Apple gave the digital music player a refresh this fall, it did not change its form - a first in the Nano's history - and it included 18 different clock faces, including Minnie and Mickey Mouse, in addition to its other features, such as photos and a built-in accelerometer for workouts.”

The new generation of smartwatches, the Times suggests, “are not designed to replace smartphones and tablets ... Rather, they are digital sieves that enable users to sift through the clutter of apps, emails, text messages and phone messages they are bombarded with every day to quickly get the info they need right away.

“They will allow users to set up caller ID alerts from specific numbers, such as those of family members. And the computer watches will let users — with a finger swipe — access things like calendars, weather updates and GPS services to help them quickly find their cars in the mall parking lot.”

What makes these efforts different from past attempts - Microsoft unveiled a kind of smartwatch program in 2004, and Dick Tracy started using a 2-Way Wrist Radio in 1946 - experts say, is that the infrastructure exists to make the technology both viable and user-friendly.

"This is not a fad,” one expert tells the Times. “We think this is a solid direction. The mobile ecosystem is exploding."

It is Eye-Opening ... and worth thinking about how every marketer will adapt to the challenges and opportunities.
KC's View: