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March 10, 2015

Keeping An Eye On Apple Watch

Posted by Suryaprakash K. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:01 AM

What Do We Know Now About Apple Watch? [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJRr6cQwNLI]

Spring forward and fall back. That's how everyone remembers what to do with their clocks twice a year with the onset (and then the end) of Daylight Saving Time. This year, Daylight Saving Time began on March 8 - a day before Apple launched the much anticipated Apple Watch. Playing as coy as possible, the Cupertino giant had issued a tantalizing invitation to the world's technology press that it would "spring forward" with the debut of a certain piece of hardware.

It didn't take much deduction to figure out that the device in question was the Apple Watch, springing forth into a market that analysts say is starving for every kind of wearable computing platform imaginable. But thinking about the whole affair - the symbolism, the merchandise, and the consumer demand for such goods - is enough to give one pause.

Let's start with the entire notion of Daylight Saving Time. Advocated by Benjamin Franklin, a founding father of the United States, this was a way to give farmers more daylight to do their chores in the early morning hours. It is a tradition that is utterly senseless in the United States of today. "Springing forward" an hour simply robs office workers of a precious hour of sleep, throws off schedules, and is the time of year more Americans suffer heart attacks than any other. Is this really the right time to celebrate the debut of the Apple Watch?

Then there's the product itself. Weary, sleep-deprived consumers stood in line to get their first true glimpse of the Apple Watch yesterday. The good news is that the watch comes in different sizes, finishes and pricing options. Needless to add, the experience is perfect across all models. Apple Pay is also embedded into the device, along with a security element and near-field communication (NFC).

Just don't try to operate the watch like a wearable computing platform because if you run a few apps the battery will die in a little more than two hours. Apple says that the product has an "18-hour battery" life but the usage is defined on its website, which includes "90 time checks, 45 minutes of app use" amongst others. That's not set in stone, however. For example, when the watch is used for phone calls the battery is expected to only last for three hours. Indeed, the issue of battery life is a serious one - a make-or-break feature of the Apple Watch. If a user has to remember to take off his/her watch and plug it into the charger every couple hours throughout the day, what's the use of having it on his/her wrist for the remaining time? Why not just use a tablet? The screen is a lot larger and easier to use anyway.

The idea of springing forward also got me thinking of the now infamous visit some 35 years ago of a young and ambitious Steve Jobs to the laboratories of Xerox, which was readying itself for a much anticipated debut of its version of a personal computer. Xerox executives had let the young Jobs catch a glimpse of the Alto, which with its clever mouse attachment let users lose the clunky keyboard to open windows on its screen that were clear and intuitive. Jobs was amazed at what he saw. But when the Alto went to market in 1981, it was underpowered and sluggish. Its underwhelming performance led Xerox to leave the personal computer market and go back to manufacturing office copiers.

Jobs knew that the overall concept of the Alto was brilliant. So he had his engineers devise a better mouse and juiced up his version with more power and agility. The resulting Macintosh changed the personal computer market forever. The question today is: Just how profoundly (if at all) will the Apple Watch change the wearable computing market? If it's as underpowered as rumored, maybe there's a young, ambitious company executive out there watching the debut in Cupertino, California. Maybe this executive is already forming a team to make much-needed enhancements on a wearable that a consumer can strap to his/her wrist and wear all day without a recharge.

That's really the essence of innovation, isn't it? Sometimes it takes a couple steps back to truly spring forward.

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