Man, tech companies really want us to want smartwatches.
Wrist-worn computing devices are all the rage right now, and you can practically smell the industry's desperation for a hot new product category. Everyone and their mother is either marketing a smartwatch-style device or rumored to be on the brink of releasing one.
Google itself just announced plans to launch a software development kit that'll provide better support for Android in various wearable forms, reigniting speculation that The Big G will start selling Nexus-like Android watches of its own before long.
Thus far, though, there's been one big problem in the land of smartwatches: No one really wants them. At least, not yet. Not in the mass market sense of what manufacturers are trying to attract.
When you step back and look at what's been offered so far, it's pretty easy to see why: Companies are trying to force an existing paradigm onto a new product just for the sake of doing it. It's almost like they decided they wanted to sell something in a smartwatch form and then quickly came up with a concept to stuff inside it -- instead of first dreaming up a valuable concept and then molding a form around it.
In order for a smartwatch to work, someone needs to establish a compelling use for the technology and convince us it's something we actually need. Right now, the notion of a smartwatch is certainly novel -- but is it necessary? Most of the products out there offer a clunky and limited range of the same functions our phones perform, and having those functions on your wrist isn't that much more convenient than pulling your phone out of your pocket and getting them in a far more robust and user-friendly manner.
So what's the real reason no one's buying smartwatches right now? Simple: For most of us, no one's given us a real reason to buy them. If smartwatches are going to become more than a novelty or niche-oriented product, someone's gonna have to do something disruptive -- something that takes advantage of a wrist-mounted display in a uniquely meaningful way that actually adds value to our lives. Something that's not just a half-baked extension of what's already in our pockets.
Maybe that something is context. Maybe it's home automation. Maybe it's a brilliant new use of sensors. The only thing we can say for sure is that whatever it is, no one's found it yet -- and that "aha!" moment of wonder is precisely what we've been missing.
Someone needs to figure out how a smartwatch can matter -- not just how it can exist. And whoever does it first is going to become the leader that everyone else then follows.
The clock is ticking.