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Which way Apple ticks on the iWatch will show how gutsy the firm remains

February 21, 2013 03:53 PM ET

If Apple takes the easier companion road, it will show a conservative bent, at odds with the history of the company under co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs. The more daring standalone iWatch, however, is a much bigger risk, for if it flops and was meant as a "cheap" iPhone substitute, Apple would be even further behind rivals like Samsung in delivering models in a broad spectrum of prices.

Singh knew what he preferred.

"I'd personally advocate the standalone approach, but it's a more difficult road for sure," said Singh in a follow-up email interview this week. "Even a successful launch with that approach isn't likely to give Apple's revenue growth much of a short-term boost."

He also thought he knew which way Apple would jump.

"[That's] why I think the accessory approach is more likely," Singh said. "I also think that Apple from five years ago would have approached this problem differently. A smaller company is more likely to put more focus on a potentially disruptive idea, because the scale of immediate benefits are more attractive on a relative basis."

What he left unsaid was that Jobs -- the font of products Apple is still introducing -- no long leads the company.

A just-published patent application bolstered Singh's belief that Apple would aim the iWatch -- again, assuming it does one -- at the iPhone/iPad accessory market.

That patent application, first reported by the AppleInsider blog today and analyzed in detail by another blog, Patently Apple, describes a bracelet-style device with a flexible display that connects to other devices via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

But questions remain, said Singh. "The bigger short-term problem, apart from the interface, is really product positioning. How do you get low-end buyers to look at this as a replacement for a low-end smartphone purchase? Can you push this in emerging markets as an alternative to a cheap iPhone?"

covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

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