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The iWatch conundrum

If Apple makes it, would it sell? And if the market isn't there, would Apple bother?

March 19, 2013 10:34 AM ET

Computerworld - For the past month or so, the hot topic among Apple users has been the iWatch. My RSS and Twitter feeds have blown up as bloggers and analysts have had a field day conjuring up futuristic what-if scenarios about what an iWatch would do, could do or should do -- and whether Apple would ever actually announce such a device.

Many digital bits and bytes have already been devoted to the mythical iWatch, with everyone from former Apple GUI guideline author Bruce Tognazzini to Computerworld's own Jonny Evans weighing in on the concept -- often in great detail.

I'm not yet sold. But I'm not willing to write off the possibilities. (Neither, apparently, is Samsung, which is pressing ahead with its own iWatch rival.)

Without anything real to evaluate hands on, it's almost impossible to predict the real-world usefulness of a new product. Much depends on the design, and how that design is implemented. Far too many gadgets have failed to live up to their promise, which is why they end up shoved in drawers and forgotten.

Why an iWatch?

When I think of an iWatch, I keep coming back to the question: Is this a good idea? If so, why? I asked a couple of Apple experts, Ben Bajarin, an analyst at Creative Strategies, and's Harry Marks to weigh in with their thoughts.

"If Apple makes an iWatch - and I don't think it's imminent, meaning this year - it will be positioned as an accessory to iPhone, iPad, and Mac," said Bajarin. "That is the real opportunity: to add to the strength of the ecosystem and the 'works better together' solution."

"Many smart watches are doing baseline things like body monitor and sensors, which [an iWatch] may have," he said. "But I think the biggest opportunity is for glanceable data. Things like: when an email comes in, a phone call that just came in, etc. I can see this as a strong conduit for notifications. This way the watch becomes a visual display for glanceable info. [The iWatch] may not be where you read or answer an email, text, or phone call, but you can use it to decide whether or not you want to need to get your phone out and respond."

Even that might not be enough for some users, among them Marks. His main concern: Would an iWatch be useful enough to entice buyers to plunk down their money?

"If Apple did release a watch, it would take quite a bit for me to be interested," Marks said. "It would have to have all day battery life; FitBit technology; GPS; Bluetooth support for headphones; ample storage for music; a logical and efficient way to respond to messages without using voice and without requiring me to pull out my phone; interchangeable bands; and must cost no more than $150. Any more than that and I'll spend my money more wisely on a real watch."

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