Apple Watch: the retail revolutionary

To understand the future you have to learn the past...

Apple is disruptive, so if you think the forthcoming Apple Watch will be just another accessory please think again: the company aims to wrap itself around many wrists.

Signal noise

Developers look forward to seeing what they can do with the new device. They will get deeper insight later this month when Apple is expected to release a software development kit (SDK) for Watch apps.

These are likely to be lightweight apps designed to add useful functions around the core device and its iOS companion. HealthKit, HomeKit, CarPlay and TouchID seem likely partners as apps for the device evolve. Potential uses:

Watch won't have TouchID but seems likely to carry NFC, so it will act as an authorised Touch ID agent in order to enable some transactions, Apple Pay payments, for example.

As developers work with HomeKit and TouchID-based solutions you can anticipate biometric door locks and automobile ignition systems, enabled by your watch.

Retailers will also explore the potential of using lightweight contact and the Apple Watch to create "experiences" to augment the "digital customer journey".

You may even wear your bank on your wrist.

Revolution Today

Apple is apparently already manufacturing 50 million units of the new device which is due to ship in Spring 2015. 50 million is a lot of units, particularly in comparison to the weak sales of previous smart watches from mobile tech firms. In order to achieve these quantities, Apple is working hard to make its smartwatch essential for everybody, rather than a fad-tactic bauble for the early adopter set:

The Beats purchase means your iOS companion will be able to stream its music to your headphones, or from Beats streaming services if used with another device.

ApplePay acceptance and recognition continues to grow. You won't need to pull your smartphone from your pocket to use an Apple Watch.

HealthKit as a global mHealth initiative isn't just about health, it is also about building a poster child for future M2M solutions.

Revolting retail

Apple is striving to develop new partnerships, particularly in retail, where it has begun launching Apple Pay-related loyalty schemes and is building omnichannel infrastructure on the back of its iBeacon project.

This growing presence in retail means the company is attracting fresh interest from advertisers. We know ads sales firms are annoyed that Apple is not sufficiently vulgar to share ("monetise") customer data with them, they already hope to explore new ways to use the Watch for useful advertising.

I'm expecting interesting uses of the Taptic Engine, location and activity tracking sensors in these attempts, though developers must be very careful not to be invasive if they want customers to use these apps. This means there will be a flood of rubbishy retail apps before someone develops the winning recipe for the new platform.

Iterative innovation

What is curious is how Apple has achieved this. How has a failing firm reviled as a "toy maker" for selling candy-colored iMacs become the driving force in retail and enterprise IT?

The secret is iterative innovation, the capacity to build each new platform layer in such a way as to promote future opportunity. Think about how OS X, iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iPad, AppleID, Watch -- each solution informed development of the next big thing. It means that while some see Apple as a "walled garden", others enjoy the privacy to explore the garden's well-tended herbage.

Understanding this capacity for iterative innovation is an important lens with which to view Tim Cook's Apple. Developers should use this lens to inform their vision.

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when fresh items are published here first on Computerworld.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

It’s time to break the ChatGPT habit
Shop Tech Products at Amazon