Me too! Me too!

Having asked the question a few days go, are Samsung copying a rumoured Apple device, it seems as if a number of other companies have jumped on that particular bandwagon.

Reportedly, Google’s Android team are working on a watch, as are LG.  The Google rumour is of particular note as it would point to Google producing the hardware, as opposed to offloading that part of the process to their manufacturing partners.  It’s also of note that it’s the Android team supposedly working on this product and not the cutting edge development team that have produced Google Glass, Team X.

What’s really interesting though, is that this entire scenario is playing out in a very similar way to that of the iPad.  Let’s recap.

For months, if not years, rumours circulated of Apple releasing a tablet.  No one really knew at the time whether this would be based on OSX or iOS, what size or form factor it would take nor what price it would be pitched at (turns out, a lot of so-called analysts got that particular detail very wrong).  Yet despite there being no confirmation from Apple of the iPad even being in development, other manufacturers started responding to it.

Archos-9-PC-TabletThe Consumer Electronics Show 2010 ushered in the age of the tablet, except it didn’t at all.  Take a look at the tablets being marketed at CES 2010.  Unmitigated disasters, every single one of them.  And these aren’t small, niche players, these are major players like HP, Dell, Sony and Lenovo (hey, I managed to keep a straight face whilst typing that, the least you could do would be the same).  That’s an Archos 9 to the right, recognise it?  Nope, nor me, and that’s because no one bought one, and for a very good reason.  It sucked.

It’s interesting to see companies mobilising around wearable technology, a space where they clearly see growth but also one that’s yet to have any significant impact on real people’s lives.

The quote above is from my earlier post about the Samsung watch. If you replace wearable technology with tablets it could be describing late 2009 / early 2010.

The parallels between the tablet market pre iPad and the current wearable computing market are obvious.  CES 2013 has supposedly ushered in the era of wearable technology, except it really hasn’t.  Lots of vaporware, lots of products that you wouldn’t catch anyone with any sense actually using and a hell of a lot of wheel spinning without much actual progress.

All signs point to this being a market Apple could swoop in and corner.  If they wanted to.  They wouldn’t be the first to market, far from it.  They wouldn’t necessarily bring anything new to the market either.  But what they can do is produce something that people actually want.

Apple also get compromise.  The iPad was, and still is, a device of compromises.  Screen size vs weight vs performance vs features vs battery life.  They strike the balance better than any other company.  They focus on a few features and execute them insanely well.  Look at the Archos above and compare it to the iPad.  The Archos could do many things the iPad still cannot do, but it could not do anything well.  This lack of focus coupled with a “me too” approach to product design is exactly the sort of market that Apple likes to disrupt.

The Macalope linked to an article on Fortune this week that discussed why an Apple watch won’t work.

It is unclear what a “smartwatch” by either Apple or Samsung will actually do, but it doesn’t take the brainpower of 100 gifted Apple product engineers to figure it out…

…That’s because there are already a bevy of “smartwatches” on the market and they pretty much all do the same thing.

Replace smart watch with tablet and suddenly we’re back in the heady days of 2010.