Published on February 13, 2013 3:35 PM

Apple iWatch: Succeeding Where Others Have Failed?

Is Apple developing a web-connected smart watch?

As you've probably heard, Apple may be in the process of extending its ecosystem to encompass a new device—a web-connected watch that can communicate with the firm's other products. Word on the web points to a team of a hundred people working on the project. So can Apple succeed in a market where others have failed?

As well as buying music on iTunes, listening to it on an iPod, taking photos with an iPhone, saving them in the iCloud, playing games on an iPad and downloading apps from the App Store, Apple fans may soon be able to check the time and send text messages from their iWatch. According to several sources—including the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and New York Times—Cupertino's engineers are in the process of developing a smart watch.
Apple will therefore be the latest firm to venture into a sector where other manufacturers (LG, Sony, Microsoft, etc.) have already tested the waters with watches that never quite managed to win over hearts and minds. Plus, over the last few years, the connected watch has more-or-less become the preserve of sports brands. So why is Apple suddenly so keen to try its hand in this no doubt lucrative, but also particularly tricky product sector? And how does Apple plan to succeed where so many others have failed?

Walled Garden

When you start to think about it, Apple outing an iWatch makes sense. With a product like this, so constantly close to users, Apple will be able to draw more people into its closed ecosystem and more often. Users with an iWatch will be able to extend their Apple contact time, continuing the "i" experience when no other Apple devices are to hand (iPhone, iPad, etc.). By loading it with all manner of practical functions (communication tool, content sharing, sports tracking, heart-rate, etc.) the iWatch could be a fully functional mini computer strapped to your wrist—and a great way for Apple to ramp up users' dependency on iDevices and further the reach of the firm's walled-garden world.

Montre Im frontale
 I'm watch, released in 2011

If the iWatch does turn out to be more then just a rumour, Apple will clearly have to think about how to make its product attractive to users. To make an object like this desirable, Apple will have to make people want it—even need it—and make sure the watch can be worn with pride by the greatest possible number of potential customers.


Making things desirable is pretty much in Apple's DNA. Several times already—and particularly with the iPhone—Apple has effectively managed to create a need where no-one really expected there to be one. In fact, Apple has been so successful in doing this that many users have several connected iDevices when one would no doubt do the job just fine. Apple clearly knows how to create a "need", as well as influence users' behaviour. But for the iWatch to win over a significant number of people—especially when the customer base is so diverse (men, women, sporty types, fashionistas, etc.)—Apple is going to have to pull off something seriously impressive, both in style and in substance.

But Apple knows a thing or two about sleek designs, simple user interfaces and reaching out to very different users with a single product. The iPhone is living proof of that. What could be difficult here is making an object that's often considered a fashion accessory into a universally wearable device. Given the wealth of chunky, heavy, often ugly connected watches already on the market, Apple will need to strike out and stand out with a watch that's cool, trendy, stylish and that everyone wants to be seen wearing. That's no mean feat.

Obviously, Apple hasn't commented on the rumours, which although reported by several sources still amount to pure speculation. Will rumours of an iWatch and the long expected iTV be enough to reassure the financial markets that Apple has still got what it takes to innovate? Speaking to an audience of analysts and investors yesterday at the Goldman Sachs conference, Tim Cook insisted that innovation at the firm has "never been stronger. Innovation is so deeply embedded in Apple's culture". He was also keen to reiterate that Apple has skills and experience in three key fields: software, hardware and services. Finally, Tim Cook quashed another recent rumour concerning a low-cost iPhone. Evidently, budget devices aren't within Apple's remit.

> Apple: Just Another Brand?
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