Pioneer Pebble's success is partly to blame for Qualcomm, Sony and Samsung's smartwatch introductions and the rumored pending smartwatch announcements by Google and Apple. Although BI Intelligence forecasted the wearables market to grow to $12 billion by 2018, it is early in its evolution. These large consumer electronics companies don't expect smartwatches to immediately effect sales results; rather, they are experimenting to learn how to build smartwatches that consumers will buy in smartphone volumes.
The most obvious case of practical smartwatch R&D is Qualcomm, which makes mobile processors powering many popular smartphones. CNET reported that Rob Chandhok, president of Qualcomm Internet Services and Qualcomm Innovation Center, said regarding his company's smartwatch introduction: "The company will sell only a limited number of smartwatches -- in the tens of thousands -- to show customers what its technology can do."
The design that wins the lead in the smartwatch race will be more than a derivative of a smartphone strapped to the wrist. The winning designs will create the right balance between hardware performance, very long battery life and smartphone and other wearable apps that improve the user experience by distributing microinteractions to the smartwatch. The smartwatch needs to be attractive too, because it's also about wearing a stylish accessory that creates the right image.
There's a balance between experience and company size. The Pebble team has acquired creativity and experience innovating during the last five years that rang true with the consumers who backed Pebble on Kickstarter. Pebble has been constrained by limited resources relative to its much larger rivals, but myopically focused. The rest of the consumer electronics companies entering the market have greater resources but less experience and more distractions.
Pebble could not succeed without competitors noticing. Samsung's primetime advertising of the Galaxy Gear and anticipation of similar announcements from Google and Apple are more likely to increase broad consumer interest in Pebble and other wearables.
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