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Why a health-focused iWatch won't kill smartwatches like the iPod killed audio players

Jon Phillips | Feb. 4, 2014
When 9to5Mac reported Friday that an app code-named Healthbook will be a cornerstone of iOS 8 and the rumored upcoming iWatch, you could almost hear existing players in the wearables market fumbling around in their medicine cabinets, hunting for Xanax.

JP Gownder, a Forrester analyst who tracks the wearables space, stresses the necessity for gadgets like the rumored iWatch to work in lockstep with the healthcare industry. "Healthcare wearables need to embed themselves strongly into the normative healthcare system, allowing doctors to see and use the data for treatment, to create a mass-market channel, and to get outside of the relatively small business-to-consumer market for fitness wearables," Gownder told me in an email.

Gownder points to the wisdom of Google teaming up with eyecare insurance provider VSP to support prescription frames for Glass. "Apple would immediately be an incredibly viable player in the healthcare wearables market," he writes. "But to succeed, they need to learn how to work with new kinds of partners — hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, and corporate wellness programs."

In sum total, nothing we learned Friday about the rumored Healthbook app or iWatch suggests Apple is on the verge of creating the ultimate smartwatch/fitness tracker (there are just too many different ways to express a "perfect" wearable), or that Apple can possibly succeed without a generous spirit of ecosystem cooperation. So the iWatch won't be an iPod redux. The technology challenges, user opportunities, and relationship-building requirements on the table are just too complex for any single player to roll in and dominate.


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