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Apple iWatch set to disrupt... what exactly?

Mark Hattersley | March 15, 2013
Apple disrupts markets for a living. But what market does the iWatch disrupt? The wristwatch market... really?

Speculation that Apple is gearing up to release an iWatch is reaching fever point, with every tech pundit and his dog speculating rampantly about what the iWatch could, would, and sometimes foolhardly stating what the iWatch will feature.

According to all the pundits: Apple iWatch will come out this year (or in three years time), will run iOS, will have Siri, 4G LTE, and be made from solid metal (probably that old LiquidMetal chestnut) and the iWatch will make a ton of money for Apple. All of this is pure speculation, which is a lot of the fun of being an Apple fan, but not very informative.

What nobody seems to be able to answer is why?

Apple disrupts markets for a living. So far it's disrupted the publishing market with DTP and laser printing, the music market with the iPod and iTunes, the mobile phone market with the iPhone, and it's having a serious crack at the PC market with the iPad.

What market will the iWatch disrupt? The watch market... who cares? We're not saying it's a tiny market, but is it seriously failing at what it does?

Time Magazine recently asked: "Has Apple finished disrupting markets?" Not likely is our swift answer, it's not stopped yet.

The Guardian's Jean-Louis Gasse has some interesting thoughts on the watch industry in general, i this "Can Apple do it again with the iWatch" piece He looks at the current watch industry, with its either cheap-but-clumsy digital watches or ludicrously expensive mechanical time-keeping mechanisms-cum-fashion-statements.

He notes that the watch really isn't anything to do with time-keeping, but fashion. "Watches are no longer judged for their temporal accuracy, but for their beauty and, just as important, for the number and ingeniousness of their complications but each new function introduces UI complexity, as this page from the instruction manual for my Seiko multi-function watch establishes."

So the watch market is clumsy and rudimentary and has a pre multi-touch feel to it. Almost like the mobile phone market before Apple came along and stomped all over it.

The problem with this is that watches still work as, well... watches. In that they tell the time. Indeed the biggest threat we can see to the watch market has been the mobile phone, a device that most people have on them at all times that tells them the time, amongst a myriad of other functions.

A quick straw-poll of the Macworld team reveals three people still wearing a watch. "I always wear it. I miss it if I lose it.. and if I don't have it I'm endlessly looking at my wrist" says Karen Haslam, Macworld Editor.


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