Why the Apple iWatch and Google Glass Don’t Matter

By

thenewworld

 

The Apple iWatch and Google Glass are both coming soon, apparently.

We don’t have all the details on either product. And we can’t even be 100% sure that the Apple wristwatch is going to happen at all. But most knowledgeable tech fans are expecting both and looking forward to seeing, buying and using them.

Excitement is warranted. No, I mean serious, pure geek joy is definitely called for. But not because of the iWatch and Google Glass products themselves.

There’s a much, MUCH bigger reason to be excited. 

The single most culture-changing moment in the history of consumer electronics happened on June 29, 2007.

That day, of course, was the day the Apple iPhone first shipped.

It’s hard to imagine the world before the iPhone. More than 99.99% of the population had never seen a multi-touch phone, multi-touch tablet, multi-touch eReader or any other mobile device with on-screen keyboards and buttons, apps stores, touch gestures and all the rest.

Today, nearly all major phones are multi-touch devices, and the tablet market is dominated by multi-touch tablets, which are now selling in unit sales numbers equalling 50% of the PC market. Gaming controllers, dedicated digital picture frames and even car dashboards are coming out with multi-touch gesture control. Microsoft Windows is now a hybrid desktop and multi-touch operating system. And OS X is multi-touch happy, with Magic Trackpad gestures that mimic the iPad’s and an interface that is clearly evolving toward a touch interface.

Understand that none of this would exist if Apple hadn’t launched the iPhone.

Research for multi-touch devices had been going on since the 1980s and possibly before. University and computer research labs had been developing multi-touch user interface ideas for many years before the iPhone hit.

Commercially available multi-touch devices existed long before the iPhone, including the Microsoft Surface table (the original product that is now called the Pixelsense.

In fact, Apple wasn’t even first to market with a multi-touch mobile phone. The LG Prada KE850 was being demonstrated before Steve Jobs even announced the iPhone.

But all this research and both these products didn’t do jack squat for the vast majority of gadget users. All this multi-touch activity was taking place behind closed doors and on the fringes of the market. Phones, including Android phones, had tiny screens and physical keyboards, and the user interfaces worked more like PCs with icons and menus and file management. This is what mobile phones looked like before Apple mainstreamed multi-touch.

Apple didn’t invent the multitouch device — not by a long shot. They did invent something far more important — the multitouch device market.

Through Apple’s unique ability to make thousands of really great decisions over design, engineering and marketing, they brought the multi-touch user interface out of the labs and out of the shadows and into the bright light of mainstream, everyday life.

Today, the iPhone is a great phone, and an important one. But the iPhone by itself is unimportant in comparison to the multiple industries that have been transformed by Apple’s mainstreaming of multi-touch — including the phone industry.

The world has been transformed in favor of multi-touch interfaces thanks to the iPhone. But if you hunted down and destroyed every iPhone, that world would still be transformed.

So here comes the Apple iWatch and Google Glass

Geeks who pay attention to product rumors and alpha products are really pumped about Apple’s coming wristwatch and Google’s in-developer-preview augmented reality glasses, for lack of a better term. (We learned this week that Google Glass will be compatible with the iPhone.)

These very different products both fall into the “wearable computing” category.

Like the multi-touch interface, “wearable computing” technology has been in development for literally decades, in university and industry labs. “Wearable computing” gadgets, too, have been on the market, but like multi-touch phones before the iPhone, on the fringes where the larger culture is unaffected.

Dozens or hundreds of companies have tried to get a significant number of buyers and users excited about their wearable computing products and without success.

The probability of an Apple wristwatch and the apparent certainty of Google Glass means something much more than two new toys for geeks to play with. It means hundreds of new toys.

It means wearable computing is about to go mainstream.

We’re on the brink of a world in which not only does Apple sell a smart watch that works with the iPhone and probably other Apple devices, dozens or hundreds of companies will make such watches.

Not only will Google sell augmented reality glasses, but many companies will.

And, more importantly, a majority of consumers will buy augmented reality glasses. They’ll also buy wearable computing prescription glasses, wearable computing shoes, wearable computing necklaces, wearable computing shirts.

To me, the gadgets themselves are nice, but sauce that makes them possible — stuff like Siri, Google Now and a hundred other supporting software and online innovations — is what will really change everything.

It’s these supporting technologies that will let us simply talk without pulling a device out of our pockets and get answers, directions, information and, eventually, advice, insights and suggestions. It’s the artificial intelligence on a remote server somewhere and a new, now-unimaginable industry in wearable computing services that will make the iWatch and Google Glass awesome. And those same technologies will make many other products awesome.

The thing is, they’ll make life awesome.

The mainstreaming of wearable computing is a transformative event in the history of human culture. It means a far more seamless integration between man and machine.

Mainstream wearable computing means we will upload our personal memories to the cloud to be retrievable instantly. It means the ability to “lifelog” — to record every moment of every day, plus the ability to rewind and have instant reply of our personal experiences and literally photographic memory. It means the ability to share your personal experiences (sites, sounds and more) with others in a way that makes them feel like they’re experiencing it, too. It means the end of knowledge as something valuable.

All this will happen eventually. And when it does, it will be trivial to trace back this transformation to the launch of the Apple wristwatch and Google Glass — the two products most likely to flip that switch and mainstream wearable computing devices.

So let’s all get excited about the coming ability to buy wristwatches from Apple and glasses from Google.

What really matters isn’t so much two awesome new products. What really matters is the amazing new world these products will bring into existence.

Deals of the Day

  • Bob Smogango

    I don’t think the Google Glass are going to be that successful. here’s why.
    What are they? A Bluetooth earpiece/microphone/video camera/video display on a wearable headset. These technologies have pretty much already been on the market with limited amounts of success.

    If they make the eyewear expensive, less people can afford them. Since they aren’t traceable that I know of, people that buy these things should expect to have someone steal them faster than Nike Air Jordans get stolen or lately iPhones getting stolen. They are too easy to steal. I envision a lot of fist fights in the making.

    IWatch? Too early to tell, but the Nike wristband seems to be selling and Apple Stores seem to dedicate a fair amount of shelf space to those.

    I think the iWatch might have more success than the Google Glass. Just a hunch.

  • hanhothi

    Once again, an enjoyable and provocative article. However, when the time comes for new tech, it happens on many fronts with many companies at the same time. Multitouch screens and hardware would have happened without Apple. As you stated, they did not invent the tech, but they sure jumped on the bandwagon. The true genius of Jobs was to market some one else’s genius. Woz was exploited by him, Sir Jony behind the more recent tech that Jobs fronted.

    It is the same with the putative iWatch. I want one, but the idea is already out there. Most people who read this blog site are aware of Pebble, but there is also I’m Watch. There are problems actually GETTING one, the company seems eager enough to take the money and very, VERY slow to actually ship, but they have finally arrived on the market, and people do seem, finally to be getting the ordered item.

    These appear to work reasonable well with Android (it runs Android in fact) but without an app that Apple would probably not allow in the App Store (self protection here for a number of reasons), it has limited functionality with iPhone.

    Apple’s problem here is the I’m Watch already does most of this one could reasonably expect an iWatch to do, and the Italian guys who have invented this HAVE PATENTED IT! Too late Apple, your are too slow! Expect to see Apple ripping them off and future litigation. It will be David verses Goliath. I just hope Apple does not get to trample and crush them!

  • Reasoner5

    “And OS X is multi-touch happy, with Magic Trackpad gestures that mimic the iPad’s and an interface that is clearly evolving toward a touch interface.” No, the second clause is wrong. Apple knows that following Microsoft’s direction of touchscreen laptops is wrong because of the gorilla arm problem. With their understanding of touchscreen technology, Apple would have done this long ago if it thought that this was a good idea. The Magic Trackpad does everything that a touchscreen does without the arm fatigue problem.

  • Mike Elgan

    Arm fatigue is a function purely of the location and angle of the surface touched. Mark my words, Apple is leading us toward a multi-touch desktop set at an angle that will not induce this arm of gorilla you speak of. ; )

  • buffta

    Thing is, if these devices rely on voice control, people won’t use them, because they feel silly talking to a device. How many times have you used Siri in a crowd for instance? Not many I’m guessing. It also might not be convenient to talk the commands sometimes. Another thing is voice tech is pretty poor at the moment. Siri gets most things wrong, Google’s equivalent isn’t great. Also, it’s more of an effort talking than moving your thumbs. Think about doing everything you do on your phone but speaking all the commands. You’ll feel fed up quickly. These are the reasons the devices might fail IMO.

  • Jonathan Ober

    Apple’s problem here is the I’m Watch already does most of this one could reasonably expect an iWatch to do, and the Italian guys who have invented this HAVE PATENTED IT! Too late Apple, your are too slow! Expect to see Apple ripping them off and future litigation. It will be David verses Goliath. I just hope Apple does not get to trample and crush them!

    If patents are the case, then why haven’t they taken down Pebble? Also when was their patent accepted? The apple patent is dated some time in 2011 for the design they are/were working on. As far as ripping, the I’m Watch obviously plays off of Apples ‘i’ in front of everything. It links to iPod and iPhone for calling and more. So don’t get too angry if Apple’s iWatch comes out and succeeds and goes to court and wins.

  • dcj001

    Arm fatigue is a function purely of the location and angle of the surface touched. Mark my words, Apple is leading us toward a multi-touch desktop set at an angle that will not induce this arm of gorilla you speak of. ; )

    Just like I disagreed with a lot of people who thought that the iPad mini’s price would start at $200 (I said not lower than $299), I disagree with anyone/everyone who thinks that Apple will make touch screen Macs. Apple’s Magic Trackpad gives the perfect touch-interface without having to ever touch the Mac’s display.

  • aardman

    No way do I do any ‘lifelogs’ until I’m sure that no frickin’ data mining outfit, including the feds, will ever lay their nosey mitts on it. I guess that means never ever.

  • VirtualVisitor

    The number of detected mobile malware attacks continues to skyrocket. McAfee counts over 36,000 mobile malware threats—almost entirely targeting the Android OS.

    Imagine walking down the street, with a virus feeding your display….

  • bdkennedy

    I’m not paying $1500 for a pair of glasses. Ever. And it will fail unless they bring down the price and make it so it can snap on to any pair of glasses.

  • seelee

    I smell lawsuit the first time someone wearing Google Glasses step off the sidewalk in front of an oncoming bus or, heaven forbid, causes an accident while driving their car.

  • bonatz

    Its gonna cost around $700. Developers are the only ones who will be paying that kinda money. To be completely honest, google glasses is the biggest waste of money that about to be released because its so impractical. But i think the iWatch (If a reasonable price. Say $200-250. But knowing Apple they will slap a giant $500 price tag on it….i hate apple) will be useful and cool. Not to say the glasses wont, i mean augmented reality is pretty damn cool but its still impractical

  • josh_d_walker
  • mikolperna

    If you think Rachel`s story is neat…, a month-ago my girl friends mom basically also made $7059 workin thirteen hours a week in their apartment and they’re neighbor’s ex-wife`s neighbour was doing this for 5 months and got a cheque for more than $7059 part-time online. the instructions available here…… BIT40.?O?

  • Eagle87

    Google Glass – Finally a cool accessory for glasses wearers :D

  • greg_grob

    I can’t believe that everyone is commenting on the products and not the bright future of wearable computing and augmented reality. Nice article Elgan, and better luck next time.