Swatch Skeptical of Apple iWatch Role

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As rumors and hearsay about the Apple iWatch became vaguely-sourced reports last month, predictions concerning the hypothetical smartwatch have snowballed into a deluge of excitement and analysis.  The naysayers are many, including high profile skeptic Nick Hayek, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of Swiss watchmaker Swatch.  However, Apple has been consistently successful in creating new markets in spite of visionless experts who failed to see coming technological revolutions.  Is Apple about to do it again with the iWatch?

Much less intrusive and distracting than pulling an iPhone or iPad out of your pocket and unlocking it, the wearable and significantly more compact iWatch could be a practical solution to staying connected to the world of information without interrupting a conversation or business meeting.  With the possibility of its features being augmented when used in conjunction with an iPhone or iPad, the rumored iWatch would be all the more powerful in the context of Apple’s product line. The possibility of increased data transfer, HD streaming and video conferencing all favor the iWatch’s potential success in the technological marketplace.

Of Course, this hypothetical iWatch would also be loaded with attributes already common to other smartphones such as the Pebble and the i’m Watch Smartwatch. These features include updates on weather, email, stock quotes, caller id and a host of other important information that people across many business sectors “watch” throughout the day. However, given Apple’s penchant for high-quality components and in-house product development, it is likely the new iWatch will trump all other existing smart watches in refinement and quality.

With Apple’s recent acquisition of AuthenTec, a fingerprint security firm, the possibilities for advanced security and fingerprint authentication could make the iWatch a very powerful personal security asset. Used in conjunction with an iPhone or any number of non-Apple products, the iWatch could inevitably end up replacing passwords, car keys or even a garage-door opener.  It’s anybody’s guess just how many or what kind of features the iWatch may come equipped with.

Zach King iWatch Concept

“But not so fast!” says CEO Nick Hayek of  famed 80s watch company Swatch. According to Bloomberg Online, at a recent press conference in Grenchen, Switzerland, Chief Hayek attempted to dispel excitement and hype for the iWatch with some old-fashioned skepticism. Hayek remarked, “Personally, I don’t believe it’s the next revolution. Replacing an iPhone with an interactive terminal on your wrist is difficult. You can’t have an immense display.”  With the potential for Apple’s iWatch to cannibalize the overall watch market, Hayek may have no choice but to talk down impending competition.  Big talk and cynicism aside, Hayek has very little ground to stand on when attempting to criticize a company with an impressive track record in innovation and quality. From its revolutionary introduction of a mainstream GUI interface in 1984, to its widely popular iPod in 2001, and later, with the iPhone and iPad, Apple has already proven itself to be capable of what many consider to be “revolutionary” in the field of technology and communication.

Swatch’s track record, on the other hand, is a bit different. Granted, they are the world’s largest watchmaking company and they excel at their specialty: making thin, affordable and dependable watches. Additionally, they have augmented their line to include several brands of luxury watches. However, what Swatch does not excel at, at least not like Apple, is “revolutionizing” a product line beyond its normative constraints.  Despite making some of the first forays into smartwatch technology with Microsoft in 2004, their Paparazzi Series of smart watches, now discontinued, received a somewhat luke-warm reception from consumers. Although the watches featured MSN internet feeds, radio reception and calendar tools, Swatch was unable to do what Apple has repeatedly done in the past: seamlessly integrate a new hybrid technology into modern society.

Swatch Paparazzi Smartwatch

Palm Inc.’sIf it is true that Apple is indeed incapable, even in theory, of creating a successful smart watch line, then why would Hayek feel threatened enough to express dissent and skepticism? The fact of the matter is, Apple is very capable of creating a successful smartwatch line and this recent skepticism from Swatch’s chief executive only reminds us of the iWatch’s viability in the marketplace. Perhaps, in times like this, it is best to quote Palm Inc.’s  CEO Ed Colligan commenting in 2006 on Apple’s chances of creating a successful iPhone on the first try: “We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone … they’re not just going to walk in.”

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Jon is the Editor-In-Chief at Wear Guide and writes about wearable technology On Your Arm.  Jon has a M.S. in Computer Science, won several intercollegiate events as a member of the UCLA Cycling Team, and is currently active on the USA Triathlon circuit which provides him the opportunity to field-test wearables under grueling conditions. Jon also writes for our sister publication Send tips and story ideas to Jon at: [email protected]