I am embarrassed to be in the technology industry. Why? Because of an article written by one of my favorite technology journalists, Michael Elgan. I am a big fan of his and follow him daily on TWiT.tv (http://www.twit.tv). But his latest article comparing Android Wear to the iPad is so nonsensical that I am sure tech journalists live in a bubble and are drinking their own Cool-Aid.
Cool-Aid is not misspelled. I do not want to be sued by the folks at Kool-Aid, but I want to emphasize the practice of over-hyping and evangelizing by certain groups of people. In this case, the hype is about SmartWatches or, generally speaking, Android Wear. Mr. Elgan is not alone in his opinion about Android Wear, in fact many in the industry has sipped the Cool-Aid and have published articles about how great the technology is going to be. I have no problem with people’s differing opinions nor do I have a problem with Google and their products. I love the idea of Android Wear and would love to see products that deliver on the concepts that were presented at this year’s Google I/O keynote. The problem I have is that despite the “cool” factor, there is no business case for such devices as described in Google I/O.
The main argument in Mr. Elgan’s article was that when the iPad was first unveiled it was dismissed by people for a number of reasons, of which Mr. Elgan explained very well. But all of those reasons, while valid, still did not get to the heart of why many technology pundits missed the mark on the iPad. The reason for the iPad’s huge success was that there was an enormous demand for an affordable, easy-to-use, computer that your grandparents could use. Yes, tablet computers were around long before the iPad, but they did not satisfy the demand. They were expensive, difficult to use, and your grandparents could not use them. Now let’s look at the Android Wear products. I believe they are too expensive for what you get, they are too difficult to use, and I’m pretty sure your grandparents would not want one nor would they be able to use them.
Mr. Elgan explains the faults of Android Wear in detail and they all work against his claim that Android Wear is like the iPad. This is a clear indicator that someone is either brainwashed, selling something or crazy. How is it possible that he can clearly identify the shortcomings of the Android Wear devices yet compare it to something like the iPad that clearly met all of the demands of the consumer?
Wearable computing devices are coming and are very cool. But, a computer watch is something the world has not proven to want. Think about all the reasons for you to purchase a watch. Does it look good? Is it slim? Does the battery last long enough? Do you even need a watch? Would you buy a watch if it has a color display? If it notified you of text messages and calendar reminders? Really, even though you already have a smart phone? Would you pay $300-400 for a watch that lets you run apps that pale in comparison to what you can do on your smartphone?
I could be completely wrong and there could be a huge demand for these kinds of devices, but let’s look at Google Glass. How many of you have one? If you have one, how often do you wear it? Was it worth the price? How about the Galaxy Gear watch? Anyone have one of those? Anyone wearing it right now? Was it worth the price tag? Companies like Samsung have reported huge losses due to poor sales numbers for these devices.
While I personally love the idea of a computer on my wrist, I do not think the average consumer has a need or a want for one of these devices. What I suspect there is a demand for is less of a wearable computing device and more of a wearable monitoring device. While a computing device implies that you actively interact with the device, a monitoring device implies that you passively interact with the device. Something like a FitBit has proven to meet the demand of health conscious consumers and the form factor is non-intrusive and easy to use.
Lastly, Android Wear is not a product. It is a framework for developing products. Comparing Android Wear is to the iPad is like comparing apples to fruits. A durian is a fruit. How many of you love eating those. Comparisons like this makes me embarrassed to be in the technology industry. Technology people are smart and logical, but when I read articles like this I feel really dumb because I keep looking for logic and reasoning and cannot find them.
Will Android Wear be successful? Probably not in the form of the products introduced in this year’s Google I/O. These products have no reason to exist because they do not satisfy any general consumer demand. Will people buy them? Sure. People bought Google Glass and Galaxy Gear watches. Will I buy one because I am a tech junkie? Nope. I am a purist, I believe technology should be as transparent as possible. Giant watches that last a few hours and blind in the dark are as embarrassing as comparing Android Wear to the iPad.