iWatch Interest Rules the Marketplace

While there hasn’t yet been any official word from the Cupertino, CA, company, Apple has dropped some fairly broad hints about their much-anticipated iWatch, and interest in the device is already dominating the smartwatch market. Consumer-tech heavyweights and bold startups are already circling each other, jockeying for position in an emerging marketplace.

In particular, they’re watching Apple. As one industry observer asserts, “Apple is the category definer.” AOL’s Ryan Block, speaking at the Launch Mobile & Wearable conference, confirms that “As soon as Apple drops the bomb, it’s the end of the game.”

Time to Change the Clocks

As Dan Farber reports at CNET, the “spectre of an iWatch” already hangs heavy over the smartwatch market. It doesn’t seem to matter that the iWatch hasn’t yet been revealed, while some other companies already have smartwatches in the game; a little recent history explains a lot about what is going on now in the looming smartwatch battle. When the iPad 1 made its debut in the spring of 2010, it entered a world that had for decades been speculating about tablet devices. And it did not enter that world alone; several other companies had recently launched tablets, or were just about to.

Most of those early rival tablets soon vanished, however. Some were pulled before they ever debuted. The first iPad made them all obsolete at a stroke, redefining expectations of what a tablet should be and do. So it’s understandable that everyone interested in the smartwatch market is watching Apple now. Steve Jobs used to say that he never asked consumers what they wanted, because they wouldn’t know what they wanted until they saw it. And it’s a fact that Apple has been supremely good at delivering mobile technology that consumers ended up wanting.

The Time Is Now

While the world watches and waits for Apple’s entry into the smartwatch field, other models are already showing up on consumers’ wrists. One independent firm, Pebble, already has a smartwatch available in the marketplace, while Samsung recently introduced its Galaxy Gear smartwatch. So far, however, smartwatches have not made much actual impact; Galaxy Gear has even been criticized for not meshing with other Android devices.

Google also looms in the background, having shown with Google Glass that it is certainly willing to think outside the box. And while the first iPad blew away the then-existing tablet market, Android tablets are following the path of Android smartphones in mounting a full-court challenge to Apple.

All the same, the nascent smartwatch market remains a waiting game, with consumers waiting to see if the rumored iWatch really will make its debut, now predicted for next year. Even more, everyone is waiting to see if Apple can again redefine what consumers want.

Image courtesy of Flickr