Category: Smartphones

The future of watches

Apple watch image - copyright Apple“The future of watches” title is a bit grand for this brief post, but this is somewhat of a companion piece to The future of tablets and the context of both is the evolution of computing devices. In the case of tablets we are still figuring out their role in the ecosystem after many years and over four since the initial iPad, the first breakthrough tablet. It will also take some time, and development, to see where smartwatches fit in, but it is now a much more interesting question.

The Apple watch announcement stumped many commentators who needed extra time to digest it. A reasonable reaction given neither product nor platform are done yet. This makes it a bit difficult for technology, market, or financial analysts to answer questions like what the Apple watch is really for, whether it is a new product category, will it be another breakthrough product for Apple, how it will change the mix of Apple revenue, do I actually need or want one.

Communication has been the killer app for computing at least since the Web and is why smartphones are the current king of the hill. Smartwatches are the most likely next-in-line competition to smartphones, certainly more so than tablets or glasses, before we enter the world of implants, stick-ons, or other fashion accessory choices. Smartwatches with phone functionality could surpass smartphones as the planet’s most popular personal computer: easier to carry around, potentially cheaper.

Apple would not be investing so heavily if they didn’t expect smartwatches to overtake or at least approximate the success of smartphones. They are betting large on the watch becoming a general purpose computer in the same way the iPhone has.

Or, they are reaching even further…

It doesn’t make sense for Apple to invest much in accessories, or niche markets. Even fitness is not interesting enough in itself. However, fitness is a great way to enter into the much larger healthcare opportunity, which in turn provides an environment to learn about new user experience technology and the complex device integration and data sharing necessary for it, and other complicated applications of general purpose computing. The iPhone would also benefit. This path also has the advantage of providing cover.

Also see:

Rich ruminating… Ben Evans: Ways to think about watches.

Working through what the Apple watch is about… Ben Thompson: What I Got Wrong About Apple Watch and Why Now for Apple Watch

Compared to other smartwatches… Rachel Metz:  Is This the Smart Watch You’ve Been Looking For?

Review from a watch industry analyst… Ariel Adams: Apple Watch Hands-On: The Wristwatch Just Caught Up To The 21st Century

Mobile development strategy – platform decision update

Last April I suggested that evolving mobile platform market changes meant organizations needed to re-visit their mobile development strategy and said

“What has changed? To over simplify: Apple’s dominance continues to increase and is unassailable in tablets; RIM is not a contender; Microsoft is looking like an up-and-comer; and most surprising to many, Android is looking iffy and is a flop in tablets with the exception of the very Amazon-ized version in the Kindle Fire.”

Not surprisingly, things have changed again. Two major changes are that Samsung is now a major player, and Google has finally made progress in tablets with the Nexus 7 and the much improved Android “Jelly Bean” release. Amazon’s second Fire is also more robust. There are now real choices in tablets – personally I have an iPad, a Fire HD, and a Nexus 7, and I use all three of them, and for many purposes I just grab the closest. But businesses making a significant investment in a platform for development need to carefully evaluate its stability and staying power.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the debate among analysts over what the iOS and Android market share numbers mean – specifically, whether the larger and accelerating Android market share numbers threaten Apple’s dominance. At first glance it is natural to think that dominant market share signifies a safer bet, and indeed many analysts make this point. But it’s not so simple. Last year there was evidence that even though Android devices had a market share advantage, Apple devices accounted for much more total online activity – were used more – and it is probably safe to say that use is a requirement of product success.

More importantly, if you look at profit share, Apple continues to dominate. So the opposing view is that Apple may be the safer bet since for most values of company/product health, profit trumps revenue.

In “The Mobile Train Has Left The Windows 8 Platform Behind“, John Kirk, who doesn’t mince words, has no patience for the view that Android’s market share means it will squash Apple:

“According to Canaccord Genuity, Apple took in 69% of the handset (all mobile phones, not just smartphones) profits in 2012. Samsung took in 34%, HTC accounted for 1%…

No one not named Apple or Samsung is making any meaningful profits from the handset sector…

Many industry observers have the handset market all wrong. They opine that Andoid is destroying iOS. What is actually happening is:

  1. With 69% of the profits, iOS is doing just fine. More than fine, actually.
  2. Android destroyed every phone manufacturer not named Apple (BlackBerry, Nokia, Palm, etc.).
  3. Samsung destroyed every Android phone manufacturer not named Samsung (HTC, Motorola, Sony Erricson, etc.).

Pundits like to predict the imminent demise of iOS, but those profit numbers say just the opposite. And even as Android’s market share has increased, iOS’s profit share has increased too. Market share is no guarantor of profits. This should be self-evident. But apparently, it’s not.”

Kirk follows up with more entertaining disdain for the “church of market share” at “Does the Rise of Android’s Market Share Mean the End of Apple’s Profits?“.

In terms of tablet market share,

“According to Canalys, Apple – despite being supply constrained – sold 22.9 million tablets for 49% share, Samsung shipped 7.6 million tablets, Amazon shipped 4.6 million tablets for 18% share, and Google’s Nexus 7 and 10, combined, shipped 2.6 million tablets.”

In conclusion,

“Only Samsung and Apple are competing in phones. Only Amazon, Google, Samsung and Apple are effectively competing in tablets. The mobile “train” has left the station and companies like HP, Lenovo, Dell and Microsoft are standing on the Windows 8 platform, watching it pull away.”

For more on Microsoft see Kirk’s full post.

Mobile platforms are still evolving and the coming proliferation of new device types guarantee that there will be continuous and substantial change made to those that survive. No one responsible for a mobile development strategy should wait almost a year to evaluate their current plan. Fortunately there is no shortage of useful platform data. It just needs to be interpreted critically.

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