With the Apple watch being announced recently, there are a million articles out there that are debating whether this is some kind of revolution for the electronics industry. My own opinion of Apple is that while there is no denying their ability to wrap style and functionality together, their role in technology is less pioneer and more canary in the coal mine. I have read many articles that admit that Apple's entry into any given sector almost always happens after others have already released products (that is, they weren't the first MP3 player, they weren't the first smart phone), but their genius is that they take this new thing from a nerd gadget to a popular must-have. While that may be true, and you can certainly back it up with case studies, I personally believe that if they didn't do it, someone else would. There's a reason why Blackberry handhelds were called Crackberries -- they were popular enough with the masses before Apple elevated the smart phone experience with its iPhone.
I remember the time before the iPod first came out. MP3s existed, and you could download pirate copies of your favorite songs on (remember it?) Napster. I remember thinking, why don't they just have a store that lets you download MP3s of only the songs you want? The overhead of hosting the server is smaller than making and distributing physical CDs, and so many more people would buy songs at, say, $0.30 per track than take a chance at $14 for the entire record. So sales of the whole album should take a small hit, but sales of the best songs on an album would more than make up for it. Yes, I undershot the market value of the MP3. They actually make more profit per song selling them as singles digitally than they do for the whole record. But the point is, within 2 years we had iTunes and iPods. I guarantee you the demand was there before Apple made the device. They saw the demand and provided a product that now everyone talks about as a revolutionary device.
So ... admittedly I'm part of the nerd sector. I had a Palm Pilot long before it was cool. I saw what they could potentially do and for years was frustrated that no one took advantage of it. Now my Google phone is my handheld device. It does more, of course, but it could still do so much more than it does. This is the same for the iPhone. There's so much more that could be done. Samsung is doing a great job with it's S5 -- water resistant, much easier to replace a cracked screen, hot swap the battery, low power modes. They went beyond Apple and said "what limitations will people have using the phone?" and addressed those. These are the common stories now -- pushed in the pool with your brand new iPhone in your pocket, dropping your phone on the ground and the screen cracks, being in an airport and needing to send an email but your battery is dead. These things limit our usage of our handheld computers. Someone will eventually tackle the demand that already exists, whether it is Apple or someone else. Then when Apple does it, everyone seems to think they're the only one who ever had ideas.
Back to the smart watch. These things are inevitable. You can ramble on and on about whether Apple will change the market. The answer is this watch WON'T. And it was coming anyway. I recently purchased a smart watch (a Sony smart watch 2) because I wanted to know about notifications from my phone without having to look at (and drain the battery of) my phone. There are so many more things smart watches can do. Let's run some scenarios. I really believe these things are going to happen soon anyway. Just wait and see.
You're a hiker. The well-known story out in the trail is that the phone runs out of batteries and has no signal in the wilderness anyway. So you still need paper maps and a compass. Enter the waterproof, high battery life, GPS-powered smart watch. When your phone has a data signal it keeps your watch updated with a terrain map of the surrounding 50 miles. You go off the grid and get lost and the phone itself becomes useless. AHhhhh but your watch has 50 miles of map, a compass, GPS, and 4 days of battery life. It can tell you which way to the nearest town or trail, help you find streams to get water, and maybe an emergency signal of some kind if a search and rescue team comes for you?
You're the executive type. Power suit and tie, in meetings all day long, making decisions that move millions of dollars around without breaking a sweat. Your tie is always stylish and your watch should be too. But it wouldn't do for you to be constantly looking at your phone screen in the middle of important customer/client meetings (although...some do anyway because they're obviously important enough to need to). So your smart watch -- every bit as stylish as the most exclusive and expensive, gold overlaid, diamond-studded, winds itself as you move your wrist, high end watch money can buy -- is programmed to send you different haptic vibrations into your wrist depending on what is going on in the world around you while you're stuck in a meeting, and no one else can hear or otherwise detect them, so you can be informed that an important client has just backed out so no, the deal is no longer on the table, and the whole time your customer had no idea you were even in contact with your home office because they never saw you look at your phone.
Ok so that one is a pretty small usage, but business types with lots of money tend to get their way.
A more realistic scenario is the average person who can't have a phone visible at work. If you have your smart watch, you could have it designed to notify you about anything that does matter during your work day -- your children's school trying to get ahold of you vs your cousin posting on facebook. One you really want to know about and one you have no problems if your phone tells you but would rather wait until after work until you dealt with it. Instead of looking at your phone screen all day, the watch sorts out what you need to know now from what you don't.
Take the revolution of cell phones for groups of people at malls and amusement parks a step further. Set up the smart watches to know who is in your party using NFC -- literally fist bump your groupies and all your watches know who is taking part that day -- and an app on the watch can tell you where anyone in the group is in real time. Can't find your sister after you both entered a big department store? Check your watch and see that she's still a few aisles behind you and backtrack to where she is. Slightly simpler than texting each other "Where are you?" "By the big thing, see me?" "What thing?" "I'm looking right at you, see me wave?" -- instead you can actually SEE where she is on the floor plan. Technically cell phones could do this too if someone set up the right apps, but watches would be more convenient for the purpose.
So there's some ideas. Goodness, you could come up with so many more. That's why the watches are going to happen. Whether Apple did it or not, this was definitely in our future. Ten years from now, people will wonder how anyone survived without a smart watch. Fewer people will own a traditional computer. There are going to be blinky, flashy, sometimes even jingle-singing interactive screens on EVERYTHING. We might even have paper-thin touch screens you can roll up. We'll have self-driving cars but NOT flying ones (yet). Most of the things we interact with in a day will have some kind of electronics component (like a smart inventory refrigerator, a plate that can tell you how many calories you just scooped onto it, TV remotes that know who is holding it and serves up favorite channels lists automatically ...).
To be clear, I'm not the anti-Apple person. I have an iPad 3 and an iPod nano 6G. I've owned an iPod Classic and iPod Touch in the past, too. I'm not likely to buy a Mac, but I'm not opposed to them. Instead of being anti-Apple, I'm more anti-Apple-fanboy. They make lots of money and they have good products. They're owed respect for that. For those people who buy Apple, everything they make, and only Apple, because they're the only ones who ever make good things ... then they kind of are putting Apple onto a throne and bowing, in a way. And mortals who get worshiped eventually let everyone down.