Is Apple Watch the Product that Defines the Wearable Market?
Mike Blumenthal


For the past ten years, Local has been about people going to a search engine and looking for a local service or perhaps looking at a classified in Craigslist. That has started to change with mobile and the development of vertical marketplaces like Uber and AirBnB. But the Internet of Things and wearables portend even greater change to come.

Many people spend most of their money and time in a local context and, to a large extent, those activities and expenditures have been invisible to marketplaces and marketers. But that will change over the next 5 to 10 year, as the Internet of Things and wearables interact to provide value to local users and information to marketers

There will come a point where local marketing, local search, local fulfillment, local almost everything will be part and parcel of this reality.

The question today is whether the new Apple Watch will be the first successful interface to that world and whether it will succeed at being more than a fashion statement. I asked my friends at Local U what they thought. Here are their answers.

David Mihm: I don’t disagree that SOME wearable from Apple will be a long-term success. But unlike the iPhone, whose value proposition was instantly compelling when it launched, and whose form factor has barely changed in almost a decade, I think Apple’s wearable offerings — and the utility of those offerings independent of a phone — will have to change dramatically in order to gain mass adoption.

Will Scott: I feel about the Apple Watch the way I feel about Tesla cars. They’re interesting, but I’m not particularly interested.

I think they’ll sell a S#!% ton of them, but it won’t be a rational purchase. It’ll be for the coolness and the novelty. For the Dick Tracy lovers. The things I find most interesting about it I have other devices for. And, since they’re specialized, they’re probably better. I have a TomTom watch for sports. I have a Fitbit for fitness tracking. And — sounding like a curmudgeonly old guy here – I already have enough trouble texting from my phone, let alone my wrist.

Again, they’ll sell lots. And the buyers will be the usual suspects of gotta have it first folk and Apple fans.

I do expect them to have a longer life than Google Glass. 🙂

Mike Ramsey: I was checking out with two Apple watches at 12:07 last night (and a space silver Macbook, but that’s another story). By the time I bought the second, the shipping date had already moved out 4-6 weeks. This was within the first 10 minutes. So, will it succeed? Of course. Read this Mashable article. Sure, the features on first generation models need work, but Apple has proven time and time again that they add things that matter, and focus on the details that so many neglect. I think initial sales numbers are going to blow people away, especially of their high-end Edition model.

Disclaimer: I am a fanboy, so take everything I say as extremely biased even though I’m always right when it comes to Apple.

Aaron Weiche: I’m interested to watch the “chicken and the egg” scenario unfold here. Will the first generation of users help define its value and purpose, or will the apps and developers forge the watch’s success? I feel initial sales will be strong and with that comes a huge userbase to not only validate what Apple Watch does best, but also influence what its next features and improvements will be. I’m also curious to see how the watch and phone relationship evolve. Will they be more integrated or become more valuable separated with simplicity? I’ll be paying a lot of attention, playing around with Mike Bluementhal’s when I see him, but likely waiting for a while before jumping in myself with version two.

Mary Bowling: I think the watch is a natural fit for what I can envision these devices becoming in the future. It’s attached to your wrist and is unlikely to fall off like an earpiece might. You can glance at its face when needed, and most of us are not bothered by wearing something around a wrist. It isn’t too obtrusive or obnoxious, like Google Glass. You can’t lose it or forget it. You can even wear it while you sleep.

Its current capabilities don’t make it that valuable for everyone. Not yet. But when I think of all the right-on-time, personalized, useful information I currently get from Google Now cards on my Android phone (which blows me away on a regular basis), I can imagine the Apple Watch with that sort of functionality, too. Then, I think about what I might get when that’s melded with its potential proficiency as a sensor for what’s going on with your body, your movements, your environment (perhaps including the other people near you) and your location. The voice capabilities of the virtual assistants of our world makes communication from a small device practical, as well.

I’m holding out for a tough and waterproof version of a wearable device, but I’m hoping that Google gets a good one to market before I have to buy the Apple Watch. Why? I think Google has a much better shot at giving us a more useful watch because of what I see happening with Google Now and the integration of all things Google.

I can imagine Apple Watch wearers becoming a target market in certain niches as soon as this time next year. If it’s worth a darn, it’ll be on a lot of Santa’s wish lists in December.

Matt McGee: This is the first Apple product in a long time that I have zero interest in because, to contrast what Mary said, I can’t stand having anything on my wrists — not a watch, not a wristband, not even sleeves. (I also disagree with previous comments about Glass being obnoxious, but I recognize that I’m in the minority on that.)

I imagine the Watch will be a success in time, my disinterest notwithstanding. Apple has proven that it can create a market where none exists, and the Watch will open the door to wearables, in general, gaining acceptance. In the long run, we’ll all eventually have some kind of wearable computer on our persons — including something that some of us will wear in front of our eyes. And the impact on small and local businesses is that they’ll need to be ready to serve the constantly connected consumer.

Mike Blumenthal: It took the iPhone two years to go from a hint of the future to having enough capabilities to define the future. And it took the phone network to which it connected even that much longer to become fast enough to do anything of real value. The value of the Watch won’t truly materialize for at least that long, because both the hardware itself and the network(s) to which it must attach to show its greatest value are both underdeveloped. The current product is just scratching the surface of these capabilities as it creates a functional market, but I think the Watch will succeed and define the future of both wearables and local marketing.

Apple brings several things to this venture that Google struggles with: a relatively sophisticated first generation product, a better sense of the market, and most importantly, a business model that doesn’t depend on user information to succeed. Apple is not necessarily a more trustworthy partner when it comes to privacy, but they do have a vested interest in maintaining it. In this market that may make the difference.

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