Let's get this out of the way first: I'm a pretty big Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) fan. My articles are written on a Mac, I check email and grab story ideas on my iPhone, I've got several iPods in drawers around the house, and my Wi-Fi signal comes courtesy of an Airport Extreme. But even after years of using Apple products, I can't image strapping an iWatch onto my wrist -- I simply don't see what value it could bring.
In the niche of time
There's no doubt that wearable tech could be one of the next big markets. Some have estimated the market will be worth from $30 billion to $50 billion in the next five years. But wearable technology right now often fills a niche purpose, and it hasn't yet been accepted for everyday use.
Take the Nike Sportwatch, for example. It uses GPS to track how many miles a runner has gone, the number of calories burned, and has a heart rate monitor. Those features are all great for runners -- and maybe really intense walkers -- but it's not going to appeal to the mass market.
So here's where the idea of an Apple iWatch falls apart for me. Apple doesn't like to make products that fill niches. They want products that have mass appeal and will sell millions upon millions of units. The company invests too much time and money into products to not want them to be blockbusters.
Sure, an iWatch would do much more than track running stats, but the device would have to jump some pretty big hurdles to get the everyday user to want to purchase it.
I'll submit my wife as an example. She spends time on Facebook and Instagram, some of her meal ideas come from Pinterest and a few of our vacations originated on Groupon and Airbnb. She has the latest iPhone, texts like a champ, blogs on WordPress, and likes her content streamed from the Roku. But in today's world she's an average user -- she wouldn't be considered a power user or an early adopter. And there's certainly no way she'd wear an Apple iWatch (yes, I asked her).
Sure, she's only one person -- hardly a representative sample -- but for mass-market adoption, she's exactly the type of consumer Apple would have to convince to purchase an iWatch. This is bad news for the company. Even worse, I can't fathom wearing an Apple watch myself -- and I used to wear a calculator watch.
In order for the iWatch to be a success for Apple, the company would need to convince millions of potential customers that they need this sort of device -- and that's a pretty tall order. Tim Cook even hinted at the difficulty of wearables in May, saying, "You have to convince people it's so incredible you want to wear it."
The CEO of Swatch, Nick Hayek, said this just a few months ago, "Personally, I don't believe it's the next revolution. Replacing an iPhone with an interactive terminal on your wrist is difficult. You can't have an immense display."
Swatch isn't an old dinosaur company trying to hold onto classic timepieces, either. It's worked with Microsoft to bring sports, weather, stock quotes and horoscopes to a line of watches back in 2004, experimented with a phone watch over a decade ago, and sells watches with Bluetooth connectivity.
But Hayek's skepticism isn't keeping companies from trying. Samsung has officially said they're building one, Sony's already released one, and Google is reportedly working on its own smartwatch. This makes me wonder if all of these companies are building smartwatches, or saying they are, so they don't fall behind the competition -- rather than because consumers will actually buy it.
I understand the possibilities of wearable computing, but just as Google Glass has shown, there are challenges that the budding industry will have to overcome. Sure, it's possible Apple could come out with a iWatch that changes the game just as much as the iPod or iPhone did, but I don't think that'll happen. New tech devices need to add real value to consumers, and I don't think a smartwatch can do that right now. Between tablets and smartphones there's already plenty of data, notifications, and mapping services for users. A smaller screen isn't going to make any of that better.
Of course, I could be way off and an iWatch could turn wearable computing into the next big thing. But the first step to a successful product launch is recruiting the people who are already loyal to your products and want a new experience -- and I'm just not there yet.
Fool contributor Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Facebook, Google, and Nike. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Nike. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.