Innovative technologies from some of the world's most creative companies, including the likes of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), the current king of innovation Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL), and the resurgent Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), have made our lives easier and more productive. But that doesn't mean every new, cutting-edge technology is a sure-fire winner, even from industry leaders. Here, three Motley Fool contributors discuss what technologies they think won't live up to market expectations.
Tim Brugger: The discussion surrounding the wearables market in general, and smart watches in particular, picked up steam following Apple's announcement that its long-rumored Watch would hit the streets in "early 2015." Apple Watch is hardly the first so-called smartwatch to hit the streets; Google, and now Microsoft, already have their versions on the shelves, among others.
The very notion of a smartwatch evokes thoughts of a futuristic device with mobile computing functions that would, at least to some extent, provide an alternative to carrying a tablet or having to dig your smartphone out to respond to emails, check the Internet, and other "mundane" activities. Alas, Apple Watch, Google Moto 360, and Microsoft's new Band aren't even close.
Though each smartwatch has a few unique attributes -- a touch screen here, a walkie-talkie-like function there-virtually every device on the market serves two primary functions: track a user's health, including heart rate, breathing, and distance traveled, and alert owners of an incoming text, or email message.
The reasons smart watches will flop in their current forms are two-fold. One, Americans may have the best of intentions health-wise, but as a fitness tracker, smart watches are destined to fail. A recent study found half of Americans who own a tracking device stopped using it altogether, like the Stairmaster collecting dust in the garage. Second, smartwatches require a companion device, like a tablet or smartphone, to actually respond to incoming messages: We used to call that a "pager."
Until smartwatches are connected, they're nothing more than glorified watches with a couple nifty features. Once a manufacturer, be it Apple, Google, Microsoft, or someone else, is able to offer users a truly smart, connected watch, it'll sit on the shelf collecting dust.
Cell Phone Payments
Alex Planes: For all the hype around Apple Pay, you'd think it had solved cold fusion and the problem of lousy NFC adoption rates. When Tim Cook crowed that a million payment cards had been attached to Apple Pay accounts, the key detail left out was that this was out of nearly 1.2 billion credit cards in the U.S., of which roughly 550 operate on one of the Big Four payment processing networks.
Another touted figure: 200,000, as in "more than 200,000 retail outlets will accept Apple Pay." What's touted as a huge win for Apple isn't -- Google Wallet paved Apple's way into virtually all of these outlets, as the same technology that accepts Apple Pay also accepts Wallet payments. Google Wallet trails not only PayPal in digital payment volume, it also lags a number of other payment services, with a paltry 1.6% market share, according to payments tracker LeadLedger. Apple Pay could certainly leapfrog over Wallet, but it probably won't be the category killer many analysts expect.
By this time next year, Visa and MasterCard will finish transitioning their entire payment terminal network to the EMV standard, which utilizes the little gold chips you may have embedded in one or more of your credit cards. Europeans have been using this standard for a while, and it's similar to Apple Pay and Google Wallet -- tap your card's chip to the front of a card reading device, and you're set to go. With nearly half of American consumers concerned phone-based payments pose a security risk, and another third finding it easier to pay with a credit card, Apple (and Google) have their work cut out for them convincing credit card users that it's worthwhile to pay with their phone instead of with credit cards equipped with similar technology.
Tamara Walsh: Google has one of the most talked about wearable devices on the market today: Google Glass. However, despite massive PR stunts and very public endorsements from famous actors and comedians, Glass has yet to move from a niche non-essential into a mainstream must-have product. While Google doesn't release specific sales figures on the device, you only need to attend a sporting event or visit a crowded mall to see that hardly anyone is sporting Google Glass. Why, you ask?
Cost is one of the major factors currently hampering mass Google Glass adoption. If you want to buy Glass you'll need to cough up a cool $1,500. That is a lot of money for a mostly untested gadget. Another problem is public backlash. Many non-Google Glass wearers are confused and in some cases offended by the device. This has caused countless public places such as restaurants and bars to ban Glass inside their establishments. In fact, the Motion Picture Association of America together with the National Association of Theater owners recently declared a "zero tolerance" policy against wearing Google Glass in movie theaters.
Google's over-hyped device first went on sale to the public in April 2014, and initial demand appeared strong. Yet, since then, the sky-high price tag, lack of apps, and public disapproval of Glass has led to slow overall adoption. Moreover, Juniper Research estimates that shipments of global smart glasses will total less than 10 million per year until 2018 or beyond. Ultimately, Google needs to make the technology more affordable if it wants its Glass in the hands of more consumers.
Tim Brugger, Alex Planes, and Tamara Walsh have no positions in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Google (A shares), and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Microsoft. 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.