Apple’s formal announcement of the their smartwatch yesterday has predictably set the consumer device world into a tizzy, with one camp declaring an end game for all other smart wearables, and another camp reacting with a collective ‘meh’. The majority of people seem to be in the middle. They have an interest in the device, but are (in my opinion) correctly seeing it as a great first step, but in a much longer race.
I was asked a couple of times yesterday by a number of folks how this announcement affects QuickLogic. The primary question was really along the lines of ‘does this kill/discount the value of your sensor hub offerings?’
The answer is an emphatic no. (What, you expected something different?)
Let’s go all the way back to 2006. The great recession hadn’t happened, the world was still safe from the preening of Justin Bieber, and Apple had yet to announce the iPhone. Smartphones existed, sure. Nokia has the N95, Palm had their Treo, and many, many others had what they deemed ‘smartphones’. While all deemed smartphones, the functions of those devices really varied. I remember a Motorola ‘smartphone’ that had a business card reader as one of the primary functions. The Palm Treo had a stylus. Both great for their time, both were marketed as smartphones, yet I think we’d all disagree with that assessment. We had a lot of companies marketing devices, some better than others, but no one clear leader. No true definition of what the product is or should do. And most definitely no ‘WOW’ product.
But then, the calendar flips over to 2007 and on January 9th, the messiah of Cupertino announces the iPhone. Looking back, I’m sure we all agree that the definition of what a smartphone is was really solidified by that announcement. Essentially, Apple set the bar, and set it high. Through that ‘wow’ product, OEMs are pushed down a path of knowing what to design (form factors, targets, etc…). Smartphones became something that had to have a touch screen. An App store. WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, and other connectivity features. And let’s be clear – those other OEMs played catch up at the beginning, but caught up relatively quickly and surpassed the iPhone in many ways. Most of the ways were hardware-differentiation – Samsung’s large display phones are widely credited as differentiating them not only from Apple, but from other Android manufactures.
So, let’s change gears, and talked about wearables.
Let’s go all the way back to 2014. The great recession has happened, most of the world is hoping Justin Bieber gets sent on the Mars One mission, and Apple had yet to announce the Apple Watch. Smart wearables existed, sure. Motorola had the 360, Samsung had the Gear Fit, and many, many others had what they deemed ‘smart wearables’. While all deemed smart wearables, the functions of those devices really varied. I remember a “smart wearable” that had an activity counter as one of the primary functions. I remember a smart wearable with 5 LEDs as a user interface. Both great for their time, both were marketed as smart wearables, yet I think we’d all now disagree with that assessment. We had a lot of companies marketing devices, some better than others, but no one clear leader. No true definition of what the product is or should do. And most definitely no ‘WOW’ product.
At this point, your déjà vu has probably kicked in. Notice the last paragraph I wrote is pretty much identical to the one three above it. Hopefully, you’re seeing my parallel.
Apple has announced the ‘WOW’ device. Apple has defined what a smart wearable device is. Smart wearables are about style. They are about multi-function devices which react to you, not the other way around. They run a variety of health, wellness, activity, transport, gesture, and other algorithms. They’re designed to supplement your daily life.
Other OEMs now are playing catch up. They want to differentiate their offerings from Apple. They know hardware-based differentiation has worked in the past. They are going to look for technologies that allow them better accuracy, or longer battery life. That’s where we step in with the ArcticLink 3 S2 and SenseMe.