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The Bulletin

An Apple watch? Maybe. Maybe not.

Posting in Technology

Microsoft pioneered smart watches before the advent of the smartphone. It failed.

The New York Times just revealed that Apple is prototyping a curved glass wristwatch. I've heard this rumor before, but the Times wouldn't publish if the sourcing wasn't solid. That means Apple is exploring the idea, but that does not guarantee that it will ever take a product to market.

A good rule of thumb is that most Apple rumors are wrong; however, there's a few considerations that could be made. Apple has experienced more leaks concerning its upcoming projects as its supply chain has expanded. It's also become more media-friendly under CEO Tim Cook, so it may orchestrate leaks to trusted press (not to insinuate that is the case here). Google's glasses has stolen a lot of the 'what's next' thunder in the media mindshare. Apple might have to work harder for its attention nowadays. The Times article has told us this much:

"In its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Apple is experimenting with wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass, according to people familiar with the company’s explorations, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they are not allowed to publicly discuss unreleased products. Such a watch would operate Apple’s iOS platform, two people said, and stand apart from competitors based on the company’s understanding of how such glass can curve around the human body."

We can extrapolate that it could be more than a glorified display for making what's happening on other iOS devices easy to know at a glance, but that's not guaranteed. The form factor and display size would require different apps (maybe iWatch only apps like Apple TV has today). It would be silly to play Angry Birds on your wrist. If a product really is coming, we could just be looking at more of an iOS-powered accessory than a revolutionary new thing from Apple.

What if the iWatch does stand on its own? it could have a few radios for Internet connectivity, and not just be paired as a Bluetooth device, or maybe it will run Siri. Siri seems like a good interface for a wristwatch that would not have any obvious manner of keyboard - virtual or otherwise - built into it.

I'm left wondering what use it would be. It's not that difficult to take my iPhone out of my pocket. If given the choice between a smartphone with both Siri and a keyboard, or a watch, the phone wins. How would a watch not suck in comparison? It would surely land in a lower end, less profitable market where Apple doesn't usually play, but rival Microsoft has tried its hand.

Past is precedent, and the precedent is failure. Microsoft tried to popularize SPOT smart watches before smartphones took off, and the meteoric rise of the smartphone consigned wristwatches to Microsoft's technology graveyard. Who really wants a smart wristwatch other than dads?

Really, what value could Apple even add to a smart watch do-over? Jony Ive isn't going to displace Rolex. Maybe it's simply trying to figure that out too. My two cents: don't count on a watch arriving (if it ever does) at your local Apple Store other than as an accessory.

(image credit: Cnet)

— By on February 10, 2013, 8:12 AM PST

David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure