Apple finally announced their long-awaited watch at a media event (both tech and fashion) last month, and they had their first public event showcasing it this week at the Colette boutique during Paris Fashion Week. A lot has been said about the watch already. Mostly discussing its merits as another in a long line of wearable devices being released of late. These discussions and posts have centred on functionality, features and design. I don’t want to add to that because you can read some great posts about all of these things here, here and here.
Expanding the Concept of Mobile
There are lots of predictions flying about as to whether or not Apple’s entry into the wearables market will be a success. I’m not going to make my prediction on that. My prediction instead is that the Apple Watch is going to be the first device to expand the concept of mobile beyond the phone and tablet.
Sure there’s been the Pebble, Google Gear and Google Glass among others. All of those devices have been small niche players in the market and never gained true mainstream attention. The Apple Watch already has mainstream attention, and that means that no matter what we’re going to be seeing mobile apps on far more devices than just phones and tablets.
The Growing Revolution
The revolution that’s been brewing for the past eight years has been that of native apps on the most personal devices in our lives. Those apps have become pervasive on smartphones and tablets, but we haven’t yet seen them expand into new territories. This expansion is going to happen though. We will see deeply personal native apps and experiences on watches, TVs, car dashboards and more.
Like the Apple Watch, Apple has been teasing us for years with the possibility of a fully supported app ecosystem in our living rooms via the Apple TV. We know apps are coming on the Apple Watch in 2015, and I think they will also be coming that same year on the Apple TV.
Expect Fast Followers
As happened with smartphones and tablets, the market will follow fast to deliver similar immersive app experiences on wearables and living room tech from other providers. Amazingly, this will continue to reinforce the closed development platforms that have become so prominent in the past eight years. The web is clearly great and has delivered great things, but the ability to make something that feels completely personal and natural through native development, means that there will for the foreseeable future there will be room in the market for both native and web apps.
The Growing Cost of Platform Support
The result of all this is that people who build or publish apps will either need to find a way to manage their brands and experiences across an enormous multitude of platforms and device types, or they’ll have to get very selective about the platform and device niches they choose to support. There has been a rush recently to support as many devices as possible, at least across iOS and Android. But what happens when supporting iOS and Android means supporting 5+ completely different device types, and that’s not accounting for differences within devices, like screen size fragmentation, etc.
The proliferation of native mobile platforms throughout our lives will serve to enrich our experiences personally, but as business and startup owners it poses a big challenge in how we compete. I for one am excited by the possibilities, and excited to see how the amazing creative mobile developers and designers of the world take advantage of these new opportunities.