You could get whiplash from reading the general tech press about wearables. Engadget looks at the collapse of Jawbone and decides that wearables are over. Steve Levy at Wired is fed a story about Google Glass Enterprise and writes that wearables’ future is in the factory. Faithful readers of Wearable Tech Insider know that the real deal is a bit more nuanced.
Jawbone, as we’ve written before, fell victim not to a lack of market but a lack of focus, a lack of vision, and a lack of good product. Fitbit’s stock is ailing, but its pursuit of the corporate wellness market is smart, and its brand is nearly synonymous with fitness trackers. Garmin’s market segmentation of the dedicated fitness buff is brilliant,and its technology may be better than anyone else’s. Qualcomm’s launched cheap processors aimed at the commodity wearables business, and Chinese vendors are pumping out cheap bands.
In other words, we’ll believe that the tracker business — although undeniably matured — is in trouble when we see BestBuy closing its wearables kiosks.
As for Google Glass. Google’s epically awful launch of the original showed a) how bad it is at launching hardware platforms and b) how far ahead of time the concept was. Even after the original project failed and left a huge crater full of burnt money, software shops that had worked with Glass started talking about Glass projects in a we’re-not-talking-about-them manner that left experienced journalists believing that something was going on. This went on for better than two years until Google came out today to Wired.
Of course, readers of WTI are more than familiar with enterprise wearable platforms. In hardware, ODG, Vuzix, Atheer, and others have been selling real products into real companies; the pilot days are past. Software platforms, like Upskill, are well-established. Wired‘s “scoop” was news to exactly none of those companies, all of whom were either seeing Glass in the market or (like Upskill) were partnering with them.
And doubters of augmented reality simply have never looked at a contemporary factory floor.
Wearables dead? Oh hell no. It’s a different business than it was four years ago, for sure, and if you’re looking where the business was in 2013, you’ll miss it the way Engadget did. Where we see it, there’s life in the old dame yet.