Perhaps it's no coincidence that 2014 is the year of the Horse on the Chinese zodiac and Apple finally appears ready to start producing one of its long-awaited unicorn-like products in locales including China.
Yes, we've been hearing about the prospect of an Apple wearable for years now, but 2014 looks to be the year that both the company and consumers are finally ready for an iWatch.
If you caught Apple's WWDC keynote, several new pieces of software pointed to the clear possibility of wearable hardware in the near future. The new Health, HomeKit, and the opening up of Touch ID are just a few of the iWatch indications that my CNET colleague Scott Stein noted in his coverage of the new bells and whistles in iOS 8.
But reading Apple's ever-opaque tea leaves will only get us so far -- here are a few other reasons the time has come for the company to put its own spin on the timepiece:
We need a smartwatch that 'just works'
I've had the opportunity to check out a few of the early smartwatches you may have heard of, like the Pebble, the Samsung Galaxy Gear, and the Martian Notifier, and while they surely seem like excessive gadgets to many, the utility of even the most basic smartwatch is immediately obvious.
Put simply, much like the iPad and the iPhone before it, an iWatch could make it just a smidge easier and more comfortable to stay connected. And as the massive success of all things mobile has proved in the past five years or so, that's something we're willing to pay for. That's right, I'm saying it: I do believe people will pay hundreds of dollars for an iWatch, even if it does little more than eliminate the hassle of removing an iPhone from a pocket.
So why aren't people lining up for the Galaxy Gear and the other early smartwatches, you say?
The answer is just as obvious as the question: Because they suck, of course.
Just like early tablets and touchscreen devices from the likes of Microsoft, the concept of a watch to deliver notifications and other awesome information about your awesome life clearly has value, but it's also clear that the early contenders are not capitalizing on the full promise of the form factor.
I don't think I make an ass out of you or me to assume that Android Wear and an eventual iWatch will deliver more value than the smartwatches available now. Being designed specifically to integrate with the two most popular platforms of the day is reason enough to wait on them. Would you pay for an overpriced coffee at
Starbucks Blue Bottle that's been sitting on the counter for two hours when you can see that there's a fresh-brewed batch behind the counter that's almost ready to pour?
Time to bring it all together
In some ways, 2014 seems a lot like 2007, when the iPhone was first introduced. Looking back, it's remarkable that someone didn't combine a phone, a music player, and a touchscreen computer much sooner. Those were all concepts we were familiar with at the time, and the technology to make it happen wasn't exactly cutting-edge; rather it was all about getting the total package right.
Just like then, today an increasing number of people are aware of the value of wearable fitness trackers; voice-controlled devices, smart assistants like Siri and Google Now; and of further extending the tether between our digital command center (be it an iPhone, iPad, laptop, or just the cloud) and peripherals that handle notifications and certain functions.
These concepts have all been around for a few years now, but no one has put them all together in that singular, elegant, sans-Tizen way we all hope to see from Apple (and from Android Wear). All the things that an iWatch could do are verging on becoming mainstream, they just need that holistic user experience to push them into the current.
OK, OK -- no need to be pushy! My requisite prediction based on nothing more than experience and my gut (since analysts and "insiders" don't have a much better track record when it comes to new Apple form factors), is to agree with reports that we'll see an iWatch this fall, just in time for holiday shopping. I imagine we'll see the first Android Wear devices on sale shortly before the Apple debut.
Why else would the company allegedly be going nuts preparing to produce sapphire glass, which is widely used on wristwatches? Perhaps it's also popular in the production of glass unicorn