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Watson, Google Glass, and iWatch Face Different Adoption Barriers

Apple Watch

IBM’s attempt to redefine both expert systems and artificial intelligence in the form of cognitive analytics in its much-vaunted Watson initiative, is still navigating its way out of the chasm. The inherent complexity of the technology and how to use it – such as, for example, transferring the knowledge of an experienced oncologist into an automated computer application that can effectively put the expert’s knowledge to work for hundreds or thousands of patients simultaneously in different parts of the world – still prevents its widespread adoption in spite of IBM’s insistence that they will generate a $1bn in revenue from Watson within the next couple of years. Separately, in a sensible move following the clumsy, nerdy launch of Google Glass a couple of years ago, Google has seen fit to withdraw Glass from the market in order to re-organize the effort under Tony Fadell, the former Apple whiz and co-founder of Nest, acquired by Google last year for $3.5bn. Time will tell us whether Glass will resurface inside a smarter market development strategy, or whether its appeal fades. Certainly, there were indications of real applications such as surgeons using Glass in the operating room to consult important information during delicate procedures.

In contrast to these two still unproven technologies-cum-products, Apple’s ability to bewitch the market seems to have worked once again with the launch of the iWatch. The smart-watch category is further along in production and even adoption than the first two technologies I mentioned, with vendors including Samsung, Pebble, Sony, Motorola, and Metawatch having had products in the market for a couple of years, and startups like Olio coming out with more recent offerings. But it’s difficult to be convinced that this category has crossed the chasm. Certainly, many of the normal early adopters – technology enthusiasts predominant among them – have bought their first iWatch to go with their Peble or other earlier device. The bigger test now will be whether Apple is able to redefine the category as it did with the MP3 player to iPod, or smartphone to iPhone transformations. The company has already linked the iWatch to delivering payments in a new form, but as yet the value proposition does not seem anywhere close to being as compelling as that of the iPhone, which transformed the earlier smartphone category into a full-blown online computer in your pocket. One obstacle cited by many commentators is the need to tether the watch to your mobile phone; another is the doubt voiced by others about how much more connected we all need to be, beyond the high degree of enslavement to our mobile devices. But we should remember that back in early 2007 many people were second-guessing the future success of the just-announced iPhone, and look how that story unfolded…

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