Microsoft is crashing Apple & Amazon’s smart watch party.
The Verge reports on Microsoft’s Smart Watch, the latest competitor to Amazon’s rumored Kindle Watch –
- Microsoft Watch will be made of translucent aluminium. It’s Oxynitride Aluminium and it’s 80% transparent and four times harder than glass. Magnesium for the Surface and translucent Aluminium for the Microsoft Watch – Who would have thought Microsoft would fall in love with beautiful hardware.
- Microsoft’s Smart Watch was designed and prototyped by the Xbox Accessories Team.
- It has been moved to the Surface Team (which makes the Microsoft Surface tablets, which are beautiful pieces of hardware).
- Microsoft’s Watch is rumored to have a 1.5″ screen. That seems small to me.
- It connects to Surface tablets. It runs on a modified version of Windows 8 and connects with other Windows devices too.
- There are removable wristbands in blue, red, yellow, black, white, and grey.
- AmongTech claims Microsoft Watch will have 6 GB of storage (mostly for the OS) and LTE support.
- Notifications and music are rumored features.
I like the direction Microsoft is going in. The addition of LTE, not to mention the use of a flavor of Windows 8, suggests Microsoft will be making a stand-alone smart watch that also syncs with other Windows 8 devices. That’s much better than a ‘smart’ watch that is a mere accessory.
With features like a translucent aluminium case and LTE and Windows 8 based OS, Microsoft Watch will be a very strong competitor to Kindle Watch, whenever it arrives.
Could Amazon NOT be making a Kindle Watch?
We’ve already covered the plethora of Kindle Watch competitors in the works.
This is what we’d written about the Kindle Watch earlier –
- Kindle Watch Probability – 100% if iWatch and/or SWatch (Samsung) and/or Google Glass take off. 25% otherwise. Amazon might wait to see how wearable computing does, before jumping in.
- Arrival – Perhaps end of 2014. Perhaps end of 2015. On the one hand, Amazon likes to wait and see. So it might wait to get a year’s worth of data on wearable computing sales. On the other hand, Amazon knows that being too late to the market makes things really difficult. Amazon might gamble on wearable computing sooner rather than later. I’d predict Amazon is cautious and Kindle Watch ships in early 2015.
The biggest recent development in the Smart Watch market is Pebble’s announcement that it has sold 275,000 preorders of its smart watch. If an unknown, crowd-funded startup like Pebble can sell 275,000 preorders, then, surely, companies like Apple and Samsung and Microsoft and Amazon have a shot at selling tens of millions of smart watches.
The major incentive for Amazon is to enter a Hot New Market early. If this ends up being a market of tens of millions of devices sold every year, then Amazon wants to get it right and ship early. If this ends up being a market of hundreds of millions of devices sold every year, then there is no way Amazon can sit it out.
The major disincentives for Amazon are – a company like Apple or Microsoft or Samsung might release something much better than everyone else and would thus take most of the market, there might not be a big smart watch market, the market might get splintered to the point that Amazon can’t sell enough Kindle Watches to reach scale, Amazon might not be able to afford fighting device wars on so many fronts (especially if Kindle Phone is slated for Fall 2013).
Speaking of Apple, it seems Apple is ‘aggressively hiring team members for iWatch’.
Apple’s iWatch slated for 2014 release?
After months of speculation that an Apple iWatch would arrive in Fall 2013, we get news from Financial Times that Apple is aggressively hiring for its iWatch project, and that iWatch might be delayed to 2014. The key rumors –
- iWatch might not arrive until late 2014.
- Apple is hiring for iWatch.
- iWatch involves very hard engineering problems that Apple hasn’t been able to solve. It is, therefore, hiring from outside.
- There are 100+ Apple employees working on iWatch.
- Apple hired the CEO of YSL. He is rumored to be working on iWatch.
- Apple has filed for the ‘iWatch’ trademark in lots of countries, including Japan and Russia.
- iWatch might include a display on the strap. This is the most interesting rumor by far.
If Apple’s iWatch is set for 2014, then it becomes even more important for Amazon to release its Kindle Watch quickly. It has a window of opportunity – the 2013 Holiday Season. Amazon can take significant market share in the smart phone market if it releases Kindle Watch before Christmas 2013.
Will there be enough space/demand for a Kindle Watch?
Let’s say Amazon releases a Kindle Watch. Who’s going to buy it?
- Apple iPad and iPhone owners will flock to the iWatch.
- Windows users will mostly choose the Microsoft Watch, provided it’s good. Microsoft’s smart watch working with Windows is a big plus.
- Android users will generally choose Google’s Smart Watch (strong rumors) or one of the ‘fully open’ Android watches.
- People who want longer battery life will choose an eInk screen based smart watch like Pebble.
- Samsung Galaxy owners will tend to prefer Samsung’s Smart Watch. Samsung also has a $4 billion a year marketing budget that it can leverage.
- Lots of companies like Dell and HP and Acer are releasing smart watches of their own. These will take some market share.
- Lots of startups are releasing smart watches. Some of these are very innovative and will appeal to the early adopters much more than the ‘safer’ smart watches that are merely accessories for phones and tablets.
Basically, there are quite a few challenges that Amazon and Kindle Watch have to overcome, including –
- With so many companies releasing smart watches, how does Kindle Watch stand out and get attention?
- With so many smart watches splitting up available sales, how does Kindle Watch sell enough to hit economies of scale and innovate and evolve?
- With so many people aligned to existing, established ecosystems, how does Amazon convince them to leave their existing ecosystems and choose a Kindle Watch?
Amazon does have its own ecosystem – perhaps 10 million to 30 million Amazon customers who would prefer a Kindle/Amazon device to any other device. However, the key questions are – How many of those people will buy a Kindle Watch? How many of those people are even remotely interested in a Kindle Watch?
With every new entrant to the ‘How New Smart Watch Market’, three fundamental questions take on increasing importance –
- Is there a Smart Watch market?
- Is this a millions of smart watches a year market, or a hundreds of millions of smart watches a year market?
- Is there place for Kindle Watch in this Smart Watch Market?
We don’t know the answer to any of these questions. A lot of companies are betting Yes for the first two questions. Is Amazon betting yes for all three, and making a Kindle Watch? I certainly think it’s a bet Amazon has to make. It’s been slow to Tablets and Phones and it can’t keep setting itself Herculean catching-up tasks.