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Monday, February 11, 2013

Why Apple Is Working on an iWatch and Not iGlasses

Why an iWatch and not iGlasses

In my column on Monday I reported that Apple was experimenting with a wristlike computer that could wrap around a person’s wrist. Some readers asked why the company, which is clearly experimenting with wearable computing, wouldn’t just make a pair of augmented reality glasses instead

The best way to answer that question is to look at the Apple mouse, or as the company officially calls it, the Trackpad. Today’s Trackpads on Apple laptops are flat squares that offer multitouch controls and have no buttons. But that wasn’t always the case.

For years, the Apple mouse was half Trackpad, half a single large clickable button. As the company introduced multitouch to its mouse, it no longe needed that button â€" one tap acted like a single click â€" but the company didn’t just lop it off in a mouse-buttonectomy. It eliminated it slowly over several versions of laptops so consumers became accustomed to its absence.

At first the mouse pad was given multitouch, then the large button was made slimmer, then the button went away, but the entire mouse pad became clickable. Today, it’s just a flat multitouch square.

Apple will do the same thing with its foray into wearable computing. The wrist is not a scary place for consumers to add their first computer. After all, we’ve been wearing a type of computer there for decades: the wristwatch. (For many of you in the 1970s, a digital watch, some with a mini-calculator, was your first computer.) Now that the wristwatch is being supplanted by the smartphone, the wrist is the perfect place to introduce customers to a computer they can wear.

Some people are still intimidated by regular computers. How do you think they will feel! about one strapped to their person

Enter the iWatch, or whatever the company plans to call it. Think of it as the first mouse with a really large button and no multitouch. That’s how Apple is probably thinking about it, too.

It’s a different approach from the one taken by Google, which is going straight for the face, making its augmented reality Google Glasses to try and introduce people to wearable computers. But some consumers will very likely be intimidated by a computer hanging from their brow. The wrist, in comparison, is not as scary.

Although five or 10 years from now we could well be walking around with Apple glasses on our faces, the company’s first push into this world of wearables will be through the wrist.