Ten years from now, what will mobile devices look like? Will they be lighter, thinner, and more powerful smartphones and tablets? Or will their interfaces move beyond the touchscreen? One possibility is the invisible assistant: a wearable accessory that you interact with by talking and listening. Today one (far-fetched) rumor suggests that Apple could spearhead that future early next year, in the form of the iWatch.
According to Chinese-language blog TGBus, Apple is collaborating with Intel on a Bluetooth-enabled smartwatch. The device supposedly has a 1.5-inch OLED screen. Like Pebble and i'm watch, the device would connect to an iPhone via low-powered Bluetooth 4.0. Unlike Pebble or i'm watch, though, it would let you answer calls and use Siri.
Whether this rumor has legs or not, Siri (and other virtual assistants) could eventually supplant the touchscreen in our mobile devices. Apple thrives on making tech products behave less like tech products, and more like natural human tools. When taken to its extreme, this could result in a device with a conversation-based interface.
Such a device could be made today, without technological hurdles. A connected iPhone would do much of the processing; the watch would record your voice, transmit it to your iPhone, and relay Siri's response. A small touch screen would also allow for limited visual/kinetic interaction, including notifications and basic apps.
Even if Siri-powered accessories are eventually coming, though, this rumor is suspect. Intel's processors power Macs, but the chip-maker is only wetting its feet with low-powered mobile CPUs. Would Apple collaborate with Intel on a 2013 mobile device? "Long-shot" doesn't begin to describe the odds.
Apple's obsession with simplicity also casts doubt on this rumor. From the time Steve Jobs returned in the late 90s, the company's product line has been small and focused. Jobs and present CEO Tim Cook have both said that Apple only enters new markets when it can do something revolutionary. Would an iWatch be revolutionary enough to justify its own existence? In 2013, that's doubtful.
Even if this rumor is bogus, though, wearable tech products are waiting in the wings. But there's a big difference between making a product and selling a product. For wearable computers to catch on, companies will need to simplify, minimize their geekiness (I'm talking to you, Project Glass), and give average people a reason to salivate over them. What company does those things better than Apple?
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