FORTUNE -- Wearable computers may be a market worth as much as $6 billion by 2016, but for now it's a category with more hype and little substance.
Early users of Google (GOOG) Glass device, often agree on one thing: It's got great potential but needs a lot of work. Voice recognition for commands is still buggy, and the industrial design resembles a Star Trek prop. Meanwhile, attempts at other wearable accessories like the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch haven't been well-received. The devices are still pretty limited in terms of what users can do, and in Samsung's case, the device only works with a small number of phones -- all Samsung (SSNLF), of course. And, outside the fitness market, few devices are priced low enough to be competitive. (Google Glass could retail for between $250 and $600 when it arrives later this year, according to the New York Times.)
Anthony Wood, CEO of Roku, is less than enthusiastic about the hardware category. "Watches in particular strike me as being particularly geeky -- something I'd have wanted to play with as a kid," he says.
Forrester Research analyst JP Gownder says wearables are experiencing a "hype bubble," comparing the market to the Internet of 1999. "It took many failed experiments like Pets.com before we found real business models associated with the Internet," says Gownder. He says the same goes for wearable computing companies. "Most of them don't have good business models, and most consumers don't know why they'd be buying these things."
Where wearables aren't scarce is fitness. No less than 10 different vendors, including Nike (NKE), Fitbit, and Jawbone have wristbands that track different activities like running and sleep. "In fitness, 2013 was kind of a mess," admits Gownder, who argues their business-to-consumer (B2C) approach is a small, limited market. "It's people who are fitness fanatics, people who are overweight, and people who are quantified selfers," referring to the trend of people obsessively tracking their steps, sleep, and other movements.
But perhaps it's the B2C part that's the ill fit? Box CEO Aaron Levie, underwhelmed when he tried Glass late last year, argues the marketing around it is all wrong. He thinks it should be repositioned for the industrial or enterprise worlds. Says Levie: "Think about what very low-cost, hands-free computing can do for the health care industry, or what it could do for production, for somebody who's doing repairs of engines."
Maybe enough of those geeks could make the view of Google Glass a little more rose-colored.
The Galaxy Gear's viral ad campaign rules. The device itself? Not so much.
FORTUNE -- "Nobody will buy this watch, and nobody should."
That was the New York Times' David Pogue two weeks ago reviewing the Galaxy Gear, Samsung's pre-emptive strike against Apple's (AAPL) iWatch -- and the hero of the attached YouTube video.
No matter. The one-minute ad spot is terrific, worth every won Samsung paid for it.
It appeared on YouTube last week MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 18, 2013 11:44 AM ET
Stung by the copy-cat label, Samsung set out to prove it can out-innovate the innovator.
FORTUNE -- "The curtain closed on this device," said CNBC's Jim Cramer after he read the New York Times' review of the Galaxy Gear, Samsung's pre-emptive strike at Apple's (AAPL) rumored iWatch.
Without an actual iWatch to copy, Samsung had to design its own. The Gear went on sale in the U.S. this week for $299.99, and now MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Oct 4, 2013 7:43 AM ET
Let's hope Apple stays away from this already crowded market with a low barrier to entry. (Even Nissan has one!)
By Cyrus Sanati
FORTUNE -- Apple's latest product launch party was a real dud, but it could have been a lot worse if it had launched a line of so-called smartwatches. Apple enthusiasts had expected the company to counter recent smartwatch offerings from the likes of Samsung and Nissan by unveiling MORESep 11, 2013 11:29 AM ET
A sense of showmanship is one thing Samsung hasn't managed to steal from Apple.
FORTUNE -- I wasn't in Berlin for the unveiling of Galaxy Gear -- Samsung's attempt to steal a march on Apple (AAPL) by introducing a smartwatch before Tim Cook can -- and I haven't seen the device, as the Apple line sitter put it in that 2011 Galaxy S2 ad, with my hands.
But I've seen enough product MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Sep 4, 2013 3:12 PM ET
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