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.
I've been wearing a wristband computer for a year now, and I like it. Kind of.
By Ryan Bradley, senior editor
FORTUNE -- It's been almost a year to the day since Jawbone released the UP, a wristband computer that tracks motion -- the number of steps you take and the hours you sleep, mostly. Actually, it's been two years since the UP was first introduced, but in 2011 many of the MORENov 21, 2013 1:26 PM ET
The Baltimore-based sports company takes a starting position for the coming wearable technology boom.
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Jawbone's new Jambox Mini makes something very hard look very easy.
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Things are happening at Apple, no question. Will it be enough?
FORTUNE -- The task at first seemed impossible: Determine if Apple's best days are behind it or if it's merely taking a break from breakneck growth and world-beating innovation. After all, how to figure out the trajectory of a company that is so tight-lipped with its plans, which prohibits its people from talking freely, even amongst themselves, a company whose MOREAdam Lashinsky, Sr. Editor at Large - Jul 8, 2013 9:52 AM ET
Much has been made of the rebirth of consumer hardware startups. But some high-profile examples have stumbled out of the gate.
FORTUNE -- To hear some in Silicon Valley tell it, hardware is the new software. In other words, after years of taking a backseat to the splashy launches of countless websites, apps, and the cloud, innovation on the hardware side is ramping up again. Is it? Several high-profile launches have stumbled. MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Apr 12, 2013 1:52 PM ET
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* Amazon (AMZN) is launching an e-book library today exclusively for Kindle and Kindle Fire users who are also Amazon Prime subscribers. Initially, the e-commerce giant will offer just 5,000 or so titles -- none of them from the six big publishing houses will. Each user will also only be MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Nov 3, 2011 3:57 AM ET
The San Francisco-based startup has already branched out from its origins as a maker of tony headsets. But for its next product, it's making a big bet on an untested market.
FORTUNE -- Jawbone made a name for itself cranking out high-quality, head-turning wireless devices: first with a successful line of Bluetooth headsets, then with a portable speaker that quickly became a must-have gadget late last year.
Now, the San Francisco-based company MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Nov 3, 2011 12:00 AM ET
How does design drive new ideas? Yves Behar, founder of Fuseproject, Deep Nishar, senior vice president of products and user experience for LinkedIn, and Hosain Rahman, c0-founder and CEO of Jawbone explored this notion at a breakfast roundtable at Fortune's Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colo.Jul 21, 2011 1:10 PM ET
Jawbone's latest offering, the Jambox, is a Bluetooth speaker. But that description belies just how badly you'll want one.
There have been two reactions from people that occur without fail during the 12 hours a bright blue Jambox has been sitting on my desk. The first is some form of, "Whoa, what is it?" I then explain it is a Bluetooth-enabled speaker, and yes, the music that is pumping out of MOREMichael V. Copeland, Senior Writer - Nov 5, 2010 12:52 PM ET
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