Who Will Release the Smartwatch First?

Well, Google and Apple are at it again. This time it is for the smartwatch. Just last week we learned that Google purchased a company that has several patents related to smartwatch technology. This comes just a few months after the rumors that Apple is going to release some type of smartwatch that could be called the iWatch. Anyone that has followed Apple over the last several years knows it is nearly impossible to predict what they are doing in terms of technology. There have been some leaks here and there but nothing conclusive has come out of the Apple camp. It makes sense that an iWatch would be the next release as it is the one industry they do not have a grip on. Nike and other companies have attempted to get a stronghold on the watch industry but it is not possible without an operating system. A watch with an operating system would change quite a bit as some people would not longer need to carry around their smartphone or tablet. When the tablet was first released I wondered if there was a market for the product. I learned quickly that if Apple is going to create a product there is a market. So, when will the first smartwatch come out?

Google vs ApplePerson with a smartwatch

About a decade ago Google and Apple were on great terms as they were both growing tech companies in the San Francisco area of California. The companies partnered on many types of products. In fact, Vic Gundotra who is now the head of Google+ worked with Steve Jobs to help with some of the Google apps that came preinstalled on the Apple iPhone. If you purchased on of the first few generations of the Apple iPhone you can remember that Google Maps, YouTube and Google search came preinstalled. Those days have long since passed. It is now the case that an Apple iPhone has zero Google apps preinstalled. Interestingly, when looking at the top four apps in the world Google holds three of those spots with Google Maps, YouTube and Google+. Even though Apple does not have these apps installed on a new iPhone it is still the case that users are going to the App Store to download them for free. As Apple and Google continue to battle for positioning it will be interesting to see if this continues to be the case in the next several months and years.

Now that Apple and Google are not fond of each other they are competing for market share. Not just smartphone market share either. Any time one company comes out with a piece of hardware the other is not far behind. Back in February and March it was rumored that Apple was coming out with some type of smartwatch or iWatch. There is even a debate between Rand Wilson and myself on the development of the iWatch vs Google Glass. Now that argument looks to be null and void as Google will have Google Glass and a smartwatch. It is important to note that Google is not necessarily a hardware company in the sense that Apple is. Apple has a huge profit margin on their iPhones and iPad because them make them in house. Most Android phones are not made by Google. They makes the software in the form of the operating system but companies like LG and Samsung make the hardware. This means the profit margin on these Android phones is much lower than the margins on the iPhone. Make a note that Google did purchase Motorola Mobility a few years ago so they are not making the Motorola Android phones but this is just a small percentage of the total Android phones on the market today.

Google has been a software company from the very beginning. They make money hand over fist on Google search advertising. Every product they consider has to do something to enhance search. With this being true it stands to reason that the Google smartwatch will be GPS and search based. When standing in downtown New York smartwatch users will be able to find a restaurant they may enjoy. Google will incorporate Google+ into this product so users will be able to see where their friends are dining or have dined in the recent past. Zagat reviews will be a big part of the process as well. Ratings and reviews will come up as people walk by a certain restaurant. This is one of the issues Apple is going to have to tackle. Apple is not a search engine and they do not own a review company. That said, they can simply partner up with Yelp and get all those ratings and reviews with the stroke of a pen. This may be something we hear about in the very near future as Yelp is quite the powerful brand.

If Apple and Google are going to go head to head in the smartwatch battle it will be interesting to see who releases the smartwatch first. I have said time and again that it is sometimes better to be first. Even if the product is not the best it will still be remembered as the first smartwatch. There have been many reports that the Google smartwatch will be out before Christmas 2013. This is almost shocking as most of the early rumors were about the iWatch. It will come as no surprise to see both of these companies trying to launch sometime around Thanksgiving. This is the time when parents and grandparents are looking to purchase Christmas gifts for their loved ones. If Google and Apple want a leg up in this industry it is best to get the products on the shelf as soon as possible. Stores like Best Buy and Frys Electronics will be more than happy to partner with these big names as it will get more customers in the door.

This will be a fun battle to watch.




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