If you listen to the cynics they'll tell you that CES is pass it's prime and that nothing worth flying to Las Vegas is ever announced there these days. While it's true most of the larger companies tend to have taken a cue from Apple and throw their own events for marque products now. But CES isn't usually about what's coming out now, or necessarily not even what's coming soon. It's a look at what is on the horizon and what we'll all want or will have in the next couple of years. From 4K TV's to Microsoft's demo of illumiroom, it's mainly about the future.
This year however, it was about the little guys. A number of Kickstarter alumni were at CES this year. From the mind blowing virtual reality of Oculus Rift to the rather simple, yet just as futuristic, CST-01 e-ink watch. The CST-01 watch (Central Standard Time) really caught my eye for a particular reason. Yes, it's a nicely designed watch and the e-ink display looks like something from Star Trek but what I couldn't stop thinking about was, "what if the screen was a flexible OLED touch display?". To be frank, this is what I want in an Apple (or anyone) wearable computer. Yes, the iPod Nano was cool as a traditional watch design that people hoped Apple would turn into a "smart" watch that could display calls, alerts, notifications, etc. and they didn't. They instead changed the iPod Nano's design leaving some to speculate that Apple could be making room for the REAL iWatch-thingy coming soon. There are already "wearable computers" on the market now that mainly focus on fitness like the fit-bit, Nike's Fuel band and host of others that were shown at CES. The device that got every geek dreaming about the possibilities of wearable devices, The Pebble is scheduled to (finally) start shipping in the next few weeks. Not to take anything away from the Pebble, but just like any technology enthusiast the technology here today is already considered old news and we began looking at what's to come tomorrow.
A 3 inch X 1 inch touch display that ran some variant of iOS, similar to what the current Nano is running, that received my notifications, calls, had accelerometers and Siri all via bluetooth 4 would be a magnificent device. It wouldn't have to have all the power of a smartphone since it would use your existing smartphone as an extended brain. Enough battery to power the screen and handle notifications as well as the sensors (for fitness tracking) and bluetooth. Of course the major hurdles are engineering it small/light enough that you can wear it all the time and it would have to retail for less than $250. I'm not sure if the technology for a flexible touch screen is ready for mass production yet, not to mention figuring out battery life. With a lot of the core technology still in the prototype phase, we may be a year or two away from such a device. Still with Google scheduled to launch their version of the wearable computer, Project Glass next year, I have to believe there is something similar to this somewhere in the Apple labs floating around.
Some say hardware innovation is stagnated, but that's only if you're looking at the devices that are already available. Sure smartphones and tablets are for the most part mature as far as hardware is concerned, especially Apple products. They've meticulously sliced and diced as much bloat as they could to get the almost too thin, iPhone 5 and iPad mini. In the next few years, new forms of devices will begin to appear that will at first supplement and then eventually replace those "large" bulky computer we lug around now in our pockets now.
My opinion is if they are going to release some type of wearable device that interacts with your iPhone, iPad, etc., then they shouldn't call it a watch. Calling it a watch narrows the scope of it's usefulness, besides those relics of the past are considered an accessory at best for this generation. Call it a wearable computer (or something to that effect) and people that see no need for a watch would absolutely buy a wearable computer.