Apple’s acquisition of the startup called LuxVue has revived the perpetual rumors of an impending iWatch introduction. LuxVue is a developer of micro-LED displays. The company is not well known but before the acquisition, LuxVue managed to gain $48 million from investors. It has also filed for eight patents related to LED displays and other technologies. Apple hasn’t yet formally confirmed the acquisition, which is not surprising since the company has always been secretive.
Leading branding expert Christopher Johnson says, “I’m intrigued by LuxVue’s technology, especially as part of Apple. Branding is ultimately about creating business value, and IP is a highly important part of this.” Very true, however to outsiders it’s hard to determine yet why exactly Apple acquired LuxVue. Johnson asks, “Did Apple make this acquisition for their display tech, or for an upcoming product, or just for long term experimentation?” Of course, there is a possibility that Apple could use the low-power, micro-LED-based display technology in its mobile devices or something entirely new — such as the highly anticipated but speculative iWatch. If this technology were integrated into Apple’s hardware it would deliver better battery life and increased screen brightness. This alone, merits the acquisition.
Johnson continues, “The tech industry sees this acquisition as one clue that Apple may soon unveil its own wearable technology products — possibly sometime this year, and interestingly may focused on our wrists, instead of our eyes. But Apple hasn’t yet shown as much excitement about wearable tech as its rivals Samsung and Google. Every time Apple has been asked if they will unveil their own smart-watch, they have denied any such intentions.”
But who could blame them? Wearable devices are futuristic and intriguing but so far, have been epic market failures. For instance, Samsung’s Galaxy watch didn’t perform as expected and has been described by critics as “bulky, sluggish and unintuitive.” Johnson counters, “Whether this is true or not, most early versions of breakthrough products require rapid refinement.” He asks, “Remember the first iPod? Visionary, yes, but also required additional work. This is common for breakthrough products, success delivers rapid evolution to versions two, three and five — and will be the same for wearable tech. The question is, which product will break through? We already have it for our ears, so will it be for our eyes, wrists – or for something else? Given how sophisticated we have become, my vote is that it will deliver benefits beyond the current approach to deliver mobile micro-delivery of existing product experiences.”
Currently, Google Glass offers the most potential in wearable tech, however people are taking a wait and see approach — while some are choosing to openly criticize. Only a few units have been sold, and there is well-documented concern that a wearable computer may be used to secretly monitor numerous aspects of public life. For this reason, a bar in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood has banned the device from its premises. There have also been reports of people who have been taunted or attacked for wearing Google Glass. Johnson counters again, “In some cases, it’s natural for people to worry about new technology that feels intrusive. We know this from our history of development — from the Bronze Age to TV to PCs — there are those few who adopt early, while the majority wait to embrace the new behaviors that new tech enables.” Just three decades ago, many people predicted that no one would want to own a personal computer, but now we can’t do without them. Johnson says, “Wearable tech will follow a similar learning curve, eventually leading to almost universal use.”
So it’s logical to say that Apple may be taking their time. The company probably doesn’t want to heighten our expectations only to deliver products that consumers resist. Samsung released its wearable gear prematurely and have unfortunately endured the common pressures of market-leading innovation. But, clearly Apple is going to enter the market space in some way, and sometime soon.
There are indications that Apple will take a completely different route with its iWatch. Johnson says, “Reports are that Apple is building a team of senior medical professionals and hardware experts. It would be interesting to consider how Apple may deliver wearable tech that delivers extraordinary benefits. For example, Apple technology can revolutionize how we choose to monitor the health of users, among other things.” Fascinating, to say the least.
Most know that Apple has been under pressure to innovate and deliver in 2014. Johnson says, “In true fashion, Apple may extend wearable tech to its natural conclusion — and Bio Tech could be one way to drive rapid consumer acceptance — and leapfrog the competition.” The last time Apple introduced a new product was in 2010 with the iPad. Experts in the Med Tech arena are predicting that Apple will develop an app-store platform so that start-ups can develop their own mobile medical apps, so this appears likely.
If indeed the company plans to deliver health-tracking technology to the general public, one possibility is that the next Apple innovation is more than just a PC on a wrist. Johnson concludes, “With their latest acquisition, Apple may only want to improve battery life in future smart devices – or they may be preparing to further revolutionize this revolutionary new tech category. We can hope they will deliver another market changing product which gets it right from day one, changing our lives to the point where we can’t imagine how we lived without, just like the iPod did for music.” One thing is for certain, ready or not; wearable tech will become increasingly part of our lives.
Christopher Johnson may be reached at (212) 537-9129, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Chris4Whitehorn.