Technalysis Research
Previous Blogs

March 24, 2014
Insider Extra: Intel Strategy Moves Forward

March 18, 2014
IOT: Islands of Isolated Things?

March 11, 2014
Wearables Cautionary Tale

March 4, 2014
The New Platform Battle

February 25, 2014
Watch What Happens

February 18, 2014
Talkin' 'bout Touchpads

February 11, 2014
The MultiOS Conundrum

February 4, 2014
Computing Redefined

January 28, 2014
The Apple Problem

January 21, 2014
The 2-in-1s People Might Want

January 14, 2014
The Post Tablet Era

January 7, 2014
The Innovation Asymptote

December 31, 2013
Top 5 2014 Predictions

December 17, 2013
Holiday Shoppers Gifting Themselves

December 10, 2013
Companion Apps

December 3, 2013
Aisle Check

TECHnalysis Research Blog

March 25, 2014
Measuring Success In Wearables? It’s Thousands of Thousands

The wearables market continues to capture the imagination of the tech industry, press, and investment community. (A few actual customers also seem interested, although they almost seem to be secondary at this point…) Even early on, it seems clear that the wearables market is going to be significantly different from other device categories that have preceded it, such as smartphones, tablets, etc.

By definition, wearables are devices that you wear on your body. Doing so creates a more intimate connection between an individual and a device, and that, in turn, drives a more personal perspective on those devices. Plus, I believe it drives a significantly greater need for individualization and differentiation in the product. In essence, wearables become akin to fashion accessories. Just as it’s unlikely you’ll bump into two people wearing the exact same set of clothes or the same jewelry—thanks to the enormous variety of different clothing and jewelry designs and manufacturers—so, too, do I believe you’ll see demand for an unusually wide range of different wearable designs and “looks”.

From a manufacturing and supply chain perspective, this represents a tremendous challenge to the traditional tech market approach. A successful tech product sku (that is, an individual model) sells in the millions of units and typically leverages a shared set of components with a few other related skus from the same vendor. With wearables, however, success is likely to look radically different. Instead of a few units doing millions, there’s likely to be hundreds or even thousands of skus, each selling thousands of units. That is a dramatically different business model than what the tech industry has had to face and one that’s likely going to create big supply-chain headaches for companies both large and small.

Having spoken with a number of up-and-coming wearable companies over the last several weeks, it’s becoming clear that this challenge is something that many of them are already facing. A few have talked about developing strategies to deal with this new reality, but all acknowledge that it’s a tough problem to solve.

For big companies, this could prove to be very difficult. While I’m certainly not naïve enough to think that we won’t see a few big hit products that follow the more traditional model (iWatch, anyone?), I do expect that even in those cases, the demands for customization and personalization are going to be significantly higher than previously experienced. It might be OK if all your friends and colleagues have the same phone as you, but do you really think everyone’s going to want to wear the same watch? Even now, arguably, the “coolness” factor of having access to some of the early wearables like Google Glass and even the Pebble Smart Watch makes a bit of a statement, but how long will it be until too many people have them and they’ve lost that edgy style?

And this leads to yet another challenge that’s bound to plague wearables—the fickle nature of fashion. Is that device or design in style or out of style this season? Laugh now, but my guess is, that’s going to be another completely new problem that wearables will introduce to the tech industry.

Concerns aside, it’s clear there’s a lot of excitement around the wearables market, and I’m confident that we will see some pretty amazing new things over the next few years. But, for those who are eager to jump into the latest new thing, I really think you need to look before you leap.

Here's a link to the original column:

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