Watches — a style and accessory segment virtually on life support in the smartphone era — are receiving new life. While cheeky startup Pebble injected some much needed energy, and while the Nike's FuelBand and FitBit Flex have popularized fitness and health tracking as wearable technology, watches are still largely dead.
That's all about to change.
Just as it did with desktop computers, portable music players, music distribution, smartphones, and tablet computers, Apple is preparing to invigorate another whole category where others have tried and produced only dry, pedestrian products and stagnation. The new Apple Watch will change users' lives just as have other Apple technologies. It's only a matter of time.
Watches are now serious business. At least for Apple. The new watch will be offered in several styles, including standard (Watch), sport (Watch Sport) and luxury (Watch Edition) versions.
The product will be wildly successful, because it will do all the things anyone would reasonably expect an Apple Watch to do. First, it will tell precise time within 50 milliseconds of the global standard. Second, the device will fit exceedingly well (there are numerous band options and two case sizes, 38mm and 42mm). Third, it will prove stylish (the new device is likely the only contemporary watch whose designer is the topic of a best-selling book). Fourth, it will prove intuitive to configure and enjoyable to operate, as have almost all other Apple products.
But the Apple Watch also packs punch when it comes to assisting business users in navigating the modern workday's challenges. Who would expect a watch to enable business travelers to carry an electronic boarding pass on their wrist? How about pay for lunch with a client? Surreptitiously view message updates without having to distractedly retrieve a phone from a jacket pocket? Reject incoming calls without having to access a smartphone? How about accept an important incoming call without having to dig a phone out of a pocket while seated with business associates? View your updated Calendar? Confirm directions on your way to a new location?
While these sound like Dick Tracy watch fantasies, they are now a reality. The Apple Watch provides business users with the ability to complete all these tasks and more. As an untold number of apps are sure to be newly written or ported to the new device, the Apple Watch's potential is incalculable.
Considering even this brief encapsulation of the wearable's capabilities, it's easy to see why enterprise IT departments need to begin planning for the device now. Just as corporate IT staffs refused to accept the iPhone and iPad's impact, which led to the unprecedented BYOD revolution, businesses should embrace the new Apple device to assist its users in becoming more efficient and productive.
As Apple says, "All watches tell time. This one helps you make the most of it." By enabling subtle "tapping" notifications and discrete audio cues, users are alerted when receiving messages, calls, and email. Functionality doesn't end there, however. Users can also send messages, answer and reject calls, and read and flag email messages using the new device.
Don't underestimate the importance of such features. The ability to see who is calling, texting, or emailing while sitting in a meeting, stopped in standstill traffic, watching a movie, shopping for groceries, or performing many other common actions — without having to fumble for a phone — is more than helpful. This fact is especially true considering how often business users reach for a smartphone. It's also east to transfer Apple Watch calls to an iPhone, a Bluetooth headset, or a car's Bluetooth audio system.
The Apple Watch will impact business users in other ways, too. Apple's Passbook can keep users' airline tickets. With Apple Pay, users can also begin storing their credit and debit cards, making it possible for mobile users to pay for meals at such popular eateries as Panera, Subway, and McDonald's — or make purchases at some 220,000 other locations.
When you add in fitness tracking and the fact the device boasts a Retina display and the innovative new Digital Crown, which leverages a rotating knob (normally the crown on a traditional watch used to set time) to magnify display content or return to the home screen when pushed, it's clear the Apple Watch will become the next sought after gadget. Considering Apple's stunning track record for marrying devices to people's preferences, whether people have realized they possess the preference or not, this wearable is compelling. Don't bet against the Apple Watch, especially in business, because it's another win just waiting to happen.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.