Google made quite a splash with its Project Glass video earlier this month. While Google’s vision of wearable computing still looks a bit like science fiction today, a new report by Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps argues that “in three years, wearables will matter to every product strategist” and that smart developers should start experimenting with applications for wearables on the “big five” platforms (Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook) today.
In Rotman Epps’ vision of wearable computing in the near future, one of these major platforms will have to back the concept for it to go mainstream.
Specifically, she notes that Apple, with its “polished marketing, channel, and brand,” could use its vast developer ecosystem to incubate many of these projects by giving even it’s more low-end products (like the iPod nano) support for more sensors, WiFi and Bluetooth.
Google, says Rotman Epps, could become a major player due to the open nature of its Android platform. Android, after all, is already being uses by basic wearable devices like the Sony SmartWatch and the Wimm One. She also warns, though, that Google’s “diffuse attention and lack of channel” will make it hard for the company to actually turn those ideas into products.
Microsoft, with its operating systems optimized for mobile and its Kinect sensor, as well as Amazon with its vast product catalog and Facebook with its rich social data could also play a major role in making wearable computing mainstream.
Indeed, Forrester’s analysts think wearables will follow a similar path to that of the smartphone market: In the first phase, Apple will create an early app and accessory ecosystem for wearable computing. Google’s open platform, however, will give developers more freedom and broader wearable experimentation. Microsoft, thanks to its recent shift toward open web standards, will then be able to offer something akin to an “anti-platform” platform for a future operating system for wearables that could be even more flexible than Apple’s and Google’s offerings.
In Forrester’s view, then, smart developers and product strategists should start to cultivate partnerships with apparel companies like Nike and Adidas now and those companies should also start to reach out to the developer community and the big five platforms.