Archos just dropped a huge smattering of CES news in advance of the huge annual tech show, which kicks off next week in Las Vegas. Among the various announcements, tucked away near the bottom, is the revelation that it will be introducing a “selection of smartwatches” for 2014, which will start at under £50 (roughtly $82 U.S.).
Archos doesn’t go into much detail about its smartwatches, saying only that they’ll have a “pebble-like” design and will work with both Android and iOS smartphones and tablets. The “pebble-like” seems like a blatant shot across the bow of Pebble, the Kickstarter-backed hardware startup that began building smartwatches under that name this past year, though it’s probably meant on the surface to indicate the things will look somewhat like rocks.
The Pebble is arguably the current leader in the smartwatch space, having sold somewhere around 300,000 units to date according to the latest official figures released by the company. Archos, the French company behind a line of moderately successful media players, and subsequently many Android-based tablets and gaming gadgets of questionable quality, looks to be trying to exploit the opportunity exposed by newcomer Pebble with cheaper devices in a range of options to suit the needs of various consumers.
Archos is targeting “simplicity and function” with its smartwatch designs, the company says, which could actually seem to be at cross-purposes. Maybe they’ll have some feature heavy designs, more like the Samsung Galaxy Gear, and some that are essentially just streamlined data delivery devices, more like the Pebble itself. Either way, I highly doubt Archos will find a red-hot seller in any smartwatch design – but that doesn’t mean it can’t meddle with the grand plans of Pebble and other startups.
Pebble is currently running a lot of sales and promotions, and giving away a good number of devices. This means that either A) it’s finding interest is dropping off after initial demand has been satisfied; or B) it’s gearing up to release second-generation hardware. Regardless, I still think we’ve yet to see any proof that watch-based computing is something that’s feasible as a mainstream device, and entrants from Archos are unlikely to provide said evidence.