Linus Pauling winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry (vitamin C) and Peace (no nukes) once said if you want to have good ideas, you have to have lots of ideas. Simply put he meant every idea wouldn’t be a home run but it is important to keep iterating. You can see Salesforce’s Wearables strategy following that curve as the company just announced a score of new apps for Apple Watch.
I am using the Pauling analogy because while the apps are certainly useful they don’t convey the sense of hitting the ball out of the park and the whole wearables revolution depends on finding the killer app. Or does it?
Killer apps were once easy to spot. For PC’s spreadsheets and word processing were the must have solutions that made boxes sell. Then graphics packages gave laptops a reason to exist. But look at the handheld device and you see something different. I don’t think the handheld has a killer app but it has a stable of them. For the first time, these devices are so personalized that they can be anything that a user wants them to be simply by downloading apps for pennies. Our phones and tablets reflect the way we live our lives.
It’s hard to contemplate something more personal than a phone and its apps but perhaps time will make it apparent how wearable computing takes us further. Certainly the suite of wearable apps that Salesforce announced today is a worthwhile contribution to the journey.
If the phone enabled us to automate our personal lives, it appears the vision for wearables is to further automate work but at a very personalized level and perhaps the form factor is just right too. After all, in our personal lives, we can dedicate as much time and effort as we want to tracking flights of angry birds through maps of exotic places we’ve photographed in different time zones while reading French newspapers and selecting tonight’s movie. You get the idea.
In our business lives just give us the facts (or data) ma’am, we can fill in the missing pieces so wearables are ideal. Salesforce’s passel of programs for Apple Watch all seem to do this in one way or another. Take the BetterWorks Wear app for instance. They say it’s designed to connect employees around common goals. That’s a perfect app for conveying the essential information to team members without cluttering up their days. If you need long form conversation you can always text or even dial the phone or send email.
Speaking of calls, the ContactWorld for Wearables app from NewVoiceMedia helps users triage incoming calls from the wrist without necessarily picking up. Perhaps you’re busy and can’t take a call right now but you’d make an exception if the caller was really important and not necessarily in love with you today. You’d want that call to see if you could turn the situation around. That’s personalizing your approach to business—doing the most you can with the limited resources at your disposal.
In ways like this wearables apps are enabling us to get incredibly fine grained about our personal relationships with our jobs and our customers. It’s what McAfee and Brynjolfsson we getting at in “The Second Machine Age.” Wearables are enabling us to filter the ocean of our personal-work lives so that we can more effectively use our limited time.
So perhaps the killer app for wearables isn’t a single app or even a constellation of them. It is an approach, a new paradigm, a good idea that bubbled up from all those earlier ideas we had that didn’t quite push the ball over the goal line. Linus would get it.
I wonder if a watch could change the world. The introduction of Apple Watch could be such a game changer but not in the way you might expect. A straight line analysis of the Watch’s importance might tell us to expect greater efficiencies in business with all the reminders it can deliver but let’s face it, reminders come at us all the time on our computers and phones.
Another device doing the same thing is not going to change the world by emulating older technology. That is the way of technology introductions though. First they do what older tools did, just better, faster, and cheaper but soon enough we all realize that old processes are not what the new device is for. Just as information is the addition of data to other data and information to produce some new insight, an accumulation of the newest technologies might offer a glimpse into the uncharted future.
I am thinking of the combination of the Watch and Apple Pay or any other payment service that uses the hardware for instant payments. That’s not enough though, I am also thinking about the European continent and specifically the self-inflicted economic malaise brought on by the euro and austerity budgets. This is complicated and I will try to be brief.
The euro is a currency without a nation, which has caused all sorts of problems. The greatest is that no user of the euro can do much to adjust naturally occurring differences from nation to nation such as GDP, inflation, productivity, and spending. This has placed a straight jacket on the member states of the European Union with some doing well, like Germany, while others suffer.
Southern European countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal, and especially Greece are having to run severely austere budgets that are crippling their economies and hurting a lot of people. For sure there is no common agreement on the root causes of the problem but my lying eyes and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman both tell me that the European experiment is going at least sideways because we can’t figure out the euro.
So what’s the Watch’s connection?
Simply this. The common currency was established to create a common trading area across Europe to facilitate exchange and trade and bring the nations closer together. It has too, though but at the price of austerity, which might be too much to bear.
But I suggest that a common currency to speed transactions by individuals and businesses is no longer needed. As the Euro has grown up, technology to effect transactions in any currency has matured to the point that today, you can pay in one currency such as the euro but still keep your wealth in another currency.
We see this all the time. You use your credit cards in any country and the back end computing apparatus does the conversions for your monthly statement. The Watch and Apple Pay can do the same thing with the result that you could pay your international debts in euros but still maintain a domestic currency.
Doing this would enable Eurozone countries to have their own currencies again and to let them float in the marketplace. Inflation is a big scary thing for many European countries like Germany and they’d want to hold it down. But countries like Greece, Italy, Spain and others could significantly benefit from having the ability to manage their own currencies again.
While it’s true that countries would be exposed to currency risk from other countries’ inflation, it would be limited to new purchases; old debts in euros would be unaffected and debtor nations would be on the hook to pay back the euros they borrowed by buying euros with their less valuable sovereign currencies. Thus a more natural control apparatus emerges.
It sounds complicated but the point is that we have the ability to reintroduce some of the benefits of national currencies while still preserving the euro and its trading area. Skeptics will say that paying for gum and a newspaper with something like Apple Pay isn’t going to solve the problem of business-to-business commerce but I disagree. Currency transformations already happen in those larger deals.
For instance, a French company buying British goods still has to convert euros to British Pounds at some point. That mechanism is alive and well. Introducing personal technology and services that enable individuals to manage their spending and conversions would provide the necessary stimulus to get many economies moving again. Of course the rub is that they’d need more hardware and software than many people currently have. But as a wise woman once told me, that would be a high-class problem.
I can’t be sure if Apple jumped the shark yesterday or not. Introducing the long awaited iPhone 6 and Watch wearable device made me do a lot of thinking. First the iPhone.
They obviously need some better naming conventions to describe the bigger and biggest iPhones and ideally the naming should come from the suitability the devices exhibit for particular purposes. Then again I’ll take anything besides “Plus.” “Plus” is not a naming decision or convention in the same way that black is not a color and no decision is not one. What’s next? Ultra? Titanium? Competitors would probably like unobtanium but I digress. The iPhones and iOS8 have many cool features and new capabilities that would make Dick Tracy swoon.
The larger “6 Plus” with its biggest HD screen might be a videographer’s tool kit, not powerful enough to replace anything but certainly what’s needed for a rough draft sketch of a video scene or news gathering at your favorite revolution. If it didn’t need charging it would be a great device to take on extended outdoor adventures.
I’ve been saying for some time now that wearable solar cells capable of charging our devices (or actually, just a general purpose Lithium battery) really have to become standards and Apple’s announcements tell me that the need for extended power supply will surface as a big thing soon if we’re to continue making these devices part of our lives.
Speaking of being part of our lives, am I the only person on the planet to notice the incongruity of a watch from the company that did the most to make conventional watches obsolete? I am still waiting for a good reason for wearable computing because I really, really don’t want you to know where I am all the time. Mom didn’t care as long as I was home when the streetlights went on and I think that’s a good heuristic.
I know, I know, it’s the new, new thing (Oh no, I’m saying everything twice!) and cool apps are coming. But the idea of a watch that will do so much to track daily physiological functions — exercise committed even while walking up a flight of stairs at work, for example — makes me think of all those people we used to see at shopping malls wearing tracksuits. Very quickly tracksuits got a bad name as they were repurposed to non-track activities by obviously non-athletes. The same is happening today with Spandex yoga pants or whatever they are for those of us who clearly do not work out.
At any rate, Apple needs to manage the Watch very carefully lest it become the track suit of technology and data encryption and security measures won’t do. Personally, I don’t think there is very much if any data that you can store on a wearable device (other than the video of that B&E you were in over the weekend just for kicks) that very many people would care about. Your steps, calories, weight aren’t going to show up on the black market anytime soon even if the wearables had a security paradigm called “screen door.” Any health related data that’s worth knowing needs wet chemistry and a blood sample and we ain’t there yet. So I am not saying that security isn’t important just that we might be just a tad over doing it. So tell me again, why do I need a wearable device?
As I re-read this I find it amazing that I am a seriously committed Apple user and I am being so skeptical of the latest announcements, but there it is. Let’s talk about Apple Pay for just a sec. How many payment systems does the world need and why do we need yet another? It would have been nice to see Apple decide to partner with some of the payment processors in a big announcement rather than produce another walled garden. But I guess that’s Apple’s DNA, do it yourself, depend on as few outsiders as possible. It was Steve Jobs’ DNA too. While I get all that there comes a time in every market when standards descend on us for the sake of ease of use and ubiquity. Apple is tres, tres late to this party and so it would not have hurt them a bit to play nice in somebody else’s sandbox.
Increasingly we’re seeing that it’s easy to make hardware and even software. The growth area in this market is services, which is partly the reason I think Apple Pay is coming out. Beyond that, if the Watch is not destined to become a latter day tracksuit it will be services and not apps that keep it relevant. The health-oriented apps will be most useful when connected to your doctor, personal trainer, coach, or other person that can help turn the collected data into knowledge that can be applied to improve our lives. Those services people won’t be automatically loyal to Apple or any device maker and for that reason, I suggest that Apple begin recruiting and certifying experts who can incorporate their devices into must have life sustaining or improvement programs.