updated 05:02 pm EDT, Sat April 13, 2013
Mentioned watches, Nest, other 'intimate' uses of technology
During a talk at his own company's HQ, Intuit chairman and Apple board member Bill Campbell made some remarks on what he saw as the future of personal technology, and indicated that he believed more technology would be added to "intimate" things, citing examples such as glasses, watches, and thermostats. Though he used Google's Glass prototype and the Nest thermostat as examples, he did also mention smart watches -- a project Apple has been rumored to be working on, with "fast follower" companies already leaping in.
The speculation formed part of a wide-ranging discussion with Intuit CEO Brand Smith, and Campbell also talked about management technique and making great products -- clearly influenced by his long relationship with Steve Jobs, reports Businessweek. Though (somewhat ironically) Mac users would be hard-pressed to name much that is great about Intuit from their perspective, the company under former football coach Campbell has maintained its leadership in business and accounting software for Windows for decades, a rare feat in the fast-moving software business. Before he joined and led Intuit, he founded Claris and was Apple's executive vice president for the US in the 1980s and 90s.
Campbell specifically referenced Jobs when talking about managers, saying that their role should be to act more as "editors" on worthy ideas and projects -- understand when to invest or divest resources on specific projects, and work closely with engineers and designers to bring worthy projects into fruition as the best they could be. He pointed to Jobs and Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey as examples of people who could be persuaded by good ideas and ride teams to make them into outstanding products, differentiating them from others in the market through their value to end-users and innovative approaches.
As part of his remarks on how technology would become more "intimate," Campbell referenced the cell phone -- one a simple utilitarian mobile phone, it has become the center of people's lives and in some cases their primary computing device -- capable of so much more than was possible before the iPhone revolutionized the industry. The current trend in hardware, as he sees it, is to apply the lessons learned from smartphones and tablets to other items, mentioning the Nest thermostat as an example (though he said he was surprised by Nest's early success). Google Glass, a head-mounted glasses-like wearable camera, communicator and display was cited as a "phenomenal breakthrough" that would usher in an era of more "wearable" computing devices.
Apple has been thought to be working on its own wearable device -- a "smart watch" that would act as a kind of front-end to some of the functions currently handled by the iPhone, starting with the familiar time-telling display but adding possible features such as an NFC chip to allow payments to be accomplished without taking the iPhone out of one's pocket; a built-in mic to allow Siri interaction; a proximity sensor to alert users when they have walked away from their iPhone and so forth. Following a speculative column by former Apple designer Bruce Tognazzini, every pundit and tech manufacturer miraculously announced either some inside information on "Apple's smartwatch" or that they had been developing their own version.
Several companies, most notably the startup Pebble, have in fact already brought smartwatches to market -- but thus far none have seen much mainstream enthusiasm, in part because they are not tied into any eco-system but their own. Undoubtedly we will some future devices from Apple and others that will act more as alternative interfaces to some of the duties we handle with smartphones today -- we already have running bands, sleep monitors and other devices that do specialized jobs like that for us -- but exactly what form they will take and where Apple falls in the wearable computing category remains to be seen.