Fostering the Future

So let’s talk about the ability of the watch to be the center of a personal universe. Apple recently introduced the ability for their products to talk to one another using a technology they call “Continuity”, which is really a bundle of different types of communications that work together under this umbrella of “Continuity” to provide a seamless experience across devices.

Let’s imagine for a moment that a person is using phone, and moves to their computer. Continuity allows this person to pick up writing an email, for instance, in exactly the same place they were at on the phone. The same goes for other continuity-enabled apps. With the recent introduction of the Apple watch, however, I believe continuity has a much larger role to play in Apple’s future plans.

The Apple Watch (technically, WATCH) as introduced recently, requires an iPhone in order to function. As Ben Thompson and James Allworth discussed recently on their Exponent podcast, however, it doesn’t take much imagination to envision a product that does not require an iPhone to function. A stand-alone, wrist-worn computer that becomes the center of a person’s digital life. With intelligence provided by Siri, back-end functionality provided by iCloud, and Continuity-enabled interconnectivity, it becomes very easy to see how Apple can leverage its current and emerging technologies to great effect.

The scenario go something like this: a person is walking through town and receives a message. In the current state of things, the message is “received” on their iPhone, but displayed on both iPhone and watch due to the persistent connection between the two. currently, this connection is an explicit part of the watch’s functionality. Again, with very little imagination, it would not be hard to envision a version of this product displays the same message not because of an explicit connection between the two devices, but because the watch itself has its own suite of network connections. Once this version of the future becomes reality, we could also envision many of these interactions moving from the pocket device to the wrist device, with the input and interface facilitated by Siri. Then, in the event that a person would like to delve more deeply into a specific task, or if the task requires a different type of input/interface (writing a document comes to mind), they can seamlessly transition to another device with a different input/interface model using the continuity technologies that Apple has developed.

The “wrist-worn” computer then becomes a reality in a way that other companies simply haven’t been able to apprehend yet. Up to this point, the wearable category has largely been occupied by “companion” devices that serve as an auxiliary display for notifications and/or offer up limited functionality beyond being a window to a person’s primary computing device (the computer in their pocket). What Apple has developed, almost invisibly, is a device that they see as the future center of a person’s life.

Beyond being an incredible vision of the future, this new device category is going to enable people to be more human. I believe that Tim Cook envisions a future in which people are able to live their lives more fully through the assistive capabilities of wearable technology. Currently, communication and machine interaction is achieved despite interfaces that are abstract and opaque.

The future that Tim Cook’s Apple is fostering is one that allows us to be better humans because of it.