John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

With New Smartwatch, Samsung Is Finally a First-Mover

samsung-galaxy-gear_sidewaysThe wearable computing war kicked off in earnest this week, and it was Samsung that fired the one of the first volleys.*

On Wednesday, the company unveiled its new, Android-powered, $299 Galaxy Gear smartwatch at the IFA consumer tech show in Berlin, becoming one of the first major consumer electronics manufacturer to bring such a device to market. That’s a major coup for the Korean company, and one that gives it a lead on rivals like Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Historically, Samsung has been a fast-follower of others into new markets. But in this case, it’s a first-mover, fielding one of the first consumer entries in a nascent wearables market. It’s got the jump on Google, whose Glass headset still hasn’t seen wide consumer release, and Apple, which is working on some sort of wearable device intended to be worn on the wrist.

But first-to-market doesn’t guarantee a lasting lead, and it remains to be seen how the Galaxy Gear will fare as that market draws more entries. Is its relatively limited functionality enough to win mainstream appeal? Or will it serve mostly to whet consumer appetites for potentially better-conceived wearable technology devices made by its rivals?

These are key questions. Because while there’s plenty of promise in the wearables market, it’s going to take a truly compelling product to tap into it. And, as Apple CEO Tim Cook observed at our D11 conference earlier this year, designing such a product is no easy task.

“There are lots of gadgets, wearables, in this space now,” Cook said, referring to Google Glass and the Pebble smartwatch. “…But there’s nothing that’s going to convince a kid who has never worn glasses or a band or a watch or whatever to wear one. Or at least I haven’t seen it. So I think there’s lots of things to solve in this space, but it’s an area where it’s ripe for exploration.”

*Yes, Sony debuted a smartwatch last year.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik