The Apple Watch has landed. Today's the day that fans of Apple products sit on their front porch waiting for the UPS truck to drive up with delivery of another bit of technology from Cupertino.
But there's a larger story here. The arrival of Apple on the wearable-tech scene is just the latest in a long-term trend. Yes, we're currently in the era of wrist tech, including other watches including Pebble and the variety of Android Wear items, and fitness bands including the Microsoft Band and various FitBits and the like.
Consider where the computer industry started. Giant mainframe computers attached to terminals. Over the years, the technology industry has been migrating from large to small, and from centralized resources to a smaller collection of satellites. I'm not sure how far you'd have to go back in time to find an era where the processing power of the Apple Watch would be equal to that of an average PC, but it's probably a lot more recent than you'd think. (Apple's new Intel Core M-based, USB-C-bearing MacBook is only slightly faster than the iPad Air 2.)
Everything in our world is getting smaller and faster, and that's led to the creation of a constellation of mobile devices that surround us. The PC was once the center of our tech universe, but now it's just another satellite--albeit the biggest and most powerful of all the satellites. (In solar system terms, it's Ganymede.)
Think of the transitions the tech industry has made over the last 40 years, and the ramifications they've had just for the business world. In the '70s all tech was enterprise tech, enormous computers with huge price tags, sold by sales teams to corporate comptrollers who probably had no idea whether the stuff would actually help their businesses or not.
Then came the PC, and not only did computer technology invade our homes, it showed up on the desks of workers. Now it was the turn of small businesses to not have any idea whether adding a PC would actually help them out. (My father bought an expensive business package for his business, and I spent the better part of a summer doing data entry to get all of his customer records inputted. In the end, the system never really worked, and he went back to paper-based records. I get the feeling that happened an awful lot in the '80s.)
Anyway, when there were computers on every desk, suddenly corporate IT was no longer the care and feeding of mainframes and super-powerful workstations. Now it was about desktop support. The explosion of laptops in the early '90s added yet another set of complications, including remote communication and the need to secure data on devices that anyone could literally walk away with.
Of course, the smartphone (and tablet) revolution has transformed information technology for consumers and businesses alike. The entire bring-your-own-device trend has caused new platforms to rise in popularity, creating new challenges for support. It's also brought about a mingling of personal and business data on devices at an unprecedented level. And of course, there are the social issues, including a dramatic erosion in the walls between business time and personal time.
It's great that we all have supercomputers in our pockets these days, but things are complicated.
Now, just as we're starting to get a grip on how this world of smartphones and tablets behaves, here come the wearables. I have to assume that this new collection of products will bring about similar issues for people, businesses, and our society as a whole. Whether it's a smartwatch on your wrist, a wireless audio bud in your ear, a heads-up display in front of your eye, or some other yet-to-be-popularized innovation, there will be consequences. Some will be positive, some will be negative, but having personal Internet-connected stuff all over our bodies is certainly going to change how we interact in both our business and personal lives.
Will the Apple Watch itself become a huge success, a point-and-laugh footnote, or somewhere in between? I really have no idea. Unlike so many of Apple's recent product successes, it's not the kind of product you can pick up for thirty minutes and then understand why people will love it. It's an ambitious product that may have benefited from having more focus and fewer features.
But whether or not the Apple Watch succeeds, it just seems natural that wearable technology will change our world. And, once again, we'll all have to adapt.