Fossil makes wristwatches, a risky game in a world where everyone carries a phone that tells them the time. Hence the arrival of the MetaWatch—a digitally connected, wrist-mounted life companion...and a trick to protect the watch's future.
Do you wear a wristwatch? I haven't sported one for about nine years, and the generation beneath mine is abandoning them in droves. Why would they wear one? Their phone, smart or dumb, is a portal to friends via calls, IMs and SMSs. And it also delivers a few glowing numbers in one corner that reminds them of the time every time they haul the little slab of plastic out of a pocket. Fossil's own stats showed an over 18% sales decline in 2006. Other brands have also seen sales tumble, and the situation has only worsened since then. The watch has been supplanted.
Which is why Fossil is trying to drive innovation of the post-watch wristwatch, which has to take on some of the interactive, informational added-value of our increasingly digital world. According to the company, it's a "revolution on your wrist" that's "open," "simple," and "connected."
But what it actually is is a Bluetooth-connected wrist computer with a simple screen—a development of an earlier "connected watch" concept that Fossil's been developing for a number of years. It has at its core Texas Instrument's CC2560 Bluetooth system, which is enabled for full information interchange with smartphones and tablets—with enough power to tackle email, social network updates and other data like weather. It's a light system, with apps running on the connected mobile device and mere graphical updates appearing on the phone's screen so there's not too much of a hit on the battery life (which already suffers thanks to the Bluetooth wireless connectivity). To kick-start the project, which Fossil is branding as a "development platform" as much as anything else, there's an SDK for smartphone interoperability—which does rely on app writers getting on board.
The devices, which are in different styles including a fully digital one, and an analog/digital mix, are due in a few months and will cost a reasonable-sounding $200.
The question really is, though, can this idea save the wristwatch? In some senses there's an instantly pleasing notion that to see if you've had an important email or tweet you simply have to glance at your wrist, rather than fishing your smartphone out of a pocket or bag. It could add back time to your life...preventing obsessive phone-checking. Or it could be a disaster—giving users a quick-glance way to access their digital life far more than they would have beforehand.
There are other systems out there that are similar, but they don't have the might or designer brand "oomph" of Fossil behind them. But by glancing at some of the tricks used on the InPulse watch, we can see perhaps how Fossil will make this system work. With Android, BlackBerry and HP's phone systems potentially as partners, it does look promising.
[Image via Flickr user magnoid]