Wondering about innovation at Apple or Apple’s next big thing? According to Loup Venture’s Apple-watcher Gene Munster, it will be an augmented reality (AR) wearable device that he calls Apple Glasses. That’s a good guess based on the “Apple Watch” name. I prefer iGlasses for a variety of branding reasons.
Apple has been investing in AR with its development of the AR Kit and its acquisition of SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI), a German maker of eye-tracking glasses and systems.
After sales of the iPhone 8 are expected to peak in 2019, Apple needs “a next big thing” to shore up sales and profits. According to Mr. Munster, iPhone sales are expected to decline from 64% of Apple’s revenue in 2018 to 48% in 2022. If iGlasses give users the capabilities they have on their smart phones along with AR and other advanced benefits, it could not only make up the slack but also increase Apple’s share.
Why might Apple Glasses succeed when Google Glass failed?
Alphabet’s foray into the smart glasses market did not do so well. Why might Apple think that iGlasses will fare any better? There are many reasons Apple’s offering might be more successful.
- Pioneer. Pioneers that innovate sometimes fail because they are on the front end of a learning curve. Apple can benefit from what Google learned with Google Glass.
- Target audience. Many believe that Google went after the wrong initial target audience. The “tech nerd” end-user market is small relative to other segments such as the commercial market, which had a greater need, was more likely to pay an “innovator” price, and is less likely to be concerned about how “cool” glasses look.
- Timing. Google Glass might have been the right product at the wrong time. By 2020 when iGlasses are expected to be introduced, the AR segment will be bigger, more capable, and more mature than in was in 2013 when Google Glass hit the market.
- Phone capabilities. iGlasses are expected to give users the capabilities they have on their smartphones in addition to AR and other capabilities. If it is just an AR accessory and not an robotic appendage to the millennial body as the smart phone is, it is likely to have the success profile of the Apple Watch.
- Design. Glasses are a fashion accessory that people wear on their faces. Apple has the Jony Ive design “cred” for iGlasses to look good as well as give users the capabilities they need.
Apple may not have a better choice
Additionally, if you have been following Apple’s innovation post Steve Jobs, the company may not have a better opportunity to restore its innovator image. iGlasses need to do what the Apple Watch didn’t. If Apple can engineer the capabilities of a smartphone with AR in a smart-looking, sunglasses-style form factor, it could allay the fears and concerns the marketplace has about Apple while giving customers what they want.
What do customers want?
Buyers want everything for nothing. More realistically, customers want the ability to look at something in an Amazon/Whole Foods store, automatically buy and pay for it, and walk out without wasting time standing in line. In the same form factor, many want to make phone calls, verify their identities, take pictures, add AR to the photos, and share them. Some might want to walk into a doctor’s office, automatically check in, and transmit their patient histories and medication lists to the doctor’s computer without repeatedly filling in the same forms over and over again. Oh, and it would be great if these glasses could correct sight deficiencies, warn us about hazards, and enable us to “see” better in 360 degrees. The possibilities are endless – easy to think about, but not as easy to implement. I can’t wait for my iGlasses. How about you?