Thursday, May 19, 2011

Metawatch and the "Open Watch Platform" concept: An Open Letter.

I recently sent this message to the Metawatch people:

I am apparently one of the dinosaurs that has chosen to continue wearing a watch. The watches that I have worn in the past are a Casio Pathfinder and Pulsar PQ2001, and I am currently wearing a Pulsar PBL047 watch.

I chose these watches because of their metal construction. Athough I like their looks and construction, I am unhappy that I am unable to interact with them in a way that I can interact with my other digital devices. This is where I became interested in interactive wrist devices. I've used ThinkGeek's watch section as a barometer for the technological progress of watches and wrist devices over the years, and I have been eagerly awaiting a device that will allow me to interact with it in a more immersive fashion.

I have some questions about the actual Metawatch device. It appears that the current product line of Metawatches has taken the "Model T" approach to hardware.

You can have any color, as long as it's black (with a black leather wristband).

As I am a person who has worn tungsten or stainless steel watches for years, I am very hesitant to go back to a watch with a leather band. I am incredibly thankful that you plan on distributing your SDK along with the watches. However, I feel like I'm in the dark as far as your hardware is concerned. What is the platform roadmap? Is this the first watch in a long line of compatible watches, or a one-off watch that is doomed to obscurity? Are you planning on being the only manufacturer of Metawatch capable devices? Do you plan on making the watch customization and hardware-hacker friendly? At this point, all I'm looking for is a stainless steel band, but I assume that other hackers might want to add custom etching, LEDs, sensors, or other stuff. I'd like to compare this project to SonyEricsson's LiveView. I think that Sony tried to make an open(-ish) system, but after a few negative reviews and a level of market penetration that was not satisfactory to them, I think they wrote it off as a mistake instead of embracing its development as a revolutionary device. It's hard to get behind a device that I feel could be killed in one fell swoop by a single manufacturer. It's one of the reasons that Android continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Given the recently announced Open Accessories initiative, the hardware designed to interact with it is poised to make similar advances.

Being related to Fossil, I'm going to assume that you have a long history in the watch industry. However, you may have a slightly more limited history in reaching out to developers. Many brands attempt to cultivate their own development networks which contain the lion's share of the development information, such as HP or Motorola. Often these sites will contain more than just info about the SDK, but also information about application development, testing, and publishing. Usually information about obtaining development hardware is here as well, if there are any programs other than paying full price through normal retail channels. Sony's Device Loaner Program, Google's Android Dev Phones, HP's developer device program, and LG's Virtual Developer Lab are examples of development programs that encourage developers to obtain/use their devices. Another method is "device seeding" (giving free devices to developers to encourage development on said device), which you are probably familiar with since you attended Google I/O this year. What does Metawatch plan to do to encourage its development community?

Metawatch, you have the ability to be a pace-setter in getting tech-types to put watches back on their wrists. You can be the Google of watches and open everything up, bringing innovation and profits to all. It's your choice. I'm rooting for you.

I'll keep you posted about any replies that I receive.