The good news is, after years of having to be cajoled and convinced, it looks like the business world is finally capitalizing on smartphone apps. The bad news is that the rest of the world is already set to move on.
Consumers (including me!) have been waiting impatiently for the Apple Watch, which comes out today, and Apple’s website seems to indicate that only 42 apps will be available upon the new product’s release. Of those 42, only eight of them come from Fortune 500 companies — the rest of them either don’t have the necessary resources to create one for Apple’s first wearable or, much worse, fail to see the importance of the platform to their business goals.
Obstacles and Opportunity
There are a number of reasons why the percentage of Watch-ready companies is so small, some of them more valid than others. First among these problems is the somewhat problematic WatchKit development tool and the relatively short time programmers had to prepare a product before the iWatch’s April 24th release. The WatchKit was only released last November, and developers have loudly complained about some of its serious limitations.
But when something with this much potential to change consumer habits comes around, you have to get ahead of it. Many will brush off the Apple Watch as simply being an expensive extension to the iPhone, but it should be obvious that it’s much more than that. When any major shift in technology brings people closer to digital experiences that your brand could be taking part in — even if that shift only covers the distance between your pocket and your wrist — it represents a huge opportunity for profit and growth.
Leveraging the Watch’s Design and Position
Some people see a very limited potential for iWatch apps: VentureBeat’s Mark Sullivan argues, “Watch apps need to exploit the things that a wearable computer is uniquely designed and positioned to do. Anything less is just redundant.”
But the mere physical position of the Apple Watch gives it a designing potential that’s hardly narrow. Why not give customers the ability to call an Uber or buy plane tickets from their watch instead of their phone? Your brand can now live on a device that’s constantly available and almost always within customers’ line of sight, and the potential advantages of that closeness are anything but redundant.
New technology brings with it new opportunities to innovate. The country’s top developers will all be working to create an app that makes the most ingenious use of the new wearable platform, one that might end up more or less defining the Apple Watch itself. If you’re part of a top-tier business, there’s a very good chance that such an app could come from a competitor. It’s time for big brands to stop playing catch-up — and start playing to win.