Will Google Win the Smartwatch War?

Google Android Wear


by John Sealander  

Will the company with the best hardware win the smartwatch wars? Or will it be the company with the most data?

GoogleAlmost everybody agrees that wearable technology will be the next big thing. What is unclear at this point is who will come up with the winning formula for a successful smartwatch. Pundits and industry insiders could learn a lot by looking at what has happened to Blackberry. This popular platform actually incorporated very sophisticated technology when it was introduced. It was left behind in the dust however, when other manufacturers discovered that software was much more important to smartphone customers than the hardware.

Innovative, inexpensive and even free apps turned the modern smartphone into a versatile tool that could do virtually anything. Ten years later, the same thing could be happening with the emerging market for wearable technology. This time, it won’t be the apps that make the difference; it will be how effectively these apps will be able to access and utilize vast amounts of data.

A Data Goldmine

Who has access to the most data these days? One company stands head and shoulders above the rest is Google. Google has access to such an enormous amount of data that they already have the capacity to do things that other companies can’t. This is why when Google announced recently that it was exploring a new line of Android Wear, it caused a lot of speculation within the watch industry.

Imagine a watch with motion sensors and a microphone. It might figure out that you’re dancing and tell you what song is playing. A Google smartwatch could interface with your online calendar and not only remind you about upcoming events, it could also suggest what you might bring to the party, based on what stores are nearby. Google is all about putting data in context. Instead of a long list of Apple style apps, a Google smartwatch might continually track what you are doing and suggest an appropriate response, based on the context of your actions at the time.

Instead of traditional apps, a Google smartwatch will probably be based on a set of actions. This is what Google is already exploring with its innovative Google Glass wearable project. Using context based actions, you could quickly and easily use your watch for calling a cab, exploring a new city, finding nearby friends, or planning an alternate route to the airport. Google’s innovative creative team lives in a world where cyborgs are cool and talking to your gadgets is as normal as striking up a conversation with the person next to you. They want to go beyond technology and create a watch that becomes an extension of you.

Google in the Driver’s Seat?

Just as Apple understood what a new generation of customers wanted better than Blackberry, Google seems to understand what future generations are going to want better than most current technology companies.

The smartwatch wars have just begun and there won’t be a single winner. Companies as diverse as Sony, Apple, Motorola, Samsung, and even watchmaking giant Swatch, are all planning to introduce their own versions of wearable technology in the near future. Anything could happen at this point, but it would be unwise to count Google out. Google has something that other companies don’t. Google has all the data.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupGevril Group, watchmaker and wholesale watch distributor, is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury and Swiss watches and trendy fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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Hublot Chairman Accuses Apple of Stealing Watchmakers

Hublot Watchmakers


by John Sealander  

Will your next smartwatch say “Swiss made” on the dial?

When Jean-Claude Biver, the head of the Watches and Jewelry division of LVMH and the Chairman of luxury watch brand Hublot, accused Apple of trying to poach some of his best Hublot employees, it started a firestorm of speculation within the watch industry. What was Apple up to? It has long been anticipated that Apple will instantly become a major player in the burgeoning smartwatch category when it introduces its almost inevitable iWatch. Why was the company looking to Switzerland?

Although nobody knows when an iWatch will reach the market, almost everybody agrees that it is coming. With Apple’s design expertise and proven record at popularizing new technology, expectations for Apple’s upcoming smartwatch are high. The market clearly expects something spectacular from the Cupertino giant.

What the Swiss Have to Offer

While nobody expects Apple to include a tourbillon or a moon phase complication in its upcoming iWatch, there is still a lot that Swiss watch experts have to offer a potential smartwatch powerhouse. Watchmakers take metallurgy seriously. For hundreds of years, Swiss watchmakers have been experts at creating entirely new metals and alloys, just to solve a watchmaking problem.

Hublot Watch with Magic GoldOne of these high tech alloys is called Magic Gold, and it was developed by the very Hublot that Jean-Claude Biver says Apple was trying to raid. Magic Gold is a proprietary combination of ceramic and gold that Hublot has used to make watchcases virtually scratch proof. Is it just coincidence that Apple tried to license this special alloy for use in the iPhone 5 in 2013? Later that year, Apple released an all-new gold version of its popular phone and it is still looking for a way to make its cases scratchproof.

Some industry experts say that Apple may want their upcoming iWatch to say Swiss made on the dial. While this is a possibility, it is highly unlikely, since the company has always been extremely proud of its California roots. The term “Swiss made,” which has long been associated with high quality mechanical watches, would hold little value to a customer buying wearable technology. There are no springs and gears in a smartwatch and there never will be.

Swiss Expertise

What is more likely is that Apple is considering opening a new R&D facility in Switzerland. Steve Jobs was always fond of borrowing ideas from other disciplines and incorporating them in Apple designs. “Good artists copy. Great artists steal,” he said once, lending credence rumors that Apple actually is poaching talent from leading Swiss watchmakers.

It makes sense. The Swiss have been experts in manufacturing all sorts of things for hundreds of years. In Switzerland, Apple could recruit from an amazing pool of watchmaking talent. While Apple doesn’t need the Swiss to put a tourbillon in a smartwatch, they do need Swiss process engineering, ergonomics, metallurgy, and miniaturization expertise. Hiring the best talent they can find from well-respected companies like Hublot, might just give them the competitive edge they are looking for.

While it is fun to speculate whether your new iWatch will say “Swiss made” on the dial, the accusations of talent poaching do have serious implications. Watchmaking is a billion dollar industry and the market for wearable technology is potentially even larger. The Swiss should actually be happy that Apple is looking at them. If Apple hires a few watch experts from Hublot, it won’t hurt the industry. Instead, it will probably help. By acknowledging Swiss expertise, Apple is telling the world what watch aficionados have known all along: Swiss watchmakers are the best in the world at what they do.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupGevril Group, watchmaker and wholesale watch distributor, is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury and Swiss watches and trendy fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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The New Samsung Galaxy Gear Smart Watch

Samsung Galaxy Gear Smart Watch


by John Sealander  

Is Samsung’s Galaxy Gear Smart Watch
The Next Big Thing, or Just a Waste of Time?

SamsungWhen Samsung introduced the Galaxy Gear on September 5th, 2013, many industry pundits said the company’s innovative new smart watch signaled the beginning of a new era in wearable technology. At first glance, the Galaxy Gear certainly is impressive. The 2.6 ounce smart watch can make phone calls, surf the web, and even take picture with a built-in 1.9 megapixel camera. A built-in speaker and voice activated operation allows users to make hands free calls directly from their wrist.

Will Smart Watches Catch On?

The unanswered question is whether there is a market for devices like the Galaxy Gear. It is clear that many people think there is. Sony has already introduced a smart watch that syncs with Android phones and will soon introduce another smart watch that can be used as a second screen for its Xperia Z1 smart phone. Tech giant Qualcomm has developed a new connected wristwatch called the Toq. And startup Pebble is already taking orders for it’s innovative e-paper watch, funded entirely through the popular crowdsourcing site Kickstarter.

The Europeans have entered the smart watch arena as well, with the fashionable Italian designed I’m Watch. The latest entry into the smart watch race is automaker Nissan, who recently introduced their Nismo watch, which can capture the wearer’s biometric data and even monitor vehicle performance, at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the long rumored iWatch from Apple. All these new devices have the potential to revolutionize personal communications. Just imagine a device you could wear on your wrist that could establish your identity and eliminate the need for passcodes. Or how about paying for gas just by waving your watch at the pump? A smart watch could easily track your workouts and monitor your physical activity. Of course, all these innovative watches would also tell the time with near perfect accuracy.

How Will Smart Watches Affect Your Favorite Watch Brand?

Is all this innovation enough to motivate watch aficionados to abandon their favorite Fortis, Rolex and Versace timepieces? Probably not. Watches have become an important fashion accessory for both men and women and it is unlikely that technology will trump fashion any time soon. Since the market for fine timepieces continues to expand, it is very likely that there is a market for traditional timepieces and smart watches. The growing popularity of wristwatches as a fashion accessory will probably ensure that there is a market for Samsung’s new Galaxy Gear and a host of other innovative smart watches that will appear in the near future.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupGevril Group is the exclusive US representative for select European watch brands, distributing and servicing luxury, fashion and sports timepieces at a wide range of price points. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair department staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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Ron Johnson Out as JC Penney CEO

Ron Johnson


by John Sealander  

After Destroying a Venerable 110-year-old Retailer
In a Single Year, Ron Johnson Gets the Sack

JC PenneyWhat was Ron Johnson thinking? Given his impressive resume, many thought that “the wizard from Apple” was the perfect man to turn around 110-year-old retailer JC Penny and take the store into the 21st Century. Prior to assuming the CEO role at JC Penny, Johnson had certainly enjoyed his share of success. He presided over the highly successful Design Initiative at Target, featuring a reasonably priced home collection from well-known architect Michael Graves. Johnson’s success at Target led to an even more high profile position at Apple, where he oversaw a network of over 300 retail stores and pioneered innovations like the Apple Genius Bar, where customers could go to get hands-on technical support.

Where Johnsohn Failed

When Johnson became CEO of JC Penny in November of 2011, he began a bold initiative to apply his trademark retail magic to the faltering retail giant. Unfortunately, Ron Johnson made a fatal mistake. He didn’t understand the JC Penny customer. The 50-something female customers who regularly came to JC Penny to shop for sales and use their coupons were a far cry from the 25 to 34 year olds who flocked to Apple stores to buy electronic gear with some of the highest profit margins in the industry.

In an effort to reinvent JC Penny and attract this young, hip audience to the venerable mid-line department store, Johnson ended up disenfranchising his existing customer base in the process. He discontinued the long-standing J.C. Penney’s practice of holding frequent sales, which was the main reason his core audience shopped there in the first place. He tried to replace the retailer’s frequent promotional campaigns with a new “everyday low-price” strategy designed to simplify store operations.

All this might have worked if Johnson had been able to attract the younger audience that eagerly bought Michael Graves housewares at Target and iPhones at the Apple stores. These new customers never came, while loyal existing JC Penny customers continued to abandon the store in favor of other alternatives.

The Turnaround

Now it’s up to new CEO Mike Ullman to clean up the mess. Ullman spent seven years as JC Penny’s chairman and CEO until Ron Johnson replaced him. Is Ullman, who was unable to turn the retail giant around before, the right man for the job? Right now, he may be the only option available. “Unless the company acts now, it will soon hit a large cash problem, says industry analyst Paula Rosenblum. “Ullman can, at least, hit the ground running. Bottom line, he has to stop the bleeding.”

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupGevril Group is the exclusive US representative for select European watch brands, distributing and servicing luxury, fashion and sports timepieces at a wide range of price points. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair department staffed by master Swiss watchmakers.

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