TIME the big picture

How Intel’s Future Goes Way Beyond the PC

Intel Reports Quarterly Earnings
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images The Intel logo is displayed outside of the Intel headquarters on January 16, 2014 in Santa Clara, California.

The company is looking to diversify as the personal computer market shrinks

I spent most of last week alongside thousands of engineers at Intel’s annual Developer Forum, also known as IDF. The company used the San Francisco event to teach techies about its next-generation processors and other new technologies as it strives to move away from just making chips for personal computers and towards a more diverse set of industries.

Intel’s newest Core processors, codenamed Skylake, will be the most powerful and scaleable Intel has ever made. While the details remain under wraps for now, look for more information in early September when the annual IFA trade show begins in Berlin.

Meanwhile, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich’s IDF15 keynote focused on three areas:

  1. Beyond the Keyboard and Mouse Computing of the past relied on hardware devices like the keyboard and mouse. Intel believes computer interaction in the future will involve more of our voice, gestures, touch, sight control and beyond. Intel is designing its processors to take full advantage of these sense-based ways to communicate with and manipulate any device.
  2. Everything Will Be Smarter This is the Internet of Things — the idea that billions more devices will be connected to the Internet very soon. Intel’s designers use this concept as their mantra when creating any new processor. The company is working with partners and developers across industries to create connected devices for use in retail, transportation, medicine, defense and more.
  3. Computing As An Extension of Us Intel is increasingly focused on wearables, including fitness trackers, smartwatches, security bracelets and even fashion accessories. Some of Intel’s newest chips are designed for use in all types of wearables and other similar devices.

But in an interesting twist, Krzanich didn’t use his keynote to talk at length about Intel’s top-of-the-line processors. Instead, he focused primarily on Intel’s new products aimed at the burgeoning Internet of Things market. While Intel is best known for its PC chips, it also has a new processor called Quark that can power all types of non-PC gadgets. While the Quark CPU can be bought as a standalone chip, its real value comes when it’s at the center of a system-on-a-chip package called Edison. According to Intel, Edison features:

• A high-performance, dual-core CPU and single-core microcontroller
• Integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 support, 1GB DDR and 4 GB Flash memory
• 40 multiplexed GPIO interfaces with expansion board options

That’s all techie speak for a complete computing solution that can be packed into more complex non-PC devices, like robots, drones, and Internet of Things inventions. Indeed, Edison has become a big hit with the DIY “Maker Movement” crowd, as it lets inventors quickly prototype, test and tweak their creations. Intel’s move to support the Internet of Things and broader Maker Movement is critical to the company’s future. Demand for PCs is down, and while the company will continue making powerful processors for them as well as high-end servers, Intel needs to diversify to stay relevant and competitive.

To further bolster the company’s ties to DIYers, the company is teaming up with Shark Tank producer Mark Burnett to create a new show set to debut in 2016 called America’s Greatest Makers. Similar to Shark Tank, the show will feature makers and inventors putting their tech head to head for a $1 million prize.

Intel clearly wants people to see it as more than a PC company, and this year’s IDF reinforced the idea that Intel wants to play a bigger role in the next generation of maker innovations and connected devices. From what I saw at this year’s Developer Forum, Intel seems well on its way to a more diverse future.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc and has been with the company since 1981 where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

TIME the big picture

Why Laptop-Tablet Hybrids Aren’t the Future of Computers

US-IT-COMPUTING-MICROSOFT-SURFACE
Stan Honda—AFP/Getty Images Panos Panay, corporate vice president with Microsoft's Surface division, holds the new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 tablet computer during a press conference May 20, 2014 in New York.

PC makers want you to buy a 2-in-1

I’ve long used type of portable computer for work, starting with the early so-called “luggables” that weighed as much as 10 pounds. Portable computing technology has thankfully evolved since then, and PC vendors are now creating ultralight laptops with brilliant screens that last up to 12 hours on a single charge. When I hit the road today, I’m carrying a 12-inch MacBook, weighing in at a paltry two pounds and sporting a 10-hour battery.

While laptops got faster and lighter, the overall form factor has mostly remained in the realm of the “clamshell.” About 95% of all laptops sold today are of this design, which basically mimics a book (hence “notebook”).

But about four years ago, laptop makers finally took a detour, introducing something called 2-in-1s. These touchscreen-touting laptop-tablet hybrids, like Microsoft’s Surface lineup, let you pick whichever form factor best suits your needs for a given moment: Laptop mode for hardcore productivity, tablet mode for browsing the daily headlines.

2-in-1s were prompted by Apple’s introduction of the iPad and PC makers’ fear that tablets could one day replace laptops. Now all major PC vendors offer some form of a 2-in-1. And it was the 2-in-1 concept that drove Microsoft’s design for Windows 8, widely considered a flop that Microsoft’s just now replacing with Windows 10. Microsoft’s rush to publish a touchscreen-optimized version of Windows hurt the Windows brand, but the company has the chance to right its wrongs with Windows 10, which is more versatile and easy-to-use.

I’ve been testing the Lenovo Yoga and a Microsoft Surface Pro. Personally, I like the option of switching between tablet mode and laptop mode. But I question whether 2-in-1s are right for everybody. My Dell XPS 13 is a normal laptop with a touchscreen, and as a productivity tool, it works just fine — adding touchscreens to Windows laptops makes sense now thanks to Windows 10.

But our research shows computer buyers like businesspeople and students still want a traditional laptop, rather than a hybrid. They’re bringing tablets into their workplaces and schools in large numbers, but they’re not really asking for their laptops to be tablets, too.

Still, the PC industry believes 2-in-1s are the future of portable computing. That’s because PC makers have hit a wall with today’s desktops and laptops, with PC demand in negative territory and offering no sign of recovering. But if PC makers can convince consumers they need a 2-in-1, it could drive significant new sales.

I have my doubts this will ever happen. But it’s possible one company could be the catalyst: Apple. Rumors are flying the iPhone and iPad company will soon introduce a 12.9-inch tablet that, with a keyboard accessory, could be used either as a desktop or a laptop. Apple’s influence on the PC market is so great that if Apple endorsed the 2-in-1 idea in any way, it could validate the category as it did with MP3 players, smartphones and tablets beforehand. Either way, get ready for the PC industry to push 2-in-1s hard.

 

TIME the big picture

Why Windows 10 Is So Important for Microsoft’s Future

It's trying to correct the mistakes of Windows 8

Windows 8, Microsoft’s last major operating system, was based on flawed logic. Assuming users wanted to adopt its radical new touch-and-tile based interface, Microsoft made it the default option. A vocal number of Windows users hated it. While a tile-based interface may still be the future of Windows, to push that change on users so suddenly was a mistake, and it significantly hurt Microsoft from a competitive standpoint.

Microsoft’s effort to right those wrongs arrives this week with Wednesday’s launch of Windows 10 (the company skipped “Windows 9”). Windows 10 lets users easily restore the old Windows interface, while simultaneously gently nudging people to try the new style, too. I’ve been using a beta version of Windows 10 for some time, and it feels like a solid operating system. Over time, it will probably help Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella reach his goal of having 1 billion Windows-powered devices on the market by the next two-to-three years.

The biggest hurdle facing Nadella in reaching his goal, however, is convincing app developers to build native apps for Windows 10, which will run on desktops as well as tablets and phones. More software options tends to mean more users, after all. But there are only about 500,000 Windows 8 or 8.1 apps available today, compared to 1.3 million for Apple’s iOS and 1.4 million for the Google-owned Android. If Microsoft wants more software options for Windows devices, it has to convince developers Windows is worth their time.

The company took a big step in that direction last Spring, when it said it would offer tools that make it easier to turn web, iOS and Android apps into Windows 10 software. But it remains to be seen how many developers will actually take Microsoft up on the offer. Any amount of Windows development is a real investment in terms of time and money. To start working on Windows apps, developers must be convinced Windows is a growth market where they’ll see a worthwhile return on their investments.

There’s another challenge facing Microsoft and Windows 10, too: A PC market that stubbornly continues to decline. Recent estimates say personal computer sales shrunk about 10% last quarter, meaning they’ll see somewhere between -3% and -5% growth for the year. That means only about 290 million PCs will ship before January, with Microsoft rival Apple selling about 17 million of them. At the same time, Microsoft’s Windows Phone mobile platform has utterly failed to gain any traction in the handset marketplace, meaning it won’t help offset that dropoff in PC sales.

Still, Windows 10, with its shared interface among devices, is among Microsoft’s most crucial strategic moves. If Microsoft and its partners can ship at least 275 million PCs a year — along with mobile devices, Xbox One units and other devices running Windows 10 — it should be able to reach Nadella’s 1 Billion Devices goal by the end of 2019. And if that happens, Windows 10 could prove to be among the most important software Microsoft has ever released.

TIME the big picture

Why Apple’s Stock Slide Isn’t the Company’s Fault

Wall Street overestimated iPhone sales

For any other company, Apple’s quarterly earnings report Tuesday would have been great news: Revenue was up 33%, net profit was $10.7 billion, earnings per share hit $1.85 compared to $1.28 a year ago. Yet Apple’s stock is down about 4.5% in midday trading the next day. Why?

Wall Street analysts predicted Apple would sell about 48.7 million iPhones over the last three months, while Apple sold only (only!) 47.53 million. That discrepancy disappointed the financial world. Meanwhile, Apple sold 11.1 million iPads last quarter, compared to 13.2 million year-over-year. I suspect iPod sales declined too, though Apple no longer breaks out those figures.

But little of this was really Apple’s fault. Wall Street was too optimistic when it came to iPhone sales, failing to take into account the recent turmoil in China’s stock markets. Chinese markets were experiencing major disruptions throughout most of June, causing sales of premium goods to stall as Chinese buyers started being more careful with their money. China is now one of Apple’s most critical iPhone markets; the fact that Apple still grew sales there 112% last quarter is remarkable. Meanwhile, this past quarter is traditionally slow for iPhones, as shoppers await upcoming releases rather than pull the trigger on the currently available model.

Despite the below-expectations sales numbers, Apple CEO Tim Cook remains bullish on future iPhone sales. “There is still a lot of headroom for growth for the iPhone all over the world,” he said in an earnings call with analysts Tuesday. Cook also mentioned that Apple saw a record number of new iPhone users switching over from other platforms last quarter.

Apple is expected to unveil a new iPhone in early September. This won’t be a total overhaul like the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were, but it should have a faster processor, better screen and camera, and it will likely integrate the new touch features introduced on the Apple Watch. This will be good news for shoppers looking for a new phone later this year, and I suspect Apple will see another record holiday season thanks to the new phone and the Apple Watch.

Still, Apple is mum about how well the Apple Watch is selling. Apple did say it outsold the iPad during the first 9 weeks each device was on the market, which suggests Apple sold between 2.4 and 2.6 million Apple Watch units in that period. Other back-of-the-envelope math suggests the Apple Watch brought in slightly more than $1 billion in revenue for the quarter. Cook also pointed out a recent survey which suggested 97% of Apple Watch owners are satisfied with the device.

Interestingly, Tim Cook said the Apple Watch sold the best in June, which surprised me, as I would’ve expected the most sales to have taken place online at launch in April. This suggests the Apple Watch continues to gain momentum — but also keep in mind the Apple Watch will represent a very small portion of Apple’s total sales. The iPhone currently accounts for 67% of all Apple’s revenue, and that will only grow.

As I look over the entire spectrum of Apple’s earnings, which included adding $9.3 billion to its cash holdings that now total $202 billion, and its growth in PC market share with sales of 4.8 million Macs, it appears to me that Apple’s position in the market remains strong with a lot of growth still ahead.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc and has been with the company since 1981 where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

 

TIME the big picture

Here’s Why Glass Is Still Beating Sapphire

Apple Inc. Reveals Bigger-Screen iPhones Alongside Wearables
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images An attendee displays the new Apple Inc. iPhone 6, left, and iPhone 6 Plus for a photograph after a product announcement at Flint Center in Cupertino, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014.

Smartphone manufacturers are sticking with glass

Around this time last year, the tech world was buzzing around rumors that Apple’s new iPhone would have a screen made out of sapphire, a material considered tougher than typical glass. Apple invested over $500 million in an Arizona sapphire facility, ostensibly to produce the material for what became the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. But shortly thereafter it became clear that facility wouldn’t be able to produce the amount of sapphire Apple would need, and the whole endeavor was scrapped amid a legal battle with the Arizona supplier. Since then, Apple hasn’t shown much interest in using sapphire to cover entire iPhones, opting instead for the latest version of Corning’s Gorilla Glass.

A large company I can’t name recently asked me to re-examine sapphire’s use in mobile devices. From my preliminary research, it looks like glass will continue on as the de-facto standard for smartphones and tablets in the future, while sapphire may be used more often for wearable devices that need more durability — Apple uses sapphire in the two higher-end Apple Watch models, for instance.

That company wanted to know one thing: What do mobile users want in a screen they look at and touch over 100 times a day? To get an answer, I interviewed people who make the screens used in most smartphones, as well as big manufacturers who use the screens in their products. Unsurprisingly, the biggest companies continue to use Gorilla Glass in most of their products. The two global mobile device leaders, Apple and Samsung, use Gorilla Glass because of its improved strength, thinness, durability and cost effectiveness. I expected cost to be a big factor here, as it’s been estimated sapphire screens cost three times what Gorilla Glass does.

Still, Corning is well aware of the threat sapphire might pose. It’s working hard to address durability issues with its latest Gorilla Glass 4 and a new screen material expected to be out this year, currently called Project Phire, which Corning says will boast scratch resistance approaching that of sapphire displays.

Furthermore, in my research I’ve isolated three key questions the mobile industry must answer when thinking about the screens we’ll use on our devices of the future:

New Shapes and Sizes

Flexibility and adaptability are key. We’re already seeing devices like the Apple Watch shrink to the size of the wrist, signaling the beginning of a new wave of wearables. The materials that cover these devices need to adapt to new shapes and curves. We might even expect screens that flex or even fold. A crystal such as industrially-manufactured sapphire doesn’t bend, so it can’t be shaped or molded to a device design. It also isn’t very flexible, unlike a thin sheet of Gorilla Glass. In talking with some of the big players in mobile, I was surprised at how much they want bendable devices.

Clarity and longevity

Consumers want extraordinary picture clarity and brightness from their screens. But at the same time, they want longer battery life, too. These factors play against one another, as screen brightness is a major drain on battery life. From talking to some big manufacturers, they believe Gorilla Glass provides the clearest display on the market today — and the clearer a device, the less battery it burns up to provide a good brightness level.

Our research showed that consumers also want screens that improve reflectivity and allow for greater clarity in bright sunlight and outdoor environments. Consumers will also want thinner devices, screens that protects against germs and smudging, and even better picture performance.

Adaptability and Intelligence

Could the screens of the future be “taught” to do things? The next generation of displays will require surfaces to do new and different things, like being able to resist glare, dirt and germs. So the material has to be malleable enough that scientists can actually engineer new attributes and characteristics into the surface.

A year after all the hoopla about a sapphire iPhone, it seems that glass remains on track as the dominant screen surface. The makers of glass screens continue to innovate to provide the best possible experiences on our mobile devices.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc and has been with the company since 1981 where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

TIME the big picture

This Is Apple and Google’s Next Big Battleground

Inside The Google I/O Developers Conference
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Aparna Chennapragada, director of Google Now for Google Inc., speaks during the Google I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, May 28, 2015.

The war for better artificial intelligence is only just beginning

For most of my 35-year technology career, fights over operating systems have dominated the landscape. First, it was MS-DOS againt the original Apple II OS. Then it shifted to Microsoft’s Windows vs. the Mac OS. Today it’s between Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Google’s Android and Chrome OS. These wars have become ideological, with fanboys and devout followers in each camp.

But there’s another fight brewing, too — the battle over artificial intelligence, or AI.

At Google’s I/O event this year, the company announced Now On Tap. It’s a new version of Google Now, which uses context to make your smartphone more useful. The idea here is that if you get a text from a friend asking to meet at a certain place, Now On Tap is smart enough to put that event on your calendar, give you directions to the rendezvous and serve you up a menu. It might even show the best nearby parking areas as well as stores that could be of interest.

A few weeks later at WWDC 2015, Apple announced a new version of Siri, giving the company’s digital assistant better contextual AI and search. And in May, Microsoft used its developers’ conference to launch an updated version of Cortana, another AI-based personal assistant that can take questions and put them into context to deliver better answers.

The consumerization of AI is set to be the next major battle in mobile as Google, Apple, Microsoft and more duke it out to offer shoppers the smartest smartphones. This fight will drive differentiation between devices, especially in mobile, where hands-free use is often critical. In an excellent piece in Fast Company, author John Brownlee asks whether user interfaces or artificial intelligence will win the day:

The thing is, Google knew something we didn’t. It knew that Apple’s taste was a temporary advantage. It knew that designing a host of functional, universally integrated services was harder than designing pixels. And in the protracted thermonuclear war between Apple and Google, which first started when the search giant launched Android in 2008, Google knew that ultimately, it would be AI, not UI, that would win the war.

On a personal level, the AI-assisted mobile future can’t come fast enough. My days have become packed with meetings, research and writing, and I admit that I tend to miss the little things. For example, I often head to an offsite meeting thinking I know where I’m going, only to get halfway there before realizing I’m lost. Too many times I’ve had to pull over, check my email and ask Google Maps for the way to go.

You might think I’m just unorganized. While that may be partially true, the reality is that I simply have information overload, and that deeply impacts my overall efficiency. And I have to admit my memory banks are overloaded, too. An AI-based personal assistant that anticipates my needs is something I would certainly pay for, and I suspect others would as well. For many of us, this could be our killer app.

Smartphone vendors can still differentiate around operating systems, design, and user interfaces. But I agree with Brownlee in that contextual, AI-based services will be where the biggest players in mobile — Google, Apple and others — make their biggest investments over the next few years. Users will start demanding more context-based services within the next two years. If done right, they could be a game changer for mobile devices, and will make life easier to boot.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. and has been with the company since 1981 where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

TIME the big picture

How Taylor Swift Saved Apple Music

She was seeing red, now the bad blood's gone

When I awoke Sunday, I was greeted by multiple stories about Taylor Swift’s open letter to Apple and its CEO, Tim Cook. In the note, she took the company to task for its decision not to pay artists during an initial three-month free trial of Apple Music, the new streaming service Apple’s launching Tuesday.

Swift wrote:

I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.

The letter was polite and to the point. Swift felt it unfair for Apple to use artists, especially up-and-coming ones, to grow its new service without compensating them for it. The counterargument, meanwhile, holds that the free trial could bring lots of free publicity to those same lesser-heard artists. The flaw there, however, is that Apple was asking those artists to make a leap of faith in the hopes of more followers and money in the future — but many small artists live essentially paycheck to paycheck, and they can’t stomach a quarter of reduced payouts.

So in one of the most amazing changes of direction I’ve seen in my 35 years of watching Apple, Swift’s letter — and the public show of support it drummed up — got Apple to change its mind. Just hours after the note went up, Apple announced it would indeed be paying artists for their music during the free period, if at a reduced rate (other streaming services have similar practices).

You might think Swift’s Apple-shaming would be a public relations disaster for the company — and at first, this is how it was portrayed in the media. But in an ironic twist, Swift’s move was wonderful for Apple and its new music service.

Before Swift’s letter, only music and tech industry followers seemed truly aware of Apple Music’s imminent launch. To me, it was clear Apple would need to do lots of promotion to get significant numbers of users on board — die-hard Apple fans might have been good for as many as 15 million users off the bat, but not more than that. Because of Swift’s letter, millions more potential users are now aware of the service.

But Swift’s letter did something else for Apple, too.

At Fortune, fellow Apple-watcher Philip Elmer-Dewitt wrote that “the Taylor Swift effect continues to ripple across the music industry.” Elmer-Dewitt continued:

According to Billboard, two independent music umbrella groups—the digital rights organization Merlin and Martin Mills’ Beggars Group—have dropped their resistance to the new Apple Music streaming service set to begin next week. Merlin and Beggars are long-tail powerhouses. Merlin represents some 20,000 independent music labels and distributors. Beggars, which dates back to the young Rolling Stones, launched the careers of Adele, Jack White, M.I.A.

More artists who resisted putting their music on Apple Music are now changing their tune — thanks, in part, to Swift.

What Swift ultimately did is create a win-win scenario for herself, Apple, and all artists who now have a powerful outlet to showcase their musical talents. Most of Apple’s competitors have around 15 million paying customers. My firm is predicting Apple will have at least 60 million subscribers by the end of the year, as it can ride iTunes’ massive userbase and the iOS ecosystem to quickly amass a strong audience of listeners.

The result of Swift’s letter, then, is that when Apple Music service launches, it will have the richest library of available songs for potential subscribers to check out. And given Apple’s customer base, it could become the most successful streaming music service almost overnight.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. and has been with the company since 1981 where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

TIME the big picture

Here’s Why Fitness Trackers Are Here to Stay

Fitbit Inc. Chief Executive Officer James Park Interview
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images James Park, co-founder and chief executive officer of Fitbit Inc., speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 22, 2014.

Doctors and insurers love them

After Fitbit held an explosive IPO last week, some observers asked if the wearable health movement is sustainable, or just a flash in the pan. I’ve been studying the market for some time, and I believe most signs point to wearable health tracking having serious long-term potential. In 2014, 90 million of the devices were sold, and demand continues to be strong. The folks at eMedcert have collected some more interesting data points as well:

  • The annual smart wearable healthcare market volume will grow from $2 billion in 2014 to $41 billion in 2020, a compound annual growth rate of 65%. (CDW Healthcare)
  • Over 80% of consumers said an important benefit of wearable tech is its potential to make healthcare more convenient (PwC)
  • 68% of consumers would wear employer-provided wearables streaming anonymous data to an information pool in exchange for lower health insurance costs. (PwC)
  • The wearable band market grew by 684% on a worldwide basis in the first half of 2014 compared with the first half of 2013. (Canalys)
  • Today, 1 in 5 American’s own some type of wearable technology. (PwC)

When Fitbit, Jawbone and other health wearables came out, many viewed them as passing fads. But they struck a real chord not only with those who regularly exercise, but mainstream consumers too. In a recent New Yorker article by author and humorist David Sedaris, he chronicled his love/hate affair with his Fitbit. His tongue-in-cheek commentary chronicles his obsession with having to continue to beat his step record:

“I look back on the days I averaged only thirty thousand steps, and think, Honestly, how lazy can you get? When I hit thirty-five thousand steps a day, Fitbit sent me an e-badge, and then one for forty thousand, and forty-five thousand. Now I’m up to sixty thousand, which is twenty-five and a half miles. Walking that distance at the age of fifty-seven, with completely flat feet while lugging a heavy bag of garbage, takes close to nine hours—a big block of time, but hardly wasted.”

Perhaps the most important thing that Fitbit and other wearables have done is bring the importance of physical activity to the forefront. Using a Fitbit or similar device makes monitoring one’s health part of a lifestyle. My Apple Watch, for instance, has a feature that reminds me to stand up and walk around once an hour. Doing so is becoming second nature to me now, while in the past I would sit and write for hours on end, never even leaving my chair unless I had to use the restroom.

Dedicated health wearable devices that monitor your steps, calories burned and more have become cheap enough — under $100 in many cases — that many more people can now afford them. Smartwatches, meanwhile, are on track to become an even more important category, as they include health-monitoring features while adding more versatility to the overall wearables market. However, it will be the health industry that makes wearables go truly mainstream.

According to Orange Healthcare, 88% of physicians want patients to monitor their health parameters at home. Health insurers, meanwhile, are making wearable health monitoring a key tenet of their plans. As one HMO executive told me, it’s much cheaper to keep a person healthy then it is to make them better once ill. By 2018, 70% of healthcare organizations worldwide will invest in consumer-facing technology, an IDC Health Insights report found. And CDW Healthcare says wearable technology could drop hospital costs by as much as 16% over the course of five years, while remote patient monitoring technologies could save the healthcare system $200 billion over the next 25 years.

Lowering health care insurance premiums and cutting hospital costs will provide the real fuel for health wearables’ fire. Obamacare has put healthcare on the front page, insuring that people, at least in the U.S., will become more health conscience. And if health wearables are prescribed or recommended by people’s doctors or health insurers, more Americans will start using them. That’s why the health wearable tracking market is here to stay.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc and has been with the company since 1981 where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

TIME Apple

Why It’s Too Soon To Break Up With The Apple Watch

Toronto Blue Jay player Jose Bautista Tries On Apple Watch At The Apple Store Eaton Centre Toronto
George Pimentel—WireImage A detail view of the Apple Watch while Toronto Blue Jay player Jose Bautista Tries it on at the Eaton Centre Shopping Centre on April 14, 2015 in Toronto, Canada.

Big improvements are just around the corner

Over the past few weeks, several articles about people giving up on their Apple Watch have popped up across the web. The breakup reasons range from the users not finding the device compelling or useful enough to frustration with the Watch not living up to their expectations.

While I respect these writers’ decisions to give up on their Apple Watch, I do believe it’s a shortsighted move given the newness of the device and its ultimate potential. I believe the Watch quitters were more curious consumers rather than the diehard early adopters who tend to buy new devices without fail while awaiting new features and functionality over time.

The history of consumer tech shows that new products start with a “fundamental” device with a limited feature set that appeals to a small number of early, patient buyers. The original iPod was like this. When it first came out, it had a manual scroll wheel and offered only 5-10GB of storage. But for those who wanted a portable digital media player with more storage than many other devices on the market, it struck a chord. Also in this group of early buyers were the curious adopters, some of whom wound up feeling that the iPod didn’t have enough functions to make it worth their while. Some shoppers returned their iPod within a few days or weeks, and similar “why I returned my iPod” stories arose. But for those who kept their device, they were eventually rewarded with better software — and the iPod hardware only got better over time, too.

 

The same thing happened with Apple’s original iPhone. It too had minimal functionality as well as no App Store and little storage. We saw early adopters and curious adopters buy iPhones in good numbers, but again there were many stories about why some people “broke up” with their iPhone. Now, Apple is selling iPhones in record numbers.

You can expect history to repeat itself with the Apple Watch. For its newest device, Apple is using the same strategy it did with the iPod and iPhone — the first models had limited software and functionality, but their abilities were greatly expanded through updates in the software and hardware.

The real shift in the iPod came when Apple made serious improvements to iTunes and then opened the iPod up to the Windows crowd, too. The iPod ended up defining the market for mobile digital music players and has pretty much dominated that arena for over a decade. In a similar way, the iPhone got a big lift when Apple gave outside software developers the ability to write native apps for the device. That spurred a previously unseen level of software creativity, and helped launch the age of modern smartphones.

The Apple Watch is following the same path. The device we have now has to be seen as a new mobile platform that will only get better. Apple is about to upgrade the Watch’s software package this fall, and the developer community will soon be able to create tens of thousands of native apps for the Apple Watch.

Early adopters who understand this concept are bound to be rewarded once these new apps start populating the Apple Watch. Like the original iPod and iPhone, this product that has limited functionality today will get a new set of functions that have the potential to make it even better. Given this, it’s just too early to break up with the Apple Watch.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. and has been with the company since 1981 where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

TIME the big picture

How Silicon Valley Is Addressing the World’s Food Crisis

healthiest foods, health food, diet, nutrition, time.com stock, onions, red onions, vegetables
Danny Kim for TIME

Investors are pouring money into the field

Correction Applied Tuesday, June 9.

When you think of food, you probably don’t think of technology. However, technology has played a major role in the food world, whether it was taking farming from oxen-led plowing to tractor based harvesting to today’s discovery’s of natural pest controls to the controversial bioengineering of food. Technology, especially things like social networks and services like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Yelp, OpenTable and Table 8 has had a big impact on the food industry and there are thousands of food blogs covering just about any related topic one could think of.

This past week, there was a fascinating conference held at the San Francisco 49ers’ stadium called Bite Silicon Valley, organized by Octagon Culinary that discussed the intersection of food and technology. Various chefs and industry speakers on the program talked about the major issues facing the food industry and more importantly, the real concern over how, by 2050, we’ll be able to feed a planet of 9 billion people.

The conference was held in Silicon Valley because the food industry and tech industry have started to intersect and companies like Google and Yahoo have major research projects related to the future of food. Many Sand Hill Road venture capitalists have placed major bets on various food technology and services. As a couple of venture capitalists at the event told me, food-related start-ups fit into their sustainability portfolios, alongside solar, energy or electric cars because they have the potential to positively impact our world.

The goal of some of these VC investors is to connect restaurants with food providers, or to create on-demand delivery services from local farms, or ready-to-cook dinner kits. Other goals I have been told about are to invent new foods, like creating cheese, meat and egg substitutes from plants. One of the companies that venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, Bill Gates and Biz Stone have invested in is Beyond Meat. It was there giving tastings of its new plant-based Beast Burgers and beef crumbles. I tasted the Beast Burger and it’s one of the best plant-based burgers I have ever eaten. According to Tim Geistlinger, VP of research and development at the company, “the Beast Burger is not trying to be a meat substitute. It is designed to become a new type of protein-rich food product that does not use soy or have any GMO products in them but could be used as a meat substitute for the center of one’s plate.”

Beyond Meat believes there is a better way to feed the planet. Geistliner said that the “mission is to create mass-market solutions that perfectly replace animal protein with plant protein.” It is “also dedicated to improving human health, positively impacting climate change, conserving natural resources and respecting animal welfare.” This captures well the thinking of Bill Gates and other Valley tech investors who have identified with this vision.

Another company with similar goals is Impossible Foods. This company has raised $75 million from VCs so far and like Beyond Meat. Its quest is to create a plant-based meat substitute with high protein that could be used to feed people all over the world.

According to CB Insights, in 2012, VCs and others invested $350 million into food tech companies or projects, and that amount is rising about 37% every year. With all this Silicon Valley investment, especially in companies trying to create meat alternatives, it seems that this has become one of the tech world’s next holy grails.

The event included two days of tastings from local chefs and as a food event it was spectacular. But the event’s more noble purpose was to get the food and tech world talking about the serious issue of world hunger and the challenge of feeding the planet in the future.

One of the big messages that came from the conference is that there are significant environmental consequences and health issues associated with eating too much red meat, sodium or sugar and sugar substitutes, and while world hunger is a major problem, so is obesity in many places around the world. They had some great sessions about “What are we doing to enable to the planet to feed 9 billion people by 2050,” as well as sessions titled “the Challenge of Food Waste” and a “Renewed Debate about GMO’s.”

The keynote speaker at the event was Chef José Andrés, who TIME named to its 100 most influential people in 2012. Andrés has become an activist in the food industry to get folks who work in food to find ways to deal with the world hunger challenge. He has also put his money where his mouth is, investing in the World Central Kitchen. Its website states that “World Central Kitchen is hard at work ’empowering the people’ to be part of the solution – with focus on building ‘smart kitchens,’ training on clean cookstoves, creating jobs, and strengthening local business.” Andrés spends around six weeks a year devoted to these types of projects and said he came to this event to challenge Silicon Valley executives to join the food industry’s quest to deal with the massive issue of feeding a hungry world.

Andrés gets very animated and passionate when he talks about one serious problem he sees that he believes we must deal with immediately. He said that at least 3 billion people in the world still cook using stones and wood fires. The smoke from these fires causes all kinds of health issues including cancer, cataracts and asthma and impacts the women and children who do most of the cooking for the family’s daily meal. It also impacts the girls in the family who spend up to three hours a day gathering the wood or fuel for the fire, sometimes in hostile areas where many have been attacked. He has become a chief advocate for what he calls “clean cook-stoves” and has backed the use of solar stoves and less harmful fuels to be used in these villages and towns where people’s only form of cooking is fire and smoke.

I spoke with Andrés after his keynote and he told me that “he strongly believes in the power of food as a change agent” and he is devoted to making the food world a serious contributor to being a major part of providing a solution for these particular world problems. While Silicon Valley has some investments in this area, it needs to do more in the way of actual financing of new food tech companies and do extended research in this area with goals that are aligned with Andrés and others who understand the magnitude of this problem and how it will affect the worlds future. Silicon Valley is known for its exceptional problem solving skills and I certainly hope that the tech execs who heard Chef Andrés’ plea will join him and others in the food industry to help deal with this massive world problem.

Tim Bajarin is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists, covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. and has been with the company since 1981 where he has served as a consultant providing analysis to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry.

Correction: This article originally misstated the company behind the Beast Burger. It is Beyond Meat.

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