Apple is far ahead with Watch and Airpods, which may have sold 3 million units since Black Friday. Google meanwhile acquired Fitbit to buttress its wearables play. Amazon and Microsoft launched wearables lines in the past quarter, and smaller players like Bose and Snap are planting seeds for a wearables future.
There’s an underlying driver for this activity that goes back to the perennial analyst exercise of “following the money.” This is all about extrapolating product roadmaps based on tech giants’ motivations. This is often to future-proof their core businesses or diversify revenue in the face of maturing products.
When looking at several interlocking tech trends — wearables, IoT, smart devices, autonomous vehicles — one common thread emerges: our escalating connectivity as humans. All these technologies are increasingly melded with our senses as the computing “abstraction layer” diminishes.
In other words, device interfaces continue to get more intuitive and automatic. That can be seen in the progression of personal computing from UI milestones like the mouse to mobile-centric touch controls. Now, we have biometric tracking on the Apple Watch and ambient alerts to AirPods.
The “connected consumer” will be Street Fight’s editorial focus for the month of December.
Recently, a number of high-profile tech firms have been uncovered permitting human employees to access private conversations consumers believed were only processed by AI.
Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa have all been placed in the limelight, and now Facebook has also come under fire for letting human employees access sensitive personal conversations for transcription purposes.
In the case of AI assistants, private conversations are primarily harvested from consumers who own and use their devices directly. However, there is an emerging body of evidence that these technologies are also harvesting secondary persons’ conversations — completely unknown to those individuals.
It will likely take a significant downturn in spending or overall economic well-being for Big Tech to feel some major financial pain. And while great for Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, that’s got to be concerning for industry watchdogs wondering whether these businesses are too entrenched in digital search, advertising, and commerce to be challenged—because the past year was not hot for Silicon Valley, and yet the presses keep printing dollars.