The Apple Watch’s future depends on how it inspires app developers

Your app here.
Your app here.
Image: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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There’s a new billion-dollar opportunity: Create the app that makes the new Apple Watch—or any smartwatch—a must-have tool instead of an expensive accessory.

Apple today unveiled its new watch, which will go on sale next year. It looks fine, if disappointingly familiar—like a watch. And while it’s clear that Apple has been thoughtful about how people will use its watch, there’s still a lot that’s missing.

In its presentation, Apple demonstrated a few now-standard smartwatch capabilities, like fitness tracking and text messaging. And it gave a brief overview of some third-party ideas, like accessing American Airlines flight information. That’s fine for the demo, but these are the sorts of things that people are already doing successfully every day with their phones. In that sense, watching today’s event felt a little like using a computer without internet access—promising, but not there yet.

Yet you could say the same thing about the iPhone before the App Store launched and matured to where it is now. There was a camera, but no Instagram. There was a GPS chip, but it took a few years to invent Uber. Platforms simply take time to develop.

(Future improvements one might expect for the Apple Watch hardware, so that it’s slimmer and doesn’t need to be paired with an iPhone, for example, will surely help too.)

Given how Apple rolled out the Watch today, it clearly sees the wearable market as more than a hobby. CEO Tim Cook called it ”the next chapter in Apple’s story.” And there’s surely something compelling about a computer that’s not just in someone’s pocket all day, but on their wrist. Now that future just needs to be invented.