I just don’t get wearable tech. At least not yet.

Call a sign of growing old. Call it a sign of a growing curmudgeonly nature. Call it what you will—I don’t understand this push for so-called wearable technology. What I’m really saying is, I don’t understand the value that this will add. How will it be sufficiently better than what tablets and smartphones can give us, and how will it be better enough to make us want to add it to our repertoire of devices? Especially when these super-powerful and super-portable devices already cost us quite enough time and capital.

The spate of media coverage of the CES show that I saw today on MacRumors.com — having been largely unaware that it was happening at all — got me thinking about this. Obviously the push toward this wearable paradigm is nothing new; the aforementioned Mac rumors site has a whole section on the much-rumored iWatch. But I’ve still got some questions about it.

One reason I’ve always liked Apple products is that they integrate a lot of features and abilities, and then get out of your way, allowing you to get on with your life. Sometimes you do need to be able to more deeply interact, but the vast majority of people do not. That’s the value-add of Apple products. Especially if you’re in the ”Apple ecosystem,” everything works quite nicely together. That means you don’t mind the lock-in to the Apple ecosystem and the constraints of DRM and higher price tags that come with it. As someone who bleeds in six colors, it’s hard to object to that. (He says as he dictates to his iPhone…)

Come to think of it, a smart watch with voice recognition capability that is able to sync with the free* services I do use maybe helpful. But I still have to be convinced. Again, what is the value in adding another expensive toy that may break or be lost?

This goes to show that I am not in the bleeding edge 1% of technological adopters. But as a Mac user since 1987, I’ve hardly been one at all. Let me think back to the wide plethora of games and entertainment titles we had on the Mac in the 1990s… Yeah. Not so much. (Note that at least one person apparently disagrees with that. And admittedly, things did start to get better after Marathon. If you’ve never heard of it, a company called Bungie created Marathon. It was descended from Pathways Into Darkness, and was the progenitor of a little game called Halo.)

So, technologists, what is the value-add? That’s what I would like to know.

* Mostly free, anyhow. What’s truly free? Aye, little, if anything. Google makes kajillions off of advertising. Microsoft made theirs out of licensing and buying (and copying) other people’s ideas. Apple found success in hardware that was inexorably linked to its software. Et cetera and so on. Linux is more mostly free than any other system, but even the hardware it runs on costs something, even if it has free BIOS and bootloaders and runs a truly free GNU/Linux. It’s a bitter cycle.


Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.