When looking at the new Apple Watch the first thing that comes to mind is, “I still don’t want a watch”. The second thing that comes to mind is, “This is a game changer”. To be clear I have zero interest in owning a new Apple Watch, but I do believe the watch foretells what is to come in the IT world.
When you look at a smart watch or device it is easy to simply see it as the product that it is. It is a watch that does XY and Z. No more, and no less. As tech professionals we need to look at what the pure embodiment of the device is, and how it relates to the wider tech industry.
You see a watch that plays music, tracks your heart beat, and allows you to place calls. I see a computer the size of a key fob that packs a dual core processor, 8GB of storage, GPS and GLONASS tracking, WiFi, Bluetooth and LTE stacks along with an 18 hour battery life. This is a computer that allows for hand interaction, voice control, and sensor input with a screen that has a modicum of utility. This is a full fledged always connected computer that you can wear easily.
I want you to think about the Apple Watch as a computer, and how it relates to the future if IT. How do you swap a hard drive on a watch? How do you do a wipe and reload on a watch? What is the tuneup and maintenance of a watch? What are the DNS, DHCP and Default Gateway settings for a watch? Now think about all the ways that watch could be modified to perform useful functions in the real world outside of being a wearable. HVAC control, Appliance controls, Car controls, Entertainment system systems, drones, the list goes on.
The future of IT is not in the maintenance of the individual compute units, rather in tying those units together into a system that does something useful. The future is in educating end users in the appropriate product and services to use since the products themselves are rather intuitive. The future is in building the cloud based infrastructure so that these tiny computers are able to provide information that is useful and can be acted upon by the end user.
It’s easy to dismiss the Apple Watch as yet another crappy gadget. What I want you to realize that this is a product that is now shipping. A teeny tiny computer that frankly can do a lot of what people want computers to do, and it can’t be readily repaired nor does it need any kind of standard maintenance. My generation of techs were called on to bring the world online. This generation of techs needs to figure out what the systems need to do once they’re there.
If I was going back into the consulting world I’d be thinking of how to sell packages of Apple Watches to places like nursing homes. Let adult children track their aging parents to make sure that they are moving enough, and that nursing home employees don’t just let them sit in one place all day. Sell them to startup companies that care about employee “collisions”. Let the watches track who employees interact with and how long to be able to visualize the non digital communication of employees. Use watches to track field technicians to make sure they’re going where they say they are and spending the amount of time they report. SmartPhones are large, and there’s a intimacy with them. Giving someone another smartphone to carry around is seen as a hinderance. A watch is small, relatively inexpensive, and reasonably durable. Once a person straps it on they’re not going to accidentally leave it somewhere, an they’re not going to have slippery fingers and destroy it from a drop.
As I’ve said many times before. Tech professionals that focus on solving problems with the equipment available will do well for years to come. The folks who want to be “professional computer repair techs” are screwed.