Opinion – are smartwatches such as the Apple Inc. (AAPL) iWatch too familiar to be exciting?

Familiarity, it is sometimes said, breeds contempt, and while this may be untrue in many cases, it can be argued that technological items people are accustomed to lack the excitement and sense of wonder that strange new inventions provoke. Apple Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) smartwatch, the iWatch, is allegedly due for a retail release sometime this autumn. Analysts are enthusiastic, going so far as to suggest its success will challenge that of the iPad, with tens of millions of first-year sales.

Smartwatches have existed for some time now, however, released by Apple’s competitors such as Samsung. Though they are purchased, worn, and found useful by people around the globe, their success has been modest and they generate little enthusiasm.

SmartwatchThe truth of the matter is that the wristwatch is an extremely familiar form factor on our planet, and has been for generations. When the iPod first appeared, it was something fresh and straight out of science fiction, a handheld music player capable of holding thousands of songs in its memory. The first smartphones had the “wow factor” of seeming like high-tech communicators that extrasolar explorers might make use of to call their orbiting spacecraft. Tablet computers have the imagination-grabbing look of a detached computer screen that actually works as a fully operational device, thanks to the miracle of touchscreens.

The smartwatch, on the other hand, remains a wristwatch. Regardless of how functional it is, regardless of what tricks are crammed into its tiny case, it is a very familiar object, and not a sudden leap into the imagined realm of intergalactic merchants, adventurers, and warriors. The science fiction element has already been claimed for many years by sport and military watches, bristling with functions, miniaturized compasses, environmental readings, and so on.

No doubt the iWatch will sell. In fact, it will probably sell better than many of its competitors, thanks to Apple’s (AAPL) reputation for quality, aesthetic superiority, and large population of dedicated fans. The Cupertino company will need to work very hard indeed, though, to make the form factor seem fresh and exciting enough to produce sales at the level some of the more enthusiastic analysts are predicting.

Though the iWatch would not be the first “dark horse” to issue from Apple’s doors, a muted response to its creation seems more likely than a game-changing tide of sales. It is, after all, in the last analysis, just another wristwatch.