A few days ago we learned of HP’s latest foray into the wearables segment with a smart watch co-developed with fashion designer Michael Bastian. The watch will launch in the fall exclusively on U.S. shopping portal Gilt.com and looks to be a really classy addition to the increasingly busy smart watch market. This is not the first wearable from HP however, who could actually be described as one of the pioneers of wearable technology, releasing their first wearable device way back in 1977.
The new HP smart watch
It seems at the moment that pretty much every technology company and device manufacturer has launched, announced or unveiled a smart watch of some kind. This is not so surprising as the wearables space is considered by many to be a blue ocean of potential revenue. Between now and 2018, the wearables market is predicted to grow significantly, from approx 5.16 billion USD, to over 12 billion (data from statista.com). Market predictions are of course far from reliable, but clearly every man and his dog wants a piece of that market and is busy trying to grab a foothold right now.
It’s interesting to see that HP have taken a different approach compared to other traditional PC and device manufacturers like Samsung and Sony for example. They first went to Gilt.com, a successful and growing online fashion retailer who then enlisted the help of renowned fashion designer Michael Bastien. The role that HP plays is of course as the role of hardware manufacturer, and it looks like the overall design process, branding and product marketing will be headed by Gilt.com
As the geeks that we are, we will always have need for details and specifications, but in fact at this point we only know the basics. It looks pretty much like a sports watch, with a classic circular face that is waterproof and made of stainless steel. The face will be only 44mm wide (smaller than the Moto360), and there will be a range of straps available in plastic, leather and rubber.
Just from looking at the images provided by Gilt, we can see that the device has three flat, side mounted buttons, although at this stage we have no clear idea of what functions those buttons actually serve. One very important fact that we know for sure, is that the device will support both iOS and Android. This means that it is not taking advantage of Google’s Android Wear platform, which of course would not be compatible with Apple’s iOS. It will be interesting to see how the HP developed OS performs once it comes to market.
In terms of functionality it appears that the device will offer several core functions including weather, and date plus live reports of sports scores and stock prices as well as incoming messages from social networks plus SMS messages and e-mails. We can also safely assume that it will tell the time.
HP’s first wearable. The HP-01 calculator watch
The new HP smart watch actually looks great. We are already very excited about getting hold of one. However, you would be mistaken if you thought this was HP’s first attempt at a digital wearable product. In fact you have to go all the way back to 1977 to find the company’s wearable debut with the HP-01, a digital watch that combined time telling with a digital calculator. The HP-01 was code-named ‘cricket’ and in fact offered six interactive functions; time, alarm, timer/stopwatch, date/calendar, calculator and memory. It had 28 tiny keys and that could be operated by a small stylus that was built-in to the bracelet.
Unfortunately the HP-01 was not a success. In many ways it remains a testament to what happens when you design a product that is simply way ahead of its time. One of the key reasons for its lack of retail success was its bulky design. Despite the HP engineering team achieving incredible miniaturization, the HP-01 remained quite a large, heavy wrist watch.
The HP-01 is now considered a highly sought after collector’s item and can cost up to $750 USD to acquire today. It’s interesting also to note that the HP-01 was originally sold the device in 1977 through high-end jewelry stores, as will the HP smart watch of today. Will the HP smart watch go the same way as the HP-01? I have a feeling that this time, HP will have more success.