Did the Next Mobile App Revolution Just Start?

The first mobile app revolution arrived with the iPhone App Store in 2008. Soon after, app stores from Google and others proliferated. Fast forward to the present, and the Apple WatchKit SDK has just arrived. If everything goes as planned, hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of apps will be ready when Apple Watch debuts in early 2015. But just how much opportunity does WatchKit offer I.T. entrepreneurs?

In case you missed the big picture, Apple Watch is a smartwatch that Apple unveiled in September, 2014. It's expected to ship in early Spring 2015, starting at $349.

Apple Watch Developer Opportunities

For most developers, WatchKit is an opportunity to extend your existing "alerting" systems to the wearable market. For example:

  • ESPN is writing a Watch app that offers real-time sports scores;

  • American Airlines' Watch app will display travel schedule alerts; and
  • Instagram's Watch app will offer alerts from its network.

In other words, most of the initial Watch apps are designed to pull you into a conversation or a content relationship. Instead of seeking out information, you get a digital nudge... an alert... an update that says "this just happened..." or "come look at this..." Apple calls those alerts "Glances" (read-only information) and "Actionable Notifications."

Apple Watch developers will need to balance the alerts vs. the annoyance factor -- too many endless alerts that (A) suddenly start to sound like white noise or (B) look like an overwhelming Twitter stream that you no longer care to track.

Avoid Shrinkage

Moreover, developers and startups will need to avoid the temptation to "shrink" existing websites, smartphone apps and tablet apps onto Apple Watch. As Apple has stated, the company did NOT shrink the existing iOS user interface onto the forthcoming watch. Instead, the watch has a completely new user interface.

So what does that mean for a company like After Nines Inc.? You certainly won't see our website "scaled down" to Apple Watch. But we've got assets like our daily enewsletter, blog and weekly podcast series. We've also got visitors who are jumping onto our site, interacting with our content and posting comments. It might be pretty nifty to "alert" our readers -- via Apple Watch Glances and Actionable Notifications -- each time a new activity occurs on the After Nines Inc. site or each time our latest podcast hits the iTunes store.

For now, those thoughts are merely a brainstorm. But Apple WatchKit SDK has arrived. And the actual Apple Watch device won't ship until early 2015 -- most folks are guessing sometime in early Spring. That means there's time for I.T. entrepreneurs to brainstorm new app use cases. And don't forget: Google Android Wear apps are also gaining momentum. 

For vertical market developers, Apple Watch, Android Wear and Microsoft Band could be particularly interesting in the health care market. Most wearable companies are striving to help users automatically gather and track their health data, vital stats and exercise results.

But even before the vertical push arrives, horizontal and general purpose Apple Watch apps will surely arrive. I'm not sure how much money developers will make directly from the apps. But the indirect benefits -- more stickiness between your business, content and customers -- could be huge.

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