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Can Wearables Succeed in 2014?

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Evernote CEO Phil Libin is skeptical that the first wave of wearable technology can catch on.

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Recently, tech blogger and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Glass fanatic Robert Scoble gave 10 reasons why he believes Mountain View's head-mounted gadget will fail, citing reasons like a presumably high price point, dismal battery life, and a dearth of apps.

Although still in limited release, Google Glass represents one of the most high-profile products in the wearable technology arena, far more notable than officially released devices like smart watches by Pebble and Samsung (OTCMKTS:SSNLF), and the vast array of wristbands that monitor your workout. To give you an idea of the current and largely unremarkable state of wearable tech, the mere rumor of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) releasing an iWatch garners more press than the existing non-Google-Glass devices hung or strapped to your body.

So it's not surprising, even after a flood of wearable technology hit the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, that Evernote CEO Phil Libin remains skeptical that the first wave of wearables can succeed in 2014.

"The first generation is never successful. It does a few things really well, but it does a lot of things worse," Libin remarked in an interview with Quartz. "So my guess is 2014 is going to be this intermediate cycle when the hype dies down while people really work on it."

Libin has a point. Few can remember the prototypical smartphones that predate the iPhone; the original Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Surface tablets were duds; and anyone who assumed Nintendo's Virtual Boy would usher in the modern virtual reality age was sorely mistaken.

This early wave of wearables requires, the CEO believes, simple at-a-glance interfaces that can be quickly and routinely checked throughout the day. Compared to desktop computers, laptops, and smartphones, the sessions with these smaller devices will need to be only a couple seconds in length, and occur dozens, if not hundreds, of times per day. "So the [software] design challenge is how do you make experiences that are really short, where the sessions are glance-able?" Libin said.

However, the productivity app chief doesn't believe the answer lies in apps. Whereas the browser has become the main hub of information and function in desktop computing and apps are the essential tools in smartphones and tablets, wearables will need a new and unique approach to delivering the information users seek from those devices.

In the end, it all comes down to ease and affordability -- with a heavy dose of confidence, Libin adds.

"People confuse what it means to look cool," he said. "It doesn't have to do with the physical aesthetics. If you could be confident while using it, after a while it [will] look fine. If you're not confident, no matter how good it looks physically, you're going to look like a dork. So the technology has to get to a point where you're just much more confident. It's not there yet."

We'll just have to wait to see a study of how many first dates are scored while wearing Google Glass.

See also:

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Live From CES: Your Next Audi Will Be Obsolete in Two Years

International CES: Go West, Young Huawei
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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