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A Brief Look Back Before Smartwatches Go Mainstream

6 Mar 2015 by Shay Moser

Since the first personal computers emerged in early 1940s, the PC business and computer technology have evolved rapidly. There have been a few exceptions to this pace of change, and the question of the moment is whether wearables, and smartwatches in particular, will be one of them. First, a little context.

The first massive, bulky computer that emerged in the 1940s depended on a group of people to keep it working. By the 1960s, computers were becoming smaller or more powerful. In the 1970s, the first PC was on sale for a whopping $750 at the time. Computer advances—from relying on only one operator and more memory to impressive graphics and portability—continued through the 1990s. Mobile phones had a bit of a head start, on the other hand.

“Insight’s CIO Mike Guggemos looks ahead to how the Apple smartwatch and similar technologies may get incorporated into business and talks about the considerations CIOs are making.”

Starting on the front lines of World War I, field telephones were used by the military. But it took another couple of decades for personal mobile phones to hit the market. You can see the evolution of mobile phones in pictures in this Washington Post article.

Compared to the relatively quick adoption of PCs and early mobile phones, it sure took a while for smartphones to come along, as the first versions of smartphones or PDAs required syncing with computers. But once smartphones did marry computers, they started small and have only gotten bigger. That is, until now.

So here’s the $1 billion question: Will wearables—particularly the smartwatches we’ve been hearing about for months—be adopted quickly or slowly? Research firm Strategy Analytics forecasts the Apple Watch will ignite the wearables market.

Then again, Kickstarter’s most-funded project ever—Pebble’s Time smartwatch—at more than $13.3 million, may have beat Apple to it.

We’ll have to see what happens after Apple’s special event on Monday, March 9. In the meantime, we asked Insight teammates what it means for the future of business technology.

“The way people are using technology continues to evolve, but people still need access to data, and that data needs to be stored, accessible and secure,” says Bozena Kostelic, director of product marketing at Insight.  “Corporations are struggling with the constant change and trying to figure out how to cater to users’ preferences whether it’s a notebook, tablet, smartphone, smartwatch or all of the above.”

Even though we may think smartwatches won’t work in a corporate environment, there will be options and opportunities where they do. A field seller, services-oriented person or other employee could benefit from something as simple to use as a watch. Imagine being able to unlock your hotel door, the entrance to your work place or even start your car from your smartwatch. All of that and more will be possible.

For instance, none of us thought we’d be wearing devices that would track how many steps we’d be taking throughout our day, but fitness trackers such as Jawbone and Fitbit are widely used. In fact, there are many wearables with which the Apple Watch will compete.

“The smartwatch is another example of a change that’s about to hit the marketplace, and it will encroach on corporate America,” Kostelic says. “I think it will be a BYOD situation. We will bring it into our environment. The challenge for corporations will be the need to make sure data flows and that it’s secure on these devices, as well as the right people have access to data from these devices no matter where they’re located.”

IT administrators need to think about how they’re going to manage smartwatches that come into their environment just like any other device. An enterprise mobility solutions provider, such as Insight, can help put all the pieces of a holistic mobile strategy in place. Insight has experience bridging all the necessary components for a successful mobile rollout, including Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) suites, application development, content distribution, and ensuring all these smart devices play well with the network and data center in a secure fashion.

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