Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) long-rumored iPod-in-a-watch may be inching closer to reality. The company has filed in Japan for trademark protection for the name "iWatch" for a handheld computer or watch, according to Bloomberg.
That still doesn't provide any more information about what the device would do, or whether it would be useful enough that retailers could use it in-store as a tool for associates or customers could use it for mobile commerce.
There have been reports for months that Apple has a team of 100 product developers working on a watch-like device, but so far there have been no meaningful details, no confirmation and no date for product introduction. (Forbes offered a nice roundup of iWatch rumors to complement the news.) However, Apple's archrival Samsung said in March it definitely is working on its own similar device. Other vendors, including Sony, have already offered their own "smart watches."
The fundamental problem with all these devices is size. That's a two-edged sword. The advantage is that the device is always on a store associate's or customer's wrist—no pulling out an iPod Touch or iPad required for the associate to take a payment or check inventory or for a customer to shop. The disadvantage: The screen has to be tiny. In this case "tiny" may mean a 2-inch diagonal screen, but it's still far smaller than most smartphones. And it's clear that most customers want more, not less, screen space for mobile shopping—that's why tablets have carved out their ever-growing space in mobile shopping.
None of this means Apple can't find a way around the problems and develop a wrist-held device that will be useful for mobile commerce or POS. Then again, the fact that Apple wants to nail down the iWatch trademark in Japan may not mean much either. Apple has had so many problems across the globe with other trademarks beginning with "i" that it may be applying for any iTrademarks that it can—just in case.
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