Apple Watch is a game changer

The Apple Watch unveiled a few hours ago is a game changer. Even if the “iWatch” flops, the voice input function will have a profound effect on lifestyles, finally liberating users from the tedious and clumsy digital (as in fingers) input that has dominated human-device interaction since the advent of the typewriter (actually since the invention of writing). Like the smartphone and the tablet before it, the Apple Watch marks another giant leap in usability, and in turn has the potential to boost adoption of digital financial services. In a best case scenario, mobile payments, digital wealth management services, and biomonitor-based insurance could all reach their long-awaited tipping points and achieve widespread adoption. It should come as no surprise due to Apple’s reputation for design, but the fact that the Apple Watch looks like a watch,  not a Dick Tracy-era device, will be a major factor in its adoption. The slim form factor and accuracy of the timepiece place the iWatch squarely in the jewelry accessories market as much as in the smart device market. This is a virtual first in the computing industry (it is hard to imagine many people wearing the clunky Samsung Gear as a fashion statement) and its significance in driving demand for the device should not be underestimated. No doubt we will see iWatch shops in the jewelry sections of department stores globally before long.

On Innovation

Celent held our most recent Innovation event in Singapore the last week of November, following similar events in New York, Boston, Toronto, Tokyo, London, and, most recently, San Francisco. Most of Celent’s work is focused on specific financial industry verticals, but Innovation is a topic that transcends industry barriers, and so—by design—do many of our Innovation events.

In Singapore we had representation from the entire financial services spectrum—banks, credit cards, insurers, capital markets firms and exchanges. We presented some of Celent’s recent thinking on innovation, much of it from our new innovation survey. But the main event was a peer discussion between the participants themselves.

It was one of the more lively discussions I’ve seen. We set aside two hours for the peer discussion, and it went by in a flash. Participants jostled to get their say in, and the session ended with the feeling that it could have gone several hours more. I think one of the keys was that there were a lot of different types in the room: the abovementioned full spectrum of FIs, from both the business and IT side, and even from compliance.

Everyone was naturally interested in how their “colleagues across the aisles” looked at innovation, how far each had come in achieving it, and what their technology, operational and cultural approaches were—or were not. Participants brimmed with on-the-spot case studies of initiatives at their firms. This was also refreshingly unusual, since firms are often reticent to divulge competitive information and “secret sauces.”

I think the reason for this relatively high level of enthusiasm lies in the industry’s realization that innovation is crucial to long-term success–and considering the rapidly expanding number of disintermediators, and the remarkable success of some of them, maybe even needed for short-term survival.