March 23, 2017
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Watch out, wearable tech industry. Swatch OS is on the way

Swatch, in cooperation with the Swiss Center for Electronics, is developing its own operating system for a smart watch that can compete with wearable tech by Apple and Samsung. Swatch is evolving and frankly, it’s about time.

In an interview with Swatch CEO Nick Hayek, he said “there’s a possibility for wearables to develop as a consumer product, but you have to miniaturize and have an independent operating system.”

Think Small

The as yet unnamed operating system will require “less battery power” (a common problem for new smart watches) as part of their “think small” efforts. Another part of their approach to “think small” is building a software that could potentially be licensed to smaller companies and startups in Silicon Valley. Swatch has received “over 100 requests,” according to Hayek, for more details on the OS they’ve been developing.

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“In Switzerland we have a lot of expertise when it comes to creating something that is smaller, consumes much less energy, is independent and more cost-efficient and can go into little objects,” Nick Hayek said.

The announcement comes in the heels of the unveiling of Tag Heuer’s innovative high-end modular timepiece which is honestly obnoxiously expensive. Tag Heuer’s smartwatch was built around the latest version of Android Wear and Switzerland’s largest watchmaker has opted not to adopt Android Wear as its OS.

Hayek acknowledged the toughest problems that their competitors have in the smartwatch market is energy consumption and privacy. Swatch Group said last month that they are working with Swiss research institute CSEM to create a viable “ecosystem” that can accommodate connected objects by the end of next year.

Data Security

Swatch stated that this would provide absolute data protection and low energy consumption without the need for regular updates. Hayek adds that it is dangerous for everybody to depend on just one or two dominant OS.

“In Switzerland we have a lot of expertise when it comes to creating something that is smaller, consumes much less energy, is independent and more cost-efficient and can go into little objects,” he said.

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The first smart watch with the new Swatch software will be under the Tissot line, which will be out during the end of next year. Hayek obviously has his lips sealed because of the far-off launch date.

A gamble for Swatch

It will be a tough sell for Swatch as consumer interest in wearable tech have slowed down somewhat in the past year, with consumers mostly focused on big brands like Apple.

CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood said that there are dangers to Swatch trying to create their own system. There’s also the fact that companies like Apple, Samsung, and Google have more resources in this area and would be difficult to compete with.

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“Swatch may be able to develop its own software platform, but attracting developers to get access to the most popular apps needs an operating system with scale. Just look at how BlackBerry ended up abandoning its own software,” Wood said.

It’s a huge gamble for Swatch, and if the company can come up with something unique to consumer, they might just be able to penetrate the market. It’s probably a good thing that Swatch is starting to develop an OS now, as the smart watch segment of the tech market is still quite a niche market and that users haven’t latched on to one interface yet.