The Seiko Wrist Computer, way before it’s time
The concept was revolutionary, the vision was futuristic, and the technology… unfortunately, that was still years away. In the early 1980’s Seiko Corp started developing a computer that could attach to a watch and act as a mobile computing device. After years of development and testing, in 1984 Seiko announced the launch of it’s high tech product, the UC 2000 Wrist Computer (pictured below).
About the Seiko UC 2000 Wrist Computer
This gadget was a pretty impressive piece of technology for it’s time and had several features such as:
- It was the first model to interface with a computer
- You could disconnect the watch and wear it without the terminal
- The Terminal had an optional base and charger you could purchase for it
- It was compatible with most of the popular PCs of that time, including Apple, the Commodore 64, IBM PC, NEC 8201, and Tandy Color Computer.
Below is a closer view of the digital watch screen:
Reasons for it’s demise
As mentioned before, the concept of a portable computer with a screen the size of a watch was very high tech for it’s time. However, besides the obvious reason of a gigantic Nintendo controller sized device covering your entire forearm, the technology around this device was simply not advanced enough. The device could only input around 2K of data, and didn’t do much other than tell the time, and perform calculator functions. Even if you could ignore all those facts, there was still the problem of price. The wrist computer sold for $300.00 which is the equivalent of about $625.00 today.
A lesson learned
Seiko experimented with other computerized watches during that time but eventually gave up the entire concept, potentially spending millions of dollars on development. This is a scenario where their desire to become the leaders in a completely new field led them to ignore the most important question of product development; will the customer buy this product?
Their research and development dollars would have been better spent by analyzing several factors such as:
- What is the current state of technology available and how can our product work within the ecosystem, yet be cutting edge?
- What are the current trends in the industry and how can we create a product that adds value to the marketplace?
- What are customers asking for, and what features have they said they would love in a product?
- Can we make the product where the price point is reasonable to the customer and has a desirable margin?
Having the answers to these questions in hand, they probably would have steered away from the wrist computer until it was feasible in the future. This would have allowed them to continue innovating and adding value to their core watch products.