Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dick Tracy, It's Time to Upgrade Your Watch

Freedom to Operate is never easy especially when the first thing you have to do is figure out how what you've invented fits in with everything that everyone else has invented and patented. Imagine if what you've invented is an upgrade to the iconic Dick Tracy watch.

Yesterday I read Nick Bilton's New York Times Bits blog post "An iPod Watch Project Explodes Online." Minimal, an industrial design firm based in Chicago, has a plan to incorporate the new iPod Nano into an elegantly designed watch housing. (There are many beautiful items that they designed on Minimal's website.) The project was supported by users at who donated $25 to the project in exchange they will receive the watch kit when it becomes available. They raised over $500,000. I wondered how the Freedom to Operate investigation is going.

We went down this path a while ago on the wristwatch front. The Dick Tracy watch investigation yielded a fine collection of wrist instruments with radios and clocks and video, oh my. Minimal's kit takes an existing product and enhances it with a new housing. Then presto, a new addition to the wrist instrument category.

In the comments Mr. Bilton's readers added a fine collection of new product features - leather and fabric bands, phone features, Bluetooth headphones - one doesn't want the iconic white ear buds connect by its white wire to your wrist - unless of course, there is a very long cord. One commenter added a list of questions - how long will the battery last? Will it have an alarm? (Think early Casio and the Timex Beep watch.) Others wanted phone features. Then there was the usability comments citing its value as a device for kids so they won't lose it and for runners.

So what exactly are the boundaries of this invention? Is this another case of convergence - a watch band and housing meet the iPod? Is this a new housing? Is it a new iPod accessory? How will LG with it's recently FCC approved and 2009 Consumer Electronics Show attention getting LG GD910 wrist instrument gizmo feel about this new entry into the market? And what about Steve Jobs?

Freedom to operate aside, I want one.

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