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What is Casio’s Strategy for Smartwatch

What is Casio’s Strategy for Smartwatch
by Pawan Fangaria on 09-21-2015 at 7:00 am

Although many traditional watch smarties have remained in business since centuries, Casio can be attributed to be the modern dark horse of digital watches who entered the watch market in 1974 when the wave of digital watches had just started; not many could survive for long but Casio is still there in that segment. Casio had gathered right expertise from its pocket calculator technology which was applied for digital watches with LCD displays. Its first model, “CASIOTRON” displayed the complete time from a second to a day of the week and month including calendar with automated adjustment between day and date of the month. Subsequent models added features like phone and address books, notepad etc. Casio’s philosophy is not to simply add technology to do the same thing differently, but add value through technology which helps user to do things easily and comfortably. To add value in a watch per se, durability, toughness, materials, waterproofing etc. have been some of the basic criteria for Casio.

Casio would be developing a smartwatch soon, but before talking about that let me ponder over what Casio did so far in watch business in the context of smartwatches. This will throw some light on their thinking pattern which aligns with their strategy on smartwatch business. Casio didn’t develop a smartwatch by the definition of being ‘smart’ in today’s context, but it has a ‘watch smart’ mind and blood in its organization from the beginning. This is visible from their watches developed decades ago which had features in no way inferior to what we see in smartwatches today.

Here is a GMW-15 MOON GRAPH (1989) which shows sunrise and sunset times and different phases of the moon. And there is another model from Vivcel VCL-100S series (1994) which vibrates when your mobile phone gets a call. It has an antenna that detects the calls. There are other Casio models which used infrared to control electronic gadgets such as TVs. The infrared radiation in some models could also be used to measure temperature of objects. Even there were UV sensors in some watches which could help you keep your skin safe from sun.

See these later models which came out in 1999-2000. They have GPS, voice recording and play functionality. Some models had compass to determine direction, some others had MP3 player for music lovers. There were models having digital cameras too. Casio’s HBX series had even infrared PC link to transfer data to and from the watch. The infrared technology was even used to play games over some Casio watches which could connect with each other.

Are you thinking there were no models for fitness and health monitoring from Casio? Of course, in 1990s there was RPS-100W which measured your fat burnt, BP series for blood pressure monitoring, and JC-11 series for fitness tracking, and so on.

From these kinds of models from Casio’s home, it’s clear that Casio already has a concept of what should go into a smartwatch. Then the question arises – why these watches didn’t pick up in the market? Not many people around the world were tech-savvy on watches, rather they admired traditional watches. So, Casio focused on analog models of watches after their plunge in digital and tech-savvy watches like the above. We see great analog models like ‘Titanium Oceanus’ from the house of Casio. While tech awareness among traditional watch wearers definitely is a reason for poor sales of these great tech watches, I would also attribute it to feeble marketing effort made by Japanese companies in general. People need awareness, coaching, and even hand-holding to get familiar with new tech stuff; they don’t realize they wanted this unless they are made aware about it and actually allured to feel it doing themselves. This is where Apple makes a big difference; first they combine the stuff together (hardware and software for a host of features) and present it in the most intuitive and usable form, and then they do huge marketing about it to make people aware and familiar with the product and technology in it, and provide good service. Probably this could be the reason, most original innovators get locked behind and others take over them in the actual business when the technology picks up.

On the popularity chart, Casio’s G-Shock models became very popular and they saw huge sales in 1990s. After the sales picked up in mid 1990s, almost hundreds of models or more were released every year for several years from 1997 onwards. They carried the tag “Triple Ten”; that means 10 year battery life, 10 bar water resistance, and 10 meter fall survival. Now that concept made G-Shock’s entry into several segments of people with tough job assignments such as police, fireman, diver, astronaut, mountaineer, soldier, and so on. There were particular G-Shock models classified for NASA space travel.

The fist G-Shock model was DW-5000 launched in 1983 and since then 1000s of G-Shock models were introduced in the market. Going by tech quotient, GWS-900 was launched in 2004 which had contactless IC chip for making payments. Bluetooth notification was introduced in G-Shock models in 2011 and after a few years Gear STB-1000 was released which could connect with fitness apps on iPhone. You can imagine, with iPhone it can have other notifications as well. It can last two years on a single battery and has 100 meter water resistance. It connects with Wahoo fitness app which can pair with a heart rate monitor. Wow! It has features which a smartwatch, by today’s definition should have. So, that makes a wealth of experience for Casio to jump into the fray for next generation smartwatch!

Casio is preparing to launch its first true smartwatch by 1[SUP]st[/SUP] quarter of the coming year, i.e. 2016. According to Kazuhiro Kashio, the present president of Casio company (previous president being his father Kazuo Kashio and his late uncle Toshio Kashio as co-founder) the smartwatch they bring will be a watch that tries to be smart, rather than a smart device that is also a watch. Clearly this statement reflects the sentiments expressed in my last article “Smartwatch – A Tough Puzzle to Crack” where the primary consideration was sought to be on the watch rather than the technology. The technology is essential, but that should act as a good support vehicle to realize the functions which a smartwatch should have; it shouldn’t overwhelm the watch itself. Hope Casio defines the smart functions which the smartwatch users will love and nourish for many years. For now, we hear Kashio commenting on the basic features that a smartwatch should possess, e.g. durability, simplicity, light weight, right size and shape, comfort, appearance, feel good factor etc.

Casio is working on the smartwatch since about four years and have experimented through several prototypes. Kashio says his smartwatch will have great functions as well as great appearance that will target sportsmen as well as people in other walks of life. The smartwatch will not compete on price point but on features, appearance and what a smartwatch should have. Its price is expected to be in the range of $350-$400 and will compete with Apple watch.

Being realistic and having read the pulse of people over the years, Kashio is conservative on the smartwatch sales. He is not expecting an instant success in the smartwatch market, but is determined to grow it in the long run. Does that mean next generation of people will be the ones who would embrace smartwatches? Let’s see what Casio’s long time experience in digital-cum-traditional watch industry brings up for smartwatches.

Also read: Smartwatch – A Tough Puzzle to Crack

Pawan Kumar Fangaria
Founder & President at www.fangarias.com

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