Fossil, Nintendo, and Pixel
Instruction Set, 2024/1/29
Welcome back to Multicore. This is Instruction Set for the week of January 29th.
Fossil announced that it’s getting out of smartwatches altogether.
“As the smartwatch landscape has evolved significantly over the past few years, we have made the strategic decision to exit the smartwatch business,” COO Jeff Boyer told The Verge. “Fossil Group is redirecting resources to support our core strength and the core segments of our business that continue to provide strong growth opportunities for us: designing and distributing exciting traditional watches, jewelry, and leather goods under our own as well as licensed brand names.”
This is huge news for the smartwatch world. Fossil is obviously best known for its casual fashion watches, but it also put out a wide range of Android-targeted smartwatches through brands like Michael Kors and Skagen. The idea was essentially that if Wear OS could serve as a standard smartwatch platform — like how quartz movements work for casual watches — then Fossil and its partner brands could simply focus on watch design.
Apparently that wasn’t working out. Boyer’s comment on how “the smartwatch landscape has evolved significantly” likely refers to how Google partnered with Samsung to absorb its Tizen platform into Wear OS 3, creating a higher tier of Android smartwatches. That alliance reportedly blindsided other Wear OS watchmakers like Fossil, leaving them with no choice but to launch outdated hardware in subsequent months.
Coincidentally, last week I spent some time reorganising my extremely cluttered closets and dug up a years-old Fossil hybrid watch that I forgot I ever bought. The Hybrid HR platform was quite cool; it paired physical watch hands with an E Ink dial for displaying things like weather and fitness data. I’ve been wearing it for the past five days and I actually really like it.
This watch does most of what I want a smartwatch to do, but it has a more conventionally attractive design and gets well over a week of battery life. The “operating system”, such as it is, has also been completely revamped since I last used it, with a reasonably intuitive dial-based three-button interface. This is still E Ink, of course, so you can’t expect smooth, responsive interactions or a rich computing experience. But smartwatches are at their best when you’re looking at them, not touching them.
Fossil had some good ideas about how smartwatches should work. Google’s decision to partner with Samsung made sense on the merits, but it doesn’t seem likely that Wear OS will ever see the same diversity of design again — to say nothing of hybrid options.
Nintendo’s next Switch will apparently have an 8” LCD screen, according to Hiroshi Hayase, an analyst at Omdia who spoke to Bloomberg.
The new device from the Kyoto-based games maker will be responsible for a doubling in shipments of so-called amusement displays in 2024, Hayase said in Tokyo on Friday. His research focuses on small and medium displays and he bases annual forecasts on checks with companies in the supply chain.
This sounds like it’d be a downgrade from the OLED panel in the current highest-end Switch model. In some ways, it probably will be. But I can see how this decision would make sense for Nintendo.