Intel warns Swatch that building a smartwatch OS is going to be tough

Baselworld 2017: And don't rule out a return to hybrids for Intel
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Baselworld was a smartwatch extravaganza. From Fossil's ever expanding collection of hybrids to our look at the first ever Tommy Hilfiger Android Wear watch, there was no shortage of connected timepieces at the world's biggest watch show.

There was one notable absentee from the smartwatch party though and that was Swatch. After steering clear of building an Apple Watch rival for the last few years, the Swiss watchmaker recently revealed that it would launch its own Swiss OS with a smart Tissot Watch in 2018.

Read this: The best smartwatches of Baselworld 2017

With Android Wear finding its way into more watches and a new Samsung Gear and Apple Watch likely to land before the end of 2017, it's a bold move from Swatch to launch something when it's already playing catch up. Intel's VP of New Devices Group Jerry Bautista, who recently worked on the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 smartwatch, agrees that Swatch has a big job on its hands.

"My advice to Swatch would be just to be careful because it's more complicated than you think", Bautista told us Baselworld. "They are very capable, we've talked to Swatch and they have great capabilities but it's harder than you think.

Intel warns Swatch that building a smartwatch OS is going to be tough

Intel worked with Tag Heuer on its second generation Android Wear watch

"There's a very deep connection between the software, OS and the hardware, and that's also in the use cases. There's three things we need to consider; what is the watch doing and how is it being used at that time, is it providing high performance when they need it and performance when they are not using it. That is very complicated, that is not a trivial thing, that takes years."

Smartwatches that coach you

Bautista also spoke about the key elements that Swatch needs to ensure it gets right, including power management citing the trade offs that Intel had to make with Google's Android Wear operating system and how it managed power for Tag Heuer's new smartwatch.

Compatibility was another issue raised by Bautista who believes this could be crucial to the success of any Swatch smartwatch operating system. "Another problem is that iOS is pretty stable but there's a gazillion of Android phones. The Bluetooth stacks are all different and how this smartwatch matches up to them is going to be very difficult."

Intel has been relatively active on the smartwatch and wearable scene over the past six months. Aside from its work with Tag, it also buddied up with New Balance for its RunIQ Android Wear smartwatch as well as powering the Oakley Radar Pace smartglasses that offer real-time audio coaching for cyclists and runners.

On the subject of real-time coaching, he told us that Intel would be interested in bringing it to smartwatches in the future and also sees the natural language tech that underpins it extending to the way we communicate with tech inside of a car. "Our notion of wearables is not just what people wear. Things can wear things," he said.

Intel warns Swatch that building a smartwatch OS is going to be tough

Fossil's Q Grant smartwatch was powered by an Intel Atom processor

A lot to take in

One of the biggest trends is the rise of the hybrid smartwatch. Intel previously partnered with Fossil on its first generation hybrids including the Fossil Q Grant and the company is not ruling out making a return to hybrids. "That's part of the market that's doing well," Bautista said. "We see the trend of hybrid smartwatches that may require a smaller operating system. We are definitely looking at it."

Intel is present at a show that has for many years focused on traditional watchmaking. With the industry evolving and the emergence of smartwatches, Bautista is not surprised that these smarter watches weren't welcomed with open arms and why there's still some scepticism around the wearable devices.

"It's a very proud industry, they have been making watches for hundreds of years," he said. "It takes some time to get used to it. It's very different from what they are doing today. I mean, how do you flash a watch in real time? What is an OTA? How do we handle data? We are running the whole backend for Tag. It's a lot to take in for these companies."

TAGGED Smartwatches

How we test

Michael Sawh


Michael Sawh has been covering the wearable tech industry since the very first Fitbit landed back in 2011. Previously the resident wearable tech expert at Trusted Reviews, he also marshaled the features section of

He also regularly contributed to T3 magazine when they needed someone to talk about fitness trackers, running watches, headphones, tablets, and phones.

Michael writes for GQ, Wired, Coach Mag, Metro, MSN, BBC Focus, Stuff, TechRadar and has made several appearances on the BBC Travel Show to talk all things tech. 

Michael is a lover of all things sports and fitness-tech related, clocking up over 15 marathons and has put in serious hours in the pool all in the name of testing every fitness wearable going. Expect to see him with a minimum of two wearables at any given time.

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