Wearable computing is emerging as the type of significant technology shift that will drive innovation in the way personal computing did in the 1980s or mobile computing and tablets are doing currently, said Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Mary Meeker at the All Things D conference on Wednesday.
While technology cycles generally last 10 years, she said wearables were coming on stronger and faster than is typical. The change is noteworthy because major technology cycles often support tenfold growth in users and devices, she said in her annual report on the state of the Internet.
Many of the 150 times or so per day that users interact with their phones - to look for messages, make calls, check the time, and the like - could be hands-free with wearable technology, she said.
"Some people laugh at wearables..." read one slide featuring an image from the TV show "Saturday Night Live" that mocked Google glass, a wearable technology. As the audience chuckled, she brought up the next slide, reading "Some people laughed at PC & Internet." The slide showed a 1999 Barron's cover trumpeting the headline "Amazon.Bomb."
Later in the morning, Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo picked up the theme, telling conference goers that it was clear wearable technology would play a large role in the future, even if what is perhaps the most-discussed example-- Google glass-- doesn't emerge as the first mainstream hit.
Speaking last night at the conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook stopped short of clarifying if Apple was working on wearable products amid speculation that it is developing a smart watch, saying only that wearable computers had to be compelling.
He added that Google's Glass is likely to have only limited appeal.
Meeker also reviewed themes she has highlighted in the past, including the remarkable growth of mobile technology and the Chinese economy, and the ceding of power from traditional personal computing companies to phone and tablet makers.