It seems that most electronics companies play “follow the leader” these days. They’re more inclined to jump into a market after a competitor has proven that it’s viable instead of testing it on their own. It’s one of the reason’s Apple has achieved so much success; when that company enters an unproven market with a great product, it is light years ahead as other companies scramble to catch up.

But not even Apple has dared to venture into the “smart watch” space, which I feel is extremely underserved and is dying for a great product. Fortunately, a great product looks like it has emerged, ready to ship to its Kickstarter backers on January 23. It doesn’t have an apple on it, nor does it have a little green alien in its operating system. This watch is called the Pebble.

At a CES presentation today, Pebble Technology CEO Eric Migicovsky announced that the initial batch of Pebble smart watches will begin shipping out on January 23. Due to manufacturing limitations, Pebble can only produce around 15,000 watches per week, so the company hopes to have all 85,000 Pebble watches shipped out to its Kickstarter backers by the end of February.

The watch sports a 144 by 168 e-ink screen (not unlike the one you’d find on a Kindle), and has a multitude of watch faces that users can set depending on their mood or style. You can’t really see e-ink in the dark, but this issue is remedied by the internal backlight, which can be turned on by flicking your wrist or by tapping the bottom of the watch. The Pebble connects to your iPhone or Android device via Bluetooth and can send notifications for new text messages and emails, but the real draw of the device is its SDK. iOS and Android app developers can create apps that work with the Pebble watch, enabling you to check notifications and handle other tasks without having to take your phone out of your pocket at all. One majorly-hyped feature, Runkeeper integration, won’t be ready for the Pebble’s initial launch, but the team promises to release software updates every few weeks. Runkeeper should make its way into the Pebble sometime in March.

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The Pebble launch comes just in time for Kickstarter, which desperately needs a success story. There have been quite a few Kickstarter horror stories in the press as of late, with backers giving their money to projects that have communicated poorly or have otherwise vanished without sending out rewards. The fact that a project with major press coverage was able to get from start to finish and create a nice looking product is a mark in the win column for the Kickstarter platform.

What do you think of the Pebble?


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