In an interview published on The Penny-Arcade Report today, Valve’s co-founder, Gabe Newell talks about a possible direction for Valve in wearable tech. Valve has been testing the waters in their hardware labs with “wearable tech,” a term Gabe is hesitant to use, and Gabe sounds like he likes what he hears.
In the article Gabe speaks of internal hardware development with biofeedback and biometrics and states that the issue isn’t with the usefulness of the products, but instead with the desire to establish a short product iteration cycle based on customer usage and customer feedback. This system was used to organically grow the now free-to-play Team Fortress 2 into one of the largest and continually profitable online multiplayer games in existence. Gabe goes on to state that the problem with hardware is with the front-loaded cost of inventory and distribution. If the product fails to meet its intended usage and target market then Valve would be stuck with millions in inventory. Instead Valve is seeking to get hardware into the hands of users and developers and give them the chance to shape and direct the intended purpose of the product ala’ 37 Signals. It’s a model that worked with TF2 and Steam and could work with wearable tech says Gabe, so long as the distribution and short iteration cycle issues are solved.
Most would agree that Google and Apple are the obvious choices to lead the way into the future but there are some obvious concerns with both. Many fear Google turning into Skynet and becoming self-aware flush with the power of personal information, and the closed, almost Draconian style of Apples’ offerings leaves a significant chunk of the market with a bad taste in their mouth. The article goes on to point out how data mining can be used to create more value transparently with customers and how open systems translate into faster innovation and higher customer satisfaction. Both ideas directly counter some of Apple’s and Google’s criticisms.
If I were asked just yesterday who I thought would be the big players in the budding wearable tech market I would have never in a million years thought of Valve. But today is a new day and if there were one company I’d trust with paving the way of the future it would be Valve.
Post image via http://penny-arcade.com