Intel's continuing to push aggressively into the world of wearables. On Wednesday it signed a deal with Luxottica Group to develop smart eyewear in time for a product launch next year.
Luxottica owns the license to many of the world’s luxury eyewear brands, including Armani, Burberry, Chanel, Coach, and Polo Ralph Lauren. According to Intel's press release, the partnership will “deliver smart, fashion-forward products that are meaningful and desirable to consumers.”
While Intel has shown off wearable designs of its own, it seems more inclined to partner with established brands and technology to “smarten” existing products. Intel has signed deals with Fossil for smartwatches, bought the Basis fitness band, and its chip technology is at the heart of the SMS Audio BioSport band and the Opening Ceremony MICA band, which began shipping Wednesday. Intel’s embedded chips will also reportedly power the next generation of Google Glass.
With Luxottica, Intel executives said, the “Intel Inside” strategy will remain, but within a much more fashion-forward chassis.
“Learning about this, we said, ‘How can we bring this to market? We don’t have channels, we don’t have stores, we are inside things,’” Brian Krzanich, the chief executive of Intel, said in an interview at the New York Times International Luxury Conference in Miami on Wednesday. “That’s one of the keys of how you build this kind of partnership.”
Mark Thompson, chief executive of The New York Times Company, reminded Krzanich of an earlier conversation, in which performer and smartwatch designer will.i.am essentially warned fashion brands against partnering with digital content companies, which he said could steal their ideas and bring them more cheaply to market.
Krzanich called Intel’s strategy “very non-threatening” for brands like Luxottica, and said it had no plans to bring its technology to the end market—forgetting for a moment about Basis. ‘We won’t take something like this to market,” Krzanich said, holding up the MICA band. “Our goal is always to have our partners take it to market.”
The MICA and other wearables are something that a customer would wear “independent of the technology,” Krzanich said. “The technology just enhances what the product does.”
Why this matters: All in all, marrying the aesthetic sense of established brands with technology underneath seems to be the way forward to helping establish the wearables market—especially for women, a market that technology tends to overlook in the design stage. Let’s just hope that the eyewear that Intel and its partners develop will be useful as well.