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Jawbone’s Big Vision Clouded by Market Realities

Ask about Jawbone for long enough and the word genius inevitably comes up. The product genius. The design genius. The genius of chief executive Hosain Rahman, who is described by peers and investors as a mastermind, a stylist and a contender for the title of “Next Steve Jobs.”

“This is the genius of Jawbone,” says Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey. “They see themselves as a mobile-first company that can support and even change the way we live.” Over time, the company hopes to provide something like a personal version of corporate "Big Data" analytics: an ultra-powerful platform that ingests all sorts of information about you and your world, connects the dots and discovers meaningful, actionable truths about your life.

“We have a very big vision,” says Travis Bogard, vice president of product management and strategy at Jawbone. “Six years ago we didn’t telegraph ‘here’s exactly where we’re going,’ but now we’re getting to the point that we’ve proven out the building blocks and the market is moving to where we’ve built them out.”

Yet Jawbone is far from being a Big Data play. It makes bluetooth headsets that erase background noise during phone calls, a Jambox wireless speaker that gives users voice commands when it pairs with other devices and the Up wristband that logs steps taken and hours slept.

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Jawbone is also betting on data. A best-case scenario resembles what Amazon has done with the Kindle: it used a big head start in e-books and a piece of basic hardware to deliver a great reading experience.