It wasn’t long ago when wearable computing became a fad to look out for within the industry. Just last year, firms like Pebble, I’m Watch, ConnectDevice, and Martian each promoted a “smartwatch” of sorts that can perform tasks like email checking or connect wirelessly with a user’s smartphone. Major players like Google, on the other hand, showed hints of its ambition with releases like the Motorola MotoActv (perceived by some to be a possible predecessor to a future Google watch) and the announcement of “project glass,” a revolutionary-looking headpiece that gives users the freedom to digitally capture, record, and broadcast their daily activities.
In Apple’s case, talks of a wearable computing product surfaced as early as during the release of the 1.55-inch iPod nano (2010), and intensified as speculations emerged that the Cupertino company is partnering with Intel to create a 1.5-inch, Bluetooth enabled OLED watch capable of connecting seamlessly with iOS devices. Even as of this month, Apple smartwatch rumors do not appear to be losing any steam: On February 10th, both The New York Times and WSJ provided updates on the Cupertino company’s possible “wristwatch” device, claiming that it will apply curved glass technology—with likely contribution from Corning— and that it will include features similar to those of a smartphone.
In its February 12 report, Bloomberg suggested that the development of the smartwatch has already moved beyond the “experimental” stage, and that as many as 100 designers—from hardware to software engineers—have been attached to the project. Notable names that have been brought up by Bloomberg’s sources, as of this moment, include James Foster, Apple’s senior director of engineering, and Achim Pantfoerder, the company’s program manager.
Even without hearing any official confirmation from Cupertino, the Apple Smartwatch idea makes logical sense as far as strategic considerations go and is appearing increasingly likely for various reasons. First: consumer expectations. Following the increasing dissatisfaction from various Apple fans and shareholders, the pressure has been on CEO Tim Cook to raise Apple’s innovative threshold and to come up with something that the company hasn’t quite attempted in the past. While a smartwatch is not revolutionary per se, Apple, according to former employee Brian Tognazzini, has all the right resources and creativity to turn it into a unique product. The general charging problem typically associated with smartwatches, for instance, is said to be resolvable through Apple’s patented wireless charging technologies, whereas potential issues related to the handling of smartwatch apps can be easily solved by the inclusion of intuitive software, including Siri.
The second reason why we can expect to see an Apple iWatch at some point is the increasingly positive outlook for the wearable computing market. The 10 million pre-orders that the Pebble e-paper smartwatch amassed last year, along with the Juniper study claiming that wearable computing will be a 1.4B business by 2014, is a strong testament to the growing consumer interest in such products. If Apple is truly serious about expanding its consumer audience, then the smartwatch market will certainly be an area that it would want to tackle.