Apple is planning to release its smartwatch by the end of this year, according to reports from both Bloomberg and The Verge. A 100-person team led by Jonathan Ive is working on the product, which will mark the company’s first entry into wearable computing, a category spurred by the rumored smartwatch and Google’s Glass product, which is also looking at a release this year.
Here are a few takeaways (and a lot of questions) from this morning’s reports:
What is iOS, really? The Verge reports that Apple’s smartwatch will operate a modified version of iOS, which currently powers the iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and, perhaps surprisingly, the Apple TV. This further stretches the idea of what iOS is meant to be, as the operating system has moved from the smartphone to the tablet and now, apparently, to the wrist and the television.
Describing iOS as a “mobile operating system” doesn’t seem to do it justice. It seems that Apple is building an iOS platform that users might interact with every day without ever knowing that they’re doing so. iOS is no longer the operating system that powers the iPhone and iPad, it’s the operating system that makes Apple’s new products possible.
Sorry, fitness trackers and smartwatches — Apple’s moving in. Bloomberg reports that Apple has built an accelerometer and numerous other sensors meant to track a user’s activity, heart rate, and other health-related data. This would put Apple’s smartwatch in direct competition with the Nike+ FuelBand, the Jawbone Up, the Fitbit Flex, Basis, and who-knows-how-many other fitness trackers.
If wearable computing is the future — and it certainly seems to be going that way — people will have to choose between an Apple-built, iOS-running smartwatch that also allows them to track their health and other, more specialized solutions. We only have so many wrists, and wearing more than one wrist-based device when one “smartwatch” can perform the function of other devices seems excessive at best.
Comparing an unannounced product to another unannounced product is still just bananas. The headline of Bloomberg’s report is “Apple’s Planned ‘iWatch’ Could Be More Profitable Than TV”. An entire section is devoted to this comparison, considering the ins and outs of two vastly different markets and how they might be changed by products that Apple has neither announced nor recognized in any sort of official capacity.
The Loop’s Peter Cohen puts it best, writing:
I wonder whether AAPL price will go up or down on the news that one unannounced product will be more profitable than another unannounced product.
Early morning trading suggests that the answer is “down.”
Despite all the hand-wringing, it seems like everyone expects Apple’s products to bolster any industry they find themselves associating with. After questioning the merits of a smartwatch versus a television, Bloomberg then goes to estimate what impact Apple might have on the global watch business.
“Apple can merge fashion with function,” Marshal Cohen, an analyst at NPD Group, told Bloomberg. “An Apple watch could triple the size of the watch business in a year or two. They have the opportunity to get everyone that owns a cell phone to go out and buy another watch.”
If this is what we expect from Apple when it’s “doomed” I’d hate to learn what we’d want from the company when it’s up.