Apple gears up for iWatch battle
With almost every major technology company now working on watches, Apple is thought to be increasing its focus on developing the iWatch.
Although the company has yet to offer any official confirmation, Apple is now believed to have up to 50 employees working on solving the challenges posed by developing an iWatch.
The FT reported that Apple “has embarked on a hiring spree to tackle design problems” with the product, which is likely to be the first entirely new kind of device it launches since the death of co-founder Steve Jobs.
Google, Samsung and Dell have all expressed interest in developing watches, and dedicated companies such as Pebble have also seen widespread consumer enthusiasm and raised significant funds for their own projects.
Some commentators, however, have queried whether the watch format has itself been fundamentally compromised by the existence of the mobile phone, with many consumers abandoning watches altogether. Nokia has previously emphasised that its Windows Phone designs offer everything a user needs "at a glance" thanks to 'live tiles' on screen.
Sources stressed that Apple itself has previously taken products beyond the stage the iWatch has currently reached, only to subsequently conclude they are not up to the company’s standards. Applications for trademarks for iWatch around the world, as well as patent filings, however, point to Apple’s growing seriousness in the area.
The FT claims an aggressive hiring spree sees Apple acknowledge that its own engineers do not have all the answers on wearable technology. The company’s executives have previously been seen wearing the Nike+ Fuelband, a sleep and activity tracker which is another example of wearable technology. Tim Cook, the chief executive, is also on the Nike board, and has described such devices as “ripe for exploration”.
Other examples of lauded wearable technology have included the Shine activity tracker, which is more discrete than the Fuelband, and Fitbit and Fitbug.
Apple’s own device, however, risks simply being seen as a competitor to existing products unless it is distinct. Sources at the company do not expect a launch this year. Previous reporting has also suggested a launch could be even further in the future, with some sources predicting it may not happen before 2016.
Although Apple declined to comment, Mr Cook claimed in the company's April earnings call: “Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software and services that we can't wait to introduce this fall and throughout 2014.”
Apple recently hired Paul Denever, the outgoing chief executive of fashion house Yves Saint Laurent. His brief on ‘special projects’, reporting directly to Mr Cook, is thought to include watches.