Apple May Soon Let You Talk to the Hand
Apple fans are hungry for the company's next product innovation, but will they be satisfied if it turns out to be a watch rather than the hotly anticipated Apple TV? Rumor has it an iOS-powered, Siri-enabled smartwatch could soon be appearing on the scene. "Wearable computing is a hot trend," said marketing prof Daniel Ladik, "and Apple cannot let Google have all the fun with Google glasses, right?"
12/28/12 8:47 AM PT
Apple's supply chain has clearly sprung a leak since Steve Jobs' passing: Every few months, it seems, a rumor or report from unnamed sources at this or that supplier makes the rounds. The current rumor is that Apple is hard at work at its next innovation -- and it's not a television set or a smart remote control. Instead, it is a watch.
The crux of the report is this: Intel has teamed up with Apple to build a Bluetooth-enabled iOS watch that sports a 1.5-inch screen from which users can make calls. The news was first reported in the Asian tech press. U.S. publications including Mobilegeek and TheNextWeb translated the reports and unearthed the details.
Apple did not respond to our request to comment for this story.
The Pebble Example
Certainly the demand for smartwatches is there, said Rob Walch, host of Today in iOS, pointing to Pebble's success on Kickstarter earlier this year.
Indeed, Walch expected Apple to announce a smartwatch in September, he told MacNewsWorld. Instead the company rolled out its upgraded iPod nano with a 2.5-inch multitouch screen.
Eventually, Apple will make a play with a smartwatch, he maintained, although the timing is less than clear.
"I guess it is like those people who keep predicting Apple will launch a smart TV. Sooner or later it will -- and if you keep on saying it, you will be eventually right," Walch said.
Something Is in the Works
Apple is clearly at work on something along these lines, Daniel M. Ladik, an associate professor of marketing at Seton Hall University, told MacNewsWorld. Whether it is a smartwatch or an Apple TV -- or possibly both -- remains to be seen, of course.
However, it's likely that the world will know sooner rather than later what Apple has up its sleeve, he said.
"Think about the state of Apple at the moment," continued Ladik. "Eighty-five percent of their sales in the latest quarter are from products they released in the last 12 months. When you think of the total revenue of a company the size of Apple, that has to be a record of some sort."
Also, Apple has changed its normal innovation cycle, he pointed out. The latest iPad arrived with the iPhone 5 in October -- with only six months between update cycles -- and the iPad mini came in November.
"Something new has to be happening in 2013," Ladik said. "There is no other reason to push a new iPad out that fast, as well as release the new mini iPad all within the same four-to-six-week window of iPhone 5."
It could be an Apple TV, but a smartwatch is not out of the question, he added. "Wearable computing is a hot trend, and Apple cannot let Google have all the fun with Google glasses, right?"
Ruminations on Functionality
Perhaps the most interesting question is what kind of functionality this alleged smartwatch would offer. The gadget could be little more than a Bluetooth accessory, displaying essential bits of data such as email or incoming phone calls for the user's quick reference, Walch suggested.
Or it could be a more elaborate play on Apple's part, offered Ladik. Users could speak to a Siri-powered smartwatch to access such content as music, stock information, a calculator and so on. Down the road, Apple could develop a whole new market for mini apps for a watch.
"I'm not sure what the price point will be for an Apple watch," he said, "but it has to be cheaper than what Google is suggesting its glasses might price at."