On the surface, this may be a silly question. Apple has never admitted that the so-called iWatch has been delayed, or even that any such thing is being considered. Yes, Tim Cook has admitted Apple’s interest in the wearable devices space, but that’s not an admission that a watch, a ring, or even a headband is under development, and certainly not a pair of “smart” glasses.
But with few product intros since last year, speculation is high about what Apple will do next. A minor MacBook Pro refresh earlier this year wasn’t enough. The more extensive revisions to the MacBook Air, including the all-day batteries, have not been regarded as that important, except to people who appreciate such improvements. OS X Mavericks and iOS 7? Well, they aren’t due until fall. Some suggest the former isn’t very compelling, and doesn’t look so different from OS X Mountain Lion, even though there are significant productivity improvements. iOS 7 is just fancy eye candy, and aren’t the fonts too thin for readability in bright surrounds? Well, it’s been reported that Apple has apparently opted to use thicker fonts for some functions, but maybe the critics didn’t notice.
So all eyes are focused on what might come this fall. An iWatch?
Here’s what we’ve heard so far. First, that Apple added 100 engineers to the alleged iWatch project. Later, that they were applying for trademarks for the iWatch name in a number of countries, though they might have to buy the rights in other countries. But that’s not unusual. The iPhone trademark is licensed from Cisco. Apple can well afford to make an attractive offer to an existing trademark owner.
There are two more stories. One has it that Apple is hiring even more people to handle the iWatch project, after recruiting Paul Deneve, former chief executive for a fashion designer, Yves St. Laurent, to oversee “special projects” for Apple. In passing, let’s not forget that Deneve worked for Apple in Europe during the 1990s. It’s not that he’s unfamiliar with the company.
Are you with me so far?
The next story is that Apple has postponed the iWatch project until some time in 2014, perhaps because it is taking longer to complete design and engineering. Supposedly this means bad news for Apple.
So even if an iWatch never shows up this year, those who believed it was going to happen can say, “see it was delayed until next year.” Obviously this pronouncement can’t be proved, unless or until an iWatch actually shows up at some time in the near future. Besides, how many of you will remember failed predictions a year from now, since you’ll already been inundated with many more failed predictions?
By why hold Apple responsible for a product that the company has never announced? Well, crazier things have happened when it comes to commentaries and speculation about Apple.
At the same time, there are published reports that Microsoft’s Surface team is working on a smartwatch constructed of translucent aluminum. For a second, I was thinking of the phrase “transparent aluminum” used in the 1980s sci-fi flick, “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.” That’s the film in which chief engineer Scotty programmed the construction plans on an original compact Mac, using that “quaint” keyboard.
When it comes to something Microsoft might be working on, I can almost believe the story. Microsoft is notorious for leaking information to reporters, hoping, against hope, that they will somehow make potential customers lust after the new gadgets.
But even if Microsoft does release a Surface Watch or whatever it’s called, will anyone care? It’s not as if the Surface tablets have gone anywhere. Right now, there’s a fire sale in progress, with prices reduced by roughly $150, depending on the model. Such a drastic reduction in the face of poor sales was clearly meant to move product fast, even if profit margins are reduced to the vanishing point. That possibly desperate decision appears to come direct from Amazon’s playbook with the Kindle tablets. At least Amazon hopes to make up for lost profits as the result of people buying other stuff via the Kindle’s storefront. What’s Microsoft’s excuse? It’s not that there are huge sales of Surface apps.
Indeed, if you look over the reports of the goings on in the tech industry in recent months, you’ll find that a number of companies, including Samsung and Sony, are also working on smartwatches of one sort or another. But whether they come to be, or whether anyone cares one way or the other, is an open question.
As I’ve said before, it has yet to be proven that the current concept of a smartwatch, an accessory for a smartphone or tablet, has any real chance for mass market success. Apple is well known to take moribund markets, such as digital music players and tablets, and devise a compelling solution that does deliver success. But that would also mean that the iWatch that Apple produces, should one actually appear, will not be like other smartwatches. At the very least, I’d suspect it would have the potential of working as a standalone gadget that doesn’t require the presence of another device to do its thing. But that’s the beginning and end of my prediction. It remains to be seen whether the rumored Apple iWatch will ever see the light of day.