100-person team works on Apple iWatch

Adding credence to the iWatch rumour from earlier this week, reports today say that Apple has a team of around 100 product designers working on the wristwatch-like device.

The watch-smartphone combo is touted to perform some of the tasks handled by the iPhone and iPad, two people familiar with the company’s plans told Bloomberg.

The team, which has had many recruits in the past year, includes managers, members of the marketing team, and software and hardware engineers who have experience working on Apple’s iPhone and iPad. The report’s sources preferred to remain anonymous as the project is considered highly confidential. Of course, judging by the number of people working on the project, one would suspect that the company has moved beyond experimentation phase.

Apple CEO Tim Cook is reportedly under pressure from shareholders who have seen the company’s stock slump more than 30 percent in recent times, largely owing to slowing sales growth and competition from Android and Windows Phone 8 rivals. Apple’s iWatch is an attempt to introduce a revolutionary new gadget that creates an entire market and drives sales of accessories and more apps.

The sources also reveal that James Foster, senior director of engineering at Apple, and Achim Pantfoerder, another manager, are two members of the team. Apple has worked on wearable devices for tracking fitness in the past and never brought them to market, said one of Bloomberg’s source.

The team working on the watch is tackling the unique problems that such a device would face. In particular, the increasing demand for efficient batteries. The team is working on a solution to keep battery away from the power socket for more than just a day.

The introduction of a wearable computing device may signal a new direction for the consumer-electronics industry. Apple’s new devices generally create a whole ecosystem of accessories and the iWatch is expected to follow the path trailed by iPhone and iPad.

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Apple’s iWatch would be one competitor that Google would be wary of. The Mountain View-based company is looking at an official launch of Google Glass sometime in 2014, but it seems Apple is trying to beat the search giant with a wearable of its own. Generally speaking, a watch is a less intrusive wearable than glasses. And with a big team working on it, a 2013 launch cannot be ruled out, although conservative estimates slot the iWatch for a 2014 launch.

Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn, which assembles the iPhone is expected to be the manufacturer of the watch, which would sync with existing devices, but can also perform as a stand alone. Earlier rumours suggested the use of Corning’s Willow Glass, a durable flexible glass, for the screen of the iWatch.

At the moment, a smartwatch may seem like a useless gadget, but former Apple employee Bruce Tognazzini believes it will fill a hole in the Apple's portfolio and people will realise its advantages with time. “Like other breakthrough Apple products, its value will be underestimated at launch, then grow to have a profound impact on our lives and Apple’s fortunes,” he wrote on his blog

Published Date: Feb 13, 2013 15:59 PM | Updated Date: Feb 13, 2013 15:59 PM