It’s been four long years since Apple released the original iPad.
Investors, and consumers, are getting restless. They want a new category-defining product from the company that reinvented the MP3 player with the iPod, the mobile phone with the iPhone, and the personal computer with the iPad.
So, what’s it going to be?
All signs point to Apple tackling the watch for its next major piece of brand new hardware.
Sure, there is talk of Apple revamping its Apple TV box. But, frankly, the Apple TV revamp sounds a little boring. As of right now, it sounds like Apple is going to route cable through the Apple TV, and add a nicer interface to what we already get.
The Apple watch, which everyone calls the “iWatch,” sound truly unique and exciting.
All of those products hint that there’s something there with wearable computing, but none of them really stand out as potential mainstream hits.
Google Glass suggests there’s something to the idea of getting quick updates without taking out a phone. The Fuelband suggests we want to have a way to track our fitness. The Gear suggests … well, it suggests Samsung is willing to try stuff. And the Pebble suggests that a nice, unobtrusive watch could be something people want.
Now, it’s time for Apple to step in and cherry pick the best features from all these products and deliver something that consumers really want, just like it did with the iPad.
There is quite a bit of pressure on CEO Tim Cook to deliver with the iWatch. Since Steve Jobs died people have quietly, and not-so-quietly, questioned Cook’s abilities as a visionary tech leader. The iWatch will be one of his first opportunities to show the world what the post-Jobs Apple will deliver.
So, who is running this important project for Cook?
Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac has been all over this story. He has a handy guide at some of the key players.
There are the obvious people from Apple: Tim Cook, lead designer Jony Ive, Marketing chief Phil Schiller, and Jeff Williams, head of operations.
Below them, Apple has hired a bunch of outsiders for the project. The reason for bringing in outsiders is that the iWatch seems to be an entirely new realm of exploration for Apple.
Here’s a look at some of the outsiders that make the iWatch sound like it could be something special, via Gurman:
Roy J.E.M. Raymann, an expert in sleep research. His LinkedIn bio doesn’t list him as an Apple employee, but it does say this: “Main topic of research is states of performance and how to optimise rest and activity. Why are some people able to perform at peaklevel for weeks in a row? What is the difference to be able to perform and willing to perform. What is the role of sleep, motivation, physiology. How can we optimise sleep?”
- Ueyn Block, who came from C8 MediSensors. It seems like C8 Medisensors shut down. It was developing a continuous, non-invasive glucose measuring system. C8 was working on a product that you wore and it gave a read out every 8-10 minutes. Block was an engineer at the company.
- Todd Whitehurst, hardware director at Senseonics. Senseonics is also working on a wearable glucose monitoring system. It works with a smartphone to provide data for a user.
- Dr. Michael O’Reilly, formerly Chief Medical Officer at a company called Masimo. Masimo developed hardware that worked with the iPhone to measure your pulse. The company says of itself, “[Masimo] develops and manufactures innovative noninvasive patient monitoring technologies, including medical devices and a wide array of sensors.”
Nancy Dougherty, of Sano Intelligence. Gurman says of Dougherty, her past work “included a health metric-reading wearable patch and ingestible, Bluetooth-connected smart pills for monitoring dosages and scheduling.” At Sano, Gurman says she was developing a wearable sensor system.
- Ravi Narasimhan, formerly in R&D for Vital Connect. Vital Connect makes monitors you stick on your skin to track your health. Gurman says Narasimhan focused on “measuring respiration and activity levels and wearable medical devices.”
- Marcelo Lamego, formerly CTO of Ceracor. According to NetworkWorld, Lamego has 70 patents, and developed a hemoglobin monitor for Ceracor.
Jay Blahnik, who helped Nike develop the FuelBand. Blahnik is a fitness expert. He is a top 5 fitness instructor in the world, according to Shape (according to his website).
Add up all these people and what do we get?
There’s an idea of a gadget that monitors your health. Clearly, glucose monitoring is something Apple is working on. It’s also looking at general health monitoring, and overall fitness. There’s also interest in tracking sleep.
One thing that sticks out to us: This product doesn’t sound like it will appeal to young people very much. When you’re under 30, you’re not all that worried about your health and fitness.
But, who knows what else is going to be involved. Apple probably has its employees developing applications that appeal to a broad range of people.