Is Apple Making a Watch?

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The New York Times’s BITS blog has reported that Apple is preparing a new product, a digital watch that doubles as a computer. Here’s what the report says:

Apple is experimenting with wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass, according to people familiar with the company’s explorations, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they are not allowed to publicly discuss unreleased products.

There has been quite a bit of rumor about Apple’s watch, known among the technology circles as iWatch. However, there never was any confirmation of the product’s development. This story from BITS may really be the first time that we are ever going to know for sure if such a product is launching or not. If it does, then it will be the first ever innovative product after Tim Cook became CEO in August 2011.

BITS also believes the Apple watch may be using Corning’s Willow glass that can bend around curved surfaces.

In this post are a few thoughts we have about this new watch from Apple.

The man responsible for designing all the modern Apple products, iPod, iPhone, iPad, MacBook, etc., is a British citizen called Sir Jonathan Ive. He joined Apple in 1992 and has since been the second most important executive.

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He is the chief of industrial design in Apple and according to Steve Jobs in his biography,

He [Ive] has more operational power than anyone else at Apple except me.

In May last year, Jonathan Ive made this comment to the Telegraph:

It’s a really tough one. A lot does seem to come back to the fact that what we’re working on now feels like the most important and the best work we’ve done, and so it would be what we’re working on right now, which of course I can’t tell you about.

Jonathan Ive’s design studio in which he makes great products like the iPhone are completely out of reach of regular Apple employees. This is how Apple keeps its products extremely secretive before launch.

In 2007, during iPhone launch, Apple CEO had contacted Corning to provide tough scratch-resistant glass covering for the display. That was the first ever use of Corning Gorilla Glass, although afterward, Apple remained very secretive about what is used on iPhone display. There is no official publication to date that confirms that iPhone uses Gorilla Glass. Even in the Corning’s list of devices using Gorilla Glass, Apple devices are mysteriously missing. But we have reason to believe that Apple definitely has some tie-up with Corning. Corning says in its page:

Due to customer agreements, we cannot identify all devices that feature Gorilla Glass. Your favorite device may include Gorilla Glass, even if you don't see it listed. Ask your manufacturer or retailer to learn more.

That should be a direct reference to our favorite Apple devices.

Now, what is its significance in this new watch from Apple? Well, in the report by NYT, we find that Apple may be working on the watch based on another Corning innovation called Willow glass. Willow glass is a bendable glass product that, according to Corning, can be used in curved or ‘wraparound’ displays.

Now, coming from Corning that is not particularly adept at keeping secrets, I believe this ‘wraparound’ thing is a direct reference to Apple watch. Please note that it was first reviewed by Tom’s Hardware in June last year. Also note, we mentioned earlier that in May not long after being knighted, Sir Jonathan Ive had mentioned about their ‘most important work’. I believe it is all coming together now as probably the Willow glass was developed as a result of talks with Apple about their new watch.

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Corning Willow glass was reviewed by CNET in January in CES, and it was the first hands-on experience of the product. The first ever rumors of Apple’s watch came up during the end of December last year. So, only a few days in between the first rumors of Apple watch and the hands-on experience with Corning Willow glass! Probably coincidence? I leave it to you to decide. Also, according to Willow glass fact sheet, samples were available only by the third and fourth quarter of 2012.

All these indicate Apple may be coming up with a wearable product that wraps around something and that uses Willow glass. Willow glass is not exactly as scratch resistant as Gorilla glass. Also, it is a lighter, bendable product. A watch doesn’t have to worry about falling down and getting scratched like a smartphone. Hence, we have reason to believe it might really be a watch that Apple is coming up with.

Why might it have been delayed so much? After the Apple Maps fiasco last year, the chief of iOS, Scott Forstall, who headed the Maps team, has stepped down from his position. At that point, Sir Jony Ive was given more duties including software design as well. Due to this increase in duties, it might have taken some time for him to work on the new product that he mentioned way back in May.

At this time, all of this is just conjecture. We don’t have any solid evidence of an upcoming Apple watch. Whatever the new innovation is, we will be eagerly looking forward to it.

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