Report: Apple's iWatch expected in Q4 with a focus on health monitoring

Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) much-rumored smart watch is expected to be released in the fourth quarter and will be highly tied to health monitoring, according to a New York Times report.  

The details about the product, thought to be dubbed the iWatch, were part of an extensive profile of Apple CEO Tim Cook and the direction he has taken the company since the death of founder Steve Jobs in 2011.

The report said that Cook is less involved in the day-to-day development of products than Jobs, according to some lower-level Apple employees. Cook is not that involved in the design minutiae of the watch product, the report said, and has delegated much of that works to other executives, including Jony Ive, Apple's senior vice president of design. Apple declined to comment on the watch project, the report noted.

Cook is instead thinking about a smart watch's broader implications, especially for health monitoring, and sees it as a device that could potentially not only improve health but cut down on doctor visits. Cook has hired Kevin Lynch, the former CTO of Adobe, and Michael O'Reilly, former medical officer of Masimo Corp., which makes health monitoring devices. Those hires are part of a wider hiring spree Apple has made in the medical and sensor fields.

Earlier this month Japan's Nikkei reported that Apple would release a watch-like wearable device in October that will primarily be used for healthcare monitoring. The report, citing unnamed sources, said the gadget, rumored to be called the iWatch, will sport a curved organic light-emitting diode (OLED) touchscreen display. Some of the health data it is expected to track includes calorie consumption, sleep activity, blood glucose and blood oxygen levels. The device will also let users read messages sent to them.

Interestingly, the report said that according to an unnamed parts manufacturer, Apple plans monthly commercial output of about 3-5 million watch units, a range which exceeds the total global sales of watch-like devices for all of 2013.

The iWatch is one of the few products that analysts and investors think Apple has up its sleeve to get back to the kind of growth it experienced in the years preceding Jobs's death. Apple had $65 billion in sales in the 2010 fiscal year, which grew to $171 billion in fiscal 2013, the report said. However, in fiscal 2013, sales grew only 9 percent, far below an average of nearly 40 percent per year from 2004 to 2013.

Despite the doomsaying by analysts, investors and academics that say that Apple has lost the spark it had under Jobs, those closest to Cook say that Jobs spirit endures inside the company.  "Honestly, I don't think anything's changed," Ive said, including a desire for new products. "People felt exactly the same way when we were working on the iPhone," he added.

For more:
- see this NYT article
- see this TechCrunch article
- see this The Verge article
- see this CNET article
- see this Daring Fireball post

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