So The iWatch Is Coming After All (Maybe)


Shaughnessy, Haydn

July 1, 2013

The Wall St Journal rekindled the rumor mill around the iWatch this morning, reporting that Apple had filed for a trademark on “iWatch” in Japan, June 3rd. Japan’s Patent Office made the application public on June 27th. Apple’s innovation roster for Q3 and Q4 is starting to fill up. What does it say about Apple under Tim Cook?

The filing comes after a month Apple seemingly took delivery of two consignments of 1.5 inch OLED screens last month, having earlier rejected a 1.8 inch screen.

The possibility of an iWatch is interesting given the sudden, but not unexpected, slow down in the high end of the smartpone market, with Apple reducing parts orders for the iPhone and Samsung reporting slowing sales of its high end phones.

Tim Cook also acknowledged in his All Things Digital interview in May that the wearables market is ripe for innovation. At the time Parmy Olson pointed out here on Forbes that Cook was really saying the area has a lot of problems associated with it – such as building multiple use-cases for a wrist product so it will have broad appeal. Think back to March and the rumor that Apple had assigned 100 engineers to the iWatch project.

The possibility of an iWatch at the same time, or soon after, the launch of iOS7 is intriguing, given yesterday’s reports that Apple will also launch the iPhone 5S and cheaper iPhones (an iPhone 6) in the Fall. That would be quite a roster of launches and perhaps too much for the market, and even the developer community, to absorb.

Tim Cook, though, has been promising amazing new products since early 2012. Here’s my impression, bearing in mind I tend to focus on an enterprise’s innovation capability and innovation model.

It seems we are already seeing something deeper and more fertile in iOS 7 – I took a deeper dive into it here and here and will look more closely at products like iBeacons later in the week.

I think we are beginning to see the results of a different approach to innovation at Apple, under Tim Cook.

It seems to be more broadly based than in the Steve Jobs days. Cook is not going after one significant problem to solve, and very likely will not shift markets with one product. Forbes’ reader Erica Dennison pointed out recently that Cook is embedding innovation across the organization (Jobs by way of contrast tended to focus on the 1,000 or so people that he felt would make a difference).

This strikes me as more appropriate to where the economy is right now. We’re in a period where it is important to move markets in multiple small ways, to execute what I’ve called elsewhere “narrow innovations”. Apple competitor Samsung has shown it can do this in hardware but struggles with software and content.

Apple under Cook is now beginning to suggest it can do something similar but more, across software, hardware and services – a new iPhone, the possible iWatch, iOS 7 redesign, iRadio, iBeacons and more. Cook’s claims for Apple, in his image rather than Steve Jobs’, are coming closer to fruition.

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