Make no mistake about it, Tim Cook and Apple are positioning the Apple Watch as the next great chapter in Apple history. While it remains to be seen how well the Apple Watch sells -- questions remain about its utility and its pricing structure -- there's no denying that it's an incredibly complex and impressive piece of technology.
Now that Apple's next new product category is no longer a secret held under lock and key, we're slowly starting to learn a bit more about how the product was conceived and how it was developed. Just last week, Tim Cook explained that the idea for the Apple Watch came about after Steve Jobs had passed away, marking it the first major product released conceived entirely in the post-Steve Jobs era.
Earlier this week, BloombergBusinessweek ran a fascinating in-depth feature detailing how Tim Cook's Apple differs from that of Jobs. Included are a few choice quotes from Apple design chief Jony Ive, who provided a number of intriguing details about the latest addition to Apple's product lineup.
Calling the Apple Watch one of the most difficult products he ever worked on, Ive recounts how Apple, to aid in the device's development, brought a number of watch historians to speak about the history and importance of timekeeping.
Particularly interesting is how Ive and his team came up with the idea for the digital crown, an idea that was seemingly borne through trial and error.
Ive’s team first tried using the same pinch-to-zoom touchscreen they’d invented for the iPhone, but the screen was too small and their fingers obscured the display. A year into the project, the group started toying with what became the Apple Watch’s defining physical feature: “the digital crown,” a variation on the knob that’s used to wind and set the time on a traditional wristwatch. By pressing or rotating the crown, Apple Watch users can return to the home screen, zoom in or out, and scroll through apps.
Providing additional details as to the scope of the super-secretive Apple Watch project, the report notes that Apple operations head Jeff Williams helped oversee a large team consisting of hundreds of engineers, designers, and marketing employees. This, of course, stands in stark contrast to the super small team that helped develop the iPhone and later the iPad.
The watch team included hundreds of engineers, designers, and marketing people and was the kind of cross-company interdisciplinary team now common under Cook. Apple, which has more than 1,000 chip designers, built the new S1 processor that powers the watch. Metallurgists responsible for the casing for Macs and iPhones devised a stronger gold alloy for the premium model of the watch, and Apple’s algorithm scientists studied how to improve the accuracy of the watch’s heart rate sensor.
The entire feature is bursting with behind-the-scenes insights that's well worth a read. As for when we might be able to get our hands on the vaunted Apple Watch? Well, that's anyone's guess. Apple says it will launch in early 2015, but in Apple jargon that could very well indicate a mid-April launch. Hopefully, Apple will provide more details on a launch window in the coming months.