Apple has 100 employees working on the rumored iWatch

A flurry of reports last week suggest that Apple is working furiously to develop an iWatch

It's an interesting time in the tech world these days. While there is still plenty of room for smartphone growth, it goes without saying that tech companies are already looking ahead to the next big thing. The only problem is, what the "next big thing" is is really anybody's guess.

One area in the running is wearable technology. While the very notion may seem futuristic, one only need take a look at Google Glasses to realize that wearable technology is very much a real thing, with loads of brilliantly talented people working tirelessly to bring such products to the market.

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Apple is also interested in the area, and according to a number of seemingly well-sourced reports over the past few days, Apple may very well be introducing an iWatch before we know it.

Yep, that's right. An iWatch, as in a wristwatch with all sorts of interesting functionality and Apple-esque wizadry.

The original iWatch story appeared about five days ago in the New York Times, where Nick Bilton wrote that Apple is currently experimenting with various iWatch designs with curved glass.

In its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., 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. Such a watch would operate on Apple’s iOS platform, two people said, and stand apart from competitors based on the company’s understanding of how such glass can curve around the human body.

Now that's certainly intriguing, but we see all sorts of wild Apple rumors surface week after week. What makes this iWatch story so different? 

Well, for starters, the article appeared in the New York Times, which more often than not doesn't publish wild rumors with no basis. Second, Apple will often "leak" stories to outlets like the NYT and the Wall Street Journal in order to pique the public's interest in future products.

And, as luck would have it, the NYT article was soon followed by a similar report from the WSJ, which relayed that Apple is currently talking about manufacturing an iWatch style device with Foxconn.

Foxconn, as Hon Hai is also known, has been working on a spate of technologies that could be used in wearable devices, one of these people said. In particular, the Taiwan-based company has been working to address the challenges of making displays more power-efficient and working with chip manufacturers to strip down their products...

Capabilities that Apple is exploring for wearable devices remain unclear. But analysts and investors who have been tracking the field predict the company would release a product with many different functions and that the device would work closely with the iPhone.

What's more, the report notes that Apple has been interested in the wearable technology sphere for quite some time and has hired a number of people with "backgrounds in sensors and related technologies."

As a quick example, Apple back in March 2010 hired wearable technology expert Richard DeVaul, an MIT PhD with an expertise in integrating technology into mobile and portable applications. When DeVaul was first hired, it was report that he'd be working on a top-secret project that only seven people at Apple even knew existed. As it turned out, though, and not quite uncommon in Silicon Valley, DeVaul lasted about a year at Apple before jumping ship to Google, where he is now presumably working on the Google Glasses team.

And adding even more credence to Apple's alleged work on an iWatch, Bloomberg reported last week that Apple has about 100 product designers working on the project.

The team, which has grown in the past year, includes managers, members of the marketing group, and software and hardware engineers who previously worked on the iPhone and iPad, said the people, who asked not to be named because the plans are private. The team’s size suggests Apple is beyond the experimentation phase in its development, said the people...

Apple’s James Foster, senior director of engineering, and Achim Pantfoerder, another manager, are part of the efforts to introduce a wristwatch-style computer, according to the people. Apple has worked on wearable devices for tracking fitness in the past and never brought them to market, said one of the people.

So that's three reputable sources in the span of one week, all reporting on the same story. If anything, it sounds like a classic "controlled leak" from Apple, which likes to put out just enough information to pique everyone's interest but not enough to actually tip their hands. Yeah, we know Apple is working on a watch much in the same way we knew they were working on a phone. But details as to what the iPhone was actually capable of were a well-guarded secret up until Steve Jobs hopped up on stage and showed it off, changing the mobile device landscape instantaneously.

There is certainly no shortage of iWatch concept mockups floating around the web (see above), and while some look rather appealing, what will really make the iWatch shine - as with all Apple products - is the software. And that, as is typically the case, will be a closely guarded secret up until Apple shows off the device for the first time.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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