iWatch could debut at WWDC, just don't expect to buy it until September
The rumour is, Apple is making an iWatch, a smart watch to take on Pebble, Samsung, LG, Google and virtually every other company you can think of apart from Microsoft.
The rumour of course has been floating around for some time, wheeled out by "sources familiar with the matter" just at the right opportune moment to make you believe that it could happen, or place enough doubt in your mind to stop you buying a competitors brand.
Apple, who never confirm anything until it's being announced on stage have continued to stay quiet about whether or not it is making a smart watch. Instead, the company's approach is to opt to allow the hype machine to do the work for it, and that tactic is working well. Google search lists over 21,200,000 results for iWatch already.
It worked for the iPhone, which was rumoured for about 2 years before it actually appeared in the hands of Steve Jobs on stage at MacWorld 2007, and we no doubt suspect it will happen again with the iWatch, or whatever Apple decide to call it.
While the Apple iWatch chatter is good chatter, there are a number of recent pointers, clues, hints, and other elements to suggest Apple is ready to release something to the world, but just because an announcement is coming, doesn't mean, we believe, that you'll be able to buy it straight away.
Apple's annual developer conference, held this year on the 2 June in San Francisco, has been used as the launch bed for many of the company's flagship products.
We've seen iPhones, MacBooks with Retina displays and more recently the Mac Pro all launched at the conference. It's also the time where Apple outlines new updates to the company's iOS and OS X operating systems.
Announcing an iWatch at the show, but then not launching it until September would allow the media, consumers, and naysayers to discuss, dissect, analyse, and be educated over a couple of months into why you would want a smartwatch and why you won't be able to live without one. Apple likes educating. It likes you to believe that without realising it, this is what you will need. The iPad education for example, started with small changes in Mac OS X way before people even considered they would want a tablet.
For the iWatch it means that by the time September comes and the iWatch hits the shops, the idea would have had a chance to sink in.
This year at WWDC we are already expecting to hear about iOS 8 and OS X Syrah, but what if iOS 8 also had support for a watch?
It would save Apple from having to hide the code in the OS, but also to allow developers to start getting really excited about the possibilities of what is possible.
For the iWatch to be successful it has to have a reason for you to want it, and maybe by having the right app on it will make that a reality. Developers need time to do that so giving them three months over the summer to do it, while presumably everything is quiet, is as good a time as any.
Apple's Q3 guidance
Another clue to why Apple may not launch the iWatch until September is that Apple's Q3 guidance for this quarter (April, May, June) is on par with last year's figures and lower than the last quarters figures (January, February, March). That implies that Apple isn't expecting to have any major launches, or more to the point, certainly any major launches that then go on sale straight away. If it did, then it is fair to say that the guidance would be higher.
Of course you could say that Apple could launch it over the summer, but that's too risky. People are on holiday and they don't spend their money on gadgets when they aren't near shops. Announce now, on sale in Q4.
iPhone 6 launch
Apple likes following patterns, especially when it comes to launches and for the last couple of years that means we've had a new iPhone announced and released in September. It has not always been that way, but it has been the trend of late.
An iWatch, which will presumably be the ultimate accessory to your iPhone, would sit nicely in the same launch window, especially if it takes advantage of iOS 8 and maybe some integrated features found in the new phone. It would also possibly allow Apple to create a bigger phone as it would hope that any frequent glances for information could be done via the watch. It's a long shot, but having worn a Pebble smartwatch for the last 6 months, we look at our phone less.
It is easy to imagine the add-on sales. Buy the iPhone 6 and why not get the iWatch at the same time. Done.
Apple likes to openly say that it doesn't care about the competition. That it will launch something when it is good and ready, rather than being forced by a competitor. With what seems like a gazillion dollars in the bank and that pile continuing to grow (it made $10bn profit in Q2), it can afford to take its time.
So far the smartwatch market as been fractious, Pebble has stolen an early march, while Samsung faulted somewhat with the original Gear range. Then there are the dozens and dozens of smart fitness bands which have gained some traction, but there isn't a clear market leader.
That might change however with Android Wear. Google has already announced its Android focused operating system for wearables and smart watches with an expected push into shops around July. LG and Motorola are already on board, along with others.
If Apple were to announce the iWatch at WWDC it would come just weeks ahead of Android Wear and the LG G Watch going on sale, perhaps scuppering sales as people look to see what the iWatch will be. Smartwatches, if exclusive to a platform will have the ability to sway some customers.
The Nike connection
Nike has the Nike Fuel Band and a dedicated sports watch that has been around for quiet sometime. It also has a really strong relationship with Apple when it comes to Nike+ and the iPod range. What if the rumours of Nike pulling out of the dedicated hardware market were because they've seen something much better from Apple that is due in the coming months and they were involved. Wouldn't that be convenient?
If you are going to sell a watch, when you've never sold anything wearable before (iPod's don't count), then who better to help you sell that to the millions of customers that come into your retail stores around the world every year than the former CEO of Burberry?
Announced in 2013, Ahrendts joins at the end of April giving her four months to instigate a plan and procedure to sell watches in the store. You could surmise that Apple could do it without her, but we presume it will be a lot easier with her help.
Recent Tim Cook comments
Following the Q2 results and earnings call, Tim Cook gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal.
When asked if Apple plans to break into new product categories this year, Cook said Apple is taking its time working out every detail, and he felt great about what's coming. He also claimed Apple is "closer than it's ever been" but didn't elaborate on what new product or new product category is coming.
It is wishy-washy, but if an announcement came at WWDC he wouldn't be lying.
Another one of the reasons for a June launch, but September on-sale date is that Apple will have to put the iWatch through the FCC in the US to pass a series of safety tests before it is sold to consumers. Every new product released in the US has to go through this process, updates to products don't however.
The FCC applications are open to the public meaning any product any company does submit will be all over the internet faster than you can say boo to a ghost, and more importantly before Apple has even had a chance to issue a press release.
It's what Apple's always done
When it comes to new products, Apple likes to announce first then launch later. That's a very different approach to 2nd generation devices onwards that normally involve Apple launching and then it being in shops weeks, days, if not that day later.
The first iPhone was announced in January but went on sale in June, while the first iPad also had a January launch, but didn't make it into shops until April. Notice a pattern here? A June launch of the iWatch with a September on-sale date starts to look very plausible doesn't it?