Apple executives and a long history with watches

marc-newson-nike-zvezdochka-gagosian-shop-01Apple design chief Ive pictured with Ikepod designer Newson

Apple is building a device for the wrist, and it may even launch later this year. One of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ most famous sayings is that “we build the products that we want to use.” Apple was not pleased with the crop of phones that existed prior to the iPhone, and the iPhone arrived in 2007 and has changed the entire smartphone landscape.

Enter the watch.

Apple’s top executives, the minds that control Apple’s future product pipeline, have demonstrated an interest in watches. So, it is interesting and intriguing to take a look at this interest of Apple’s product planners in light of the aforementioned “Jobsism:”

Earlier today, Business Insider provided some details on the watches that Apple’s design team was interested in from Nike.

nike-sport-watch-2This interest reportedly came all the way back in the mid-2000s, and it included thought into production and material techniques.

In addition to the watch with a metal front (to the right), Ive and his team looked at a set of shiny, colorful, uniquely designed styles. The multiple color approach strikes a chord with Apple’s colorful iPod designs. The Nike models are even slightly reminiscent of the original colorful iMac models.

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Jony Ive (as pictured at the top of the article) is a friend of Marc Newson. Newson is the famous designer behind the Ikepod watch brand (which Ive has worn).


As a friend of Ive’s, Ive – based on his past history of design inspiration – may seek or have sought advice from Newson on the “iWatch” project. Ive is wearing Ikepod’s “Megapod” watch in the photo above. Here is a closer look at the simplicity and metal finish of the Ikepod “Horizon” watch:

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With Jony Ive’s previous interest in exploring watches, it is worth taking a look into some of the other various watch styles that he has worn publicly over the years:

Another interesting Apple executive in context of the latest “iWatch” reports is former Senior VP of Hardware Engineering Bob Mansfield.

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Mansfield is frequently seen wearing different types of luxurious watches at Apple keynote events and in Apple’s product design videos. Before taking the reins as chief of Apple’s chips and wireless technologies, Mansfield was reportedly working on solutions in the mobile and health technology spaces. As the New York Times reported following the October dismissals of former iOS and Retail SVPs Scott Forstall and John Browett:

Recently, Mr. Mansfield had been working on his own projects at the company, operating without anyone reporting to him directly. One of the areas of interest Mr. Mansfield had been exploring is health-related accessories and applications for Apple’s mobile products, said an Apple partner who declined to be named discussing unannounced products.

These interests of Mansfield line up perfectly with today’s Bloomberg report that claims the upcoming Apple wrist-device will be health and exercise oriented:

Features under consideration include letting users make calls, see the identity of incoming callers and check map coordinates, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public. It would also house a pedometer for counting steps and sensors for monitoring health-related data, such as heart rates, this person said.

While Mansfield is no longer officially running the Apple Hardware Engineering team, one of the reported leaders (James Foster, a Senior Director of Engineering) of the “iWatch” team at Apple still works closely and reports directly to Mansfield, according to sources we have spoken to.

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Dan Riccio (as can be seen in the above photo), who has run Apple’s Hardware Engineering group since August, is also a watch wearer. Riccio was one of the lead engineers on Apple’s project to place larger, more efficient batteries in the MacBook notebook computers. This morning, The Verge claimed that Apple is currently finding difficulty with reaching its battery life goals for the “iWatch.”

That’s apparently leading to battery life issues in development, according to our sources: the goal is to last at least 4-5 days between charges, but the current watch prototypes are apparently only going for a couple days max.

Riccio’s experience and skill set in battery design will be critical in the continued development of an Apple branded wrist device.

via Flickr

Also critical to the iWatch project is likely Apple’s Senior VP of Marketing Phil Schiller. As Bloomberg reported last year:

According to a person who met with Schiller recently to discuss Apple’s future, the marketing executive knows he’ll get more than his fair share of blame if the new products aren’t hits. Schiller has the daunting task of keeping Apple cool.

Schiller has reportedly played a critical role in the development of Apple’s major products like the iPhone, iPod, and iPad. Schiller was even the person who coined the idea of the breakthrough click wheel interface for the original iPods. Like the aforementioned executives, Schiller commonly wears luxurious watches in his public appearances.

Additionally, from his Twitter account, Schiller keeps an eye on two high-profile watch makers: Patek Phillippe and Alange-Soehne. After this article was published, Schiller followed watch company Panerai (in addition to two car companies).

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While a consumer product like the rumored “iWatch” will never match the pricing or luxury of owning watches from either of the above companies, Apple’s experience with various watches can provide ideas and certainly demonstrates vast interest in the general category.

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Apple iPhone and iPod Marketing VP Greg Joswiak also frequently wears watches in his public appearances. The executive (along with Schiller) even wears a watch in his cartoon form as a character inside of Apple’s no-longer-available Texas Hold ‘Em iPhone game.

In the above video (1:40 in), Joswiak, one of the original proponents and developers of both the iPhone and iPod, discusses mobile health and exercise monitoring applications. Contextually, this interest of Joswiak is interesting in light of Apple’s reported plans to have its wrist-device be a health and exercise appliance.

via Getty Images

While Apple’s top marketing, design, and engineering executives certainly play a crucial role in the development of Apple’s rumored “iWatch,” it is up to Apple CEO Tim Cook to solidify the product into Apple’s product roadmap. Luckily for those throwing their lives into developing and researching wrist-devices for Apple, Cook is a fan of the wearable computing and health categories.

In the image above, Cook is seen wearing Nike’s FuelBand product. The FuelBand is a wearable computer that measures and tracks exercise and health activity. The FuelBand connects with intuitive apps to devices like iPhones. Cook also has experience with the wearable product, other than in terms of wearing one.

Cook is a long-time member of Nike’s board of directors. As MG Seigler noted on Parislemon when rumors of an Apple wrist-computer re-emerged, Cook being on Nike’s board during the supposed “iWatch” development is reminiscent of Google Chairman Eric Schmidt being on Apple’s board during the development of the iPhone:

That brings up another interesting question: if and when Apple does move into this space, what would this mean for Cook’s role on Nike’s board? It’s a situation that could play out in a similar way to Eric Schmidt on Apple’s board a few years back. At first, Schmidt would recuse himself from the parts of meetings where the iPhone was being discussed (once Google’s Android plans were revealed). Then the conflict became too great. And this eventually led to him stepping down (or being pushed) from the board. Maybe Nike doesn’t view the FuelBand as a massive business to be protected right now, but down the road…

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Also demonstrating Cook’s interest in the wearable and connected health device field is the availability of both the Nike FuelBand and the competing FitBit on both Apple’s online store and physical retail stores across the globe.

Even with Apple’s clear interest and reports pointing to the interest of a wrist-watch, nothing is set in stone. There are also some questions remaining, and like with the rumored Apple television set, it appears Cook’s Apple is “pulling the strings” to find the answers. As Cook said at last year’s D Conference:

I have on a Nike Fuel Band. I think there are some cool things that can be done. I think it is an interesting area. The question is, can it change somebody’s behavior? The book hasn’t been written on that yet.

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