Bloomberg: Apple to release its iWatch within 9 months

iWatch-Concept-slap-bracelet

Bloomberg reported earlier this year that Apple had a team of over 100 product designers working on a wristwatch-like device. At the time, we noted that all the recent rumors and intel surrounding the iWatch seemed like the lead up to an impending product launch. Bloomberg is out with a new report today, claiming Apple will indeed launch its watch product in 2013:

Apple seeks to introduce the device as soon as this year, this person said. Apple has filed at least 79 patent applications that include the word “wrist,” including one for a device with a flexible screen, powered by kinetic energy… The watch business is experiencing a renaissance reminiscent of the cell phone industry before the iPhone.

The report added information about some of the potential features of the device that we had also heard of previously, including the ability to receive incoming calls, view maps, and record health data via various sensors:

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.

Citigroup Inc. analyst Oliver Chen estimated Apple could generate $6 billion of the approximately $60 million in sales he expects the global watch industry to bring in during 2013. As pointed out by Bloomberg, gross margins are roughly four times bigger than TVs, which would only bring about $1.79 billion in gross profit for the company compared to $3.6 billion for watches.

Former creative director at Nike Scott Wilson told Bloomberg that Apple’s Jonathan Ive “has long had an interest in watches.” Read more

Full Jony Ive BBC video reveals ‘out of the box’ thinking on product naming, David Beckham connection

9to5Mac showed you a clip just last week from a recent BBC special of Sir Jony Ive receiving the prestigious gold Blue Peter badge (known as the highest accolade given out by the BBC’s Blue Peter program). We got our hands on the full Jony Ive clip from the technology special today, where we learn, among other things, about Apple’s ‘out of the box’ thinking on product naming and a little-known connection to David Beckham.

If we’re thinking of a lunchbox, we’d be really careful about not having the word ‘box’… already give you bunch of ideas that could be quite narrow. Because you think of a box being a square and like a cube. And so we’re quite careful with the words we use because those can sort of determine the path that you go down.

Perhaps you could replace ‘Box’ with ‘watch’ and be on to something.

Earlier this year, Apple’s design guru assumed software design responsibilities from former longtime iOS chief Scott Forstall. CEO Tim Cook said in a recent interview that Ive “has the best taste of anyone in the world” and looks forward to his new role designing the “look and feel of the software.” Read more

Report: Scott Forstall wouldn’t participate in Jony Ive’s iPhone design meetings

Earlier this week, we learned iOS chief Scott Forstall will leave Apple at the end of this year and has been moved to an advisory role to CEO Tim Cook until then. Giving us a look into the closed doors of Apple, Bloomberg noted this morning that Forstall and famed-Apple designer Jony Ive had a fiery relationship and couldn’t work together in the same room—nor be together during meetings. During the beginning design phases, Forstall was present in Ive’s iPhone meetings:

Even as Forstall oversaw the group responsible for the software that would run the iPhone, he didn’t participate in the meetings, according to people with knowledge of the matter who requested anonymity because the meetings were private. Ive and Forstall were rarely in the same room, the people said.

Read more

Covering the Apple Exec Shakeup: Mansfield lured back by Forstall departure, Ive will clean UI, eliminate skeuomorphic design

Since Apple announced late last month that longtime iOS chief Scott Forstall and newly appointed head of retail John Browett would soon leave the company, there has been much talk about CEO Tim Cook’s direction at the executive level going forward.

The departure of Forstall saw bigger responsibilities and new roles given to executives Craig Federighi, Bob Mansfield, and Jony Ive, leading to rumors Forstall didn’t see eye to eye with the other executives. Bob Mansfield’s return after announcing retirement is also interesting, as it is something new sources said was directly influenced by Forstall leaving. Some even said Forstall’s refusal to sign the Maps apology lead to Cook’s decision. There are a few in-depth reports today, with many citing people close to the company, speculating on what these changes might actually mean for the company and for iOS in the months and years to come.

AllThingsD is out with a new report, claiming Mansfield’s return might have been directly influenced by Forstall’s departure:

All Things D:

Sources said that Mansfield was actually very serious about retiring, which makes his quick return to Apple all the more curious… As one source close to the company told AllThingsD, “The timing of Bob’s return is notcoincidental.” To begin, Mansfield was not a fan of Forstall’s confrontational management style, and sources said he generally tried to avoid the iOS exec.

“It wasn’t a him-or-me situation,” one source said of Mansfield’s return and Forstall’s ouster. “But, put it this way, I think Bob was much more willing to commit to two more years once he knew Scott was on his way out.”

Many of the reports speculated Jony Ive’s new role picking up Forstall’s Human Interface responsibilities would lead to major changes in iOS’ visual design:

Read more

Observations on Forstall and Browett departures from Apple (Updated)

The announcement

We knew that Browett was fired last week, but Apple was waiting for a good time to announce the move. We’re not sure exactly what was the nail in Forstall’s coffin but Inside Apple/Fortune’s Adam Lashinky’s take is that Forstall’s refusalto sign the Maps apology is what sealed his fate. Forstall was at last week’s iPad mini event but uncharacteristically didn’t present anything.


iPad Mini launch last week

Interestingly, Cook also did the apologizing for Browett’s hair-brained schemes to cut head counts at Apple Stores ahead of the holiday shopping season to save a few bucks.

Lesson to learn: Be big enough to apologize publicly. Look at Bob Mansfield. Out of Retirement Mansfield publicly apologized for the Retina MacBook Pro EPEAT fiasco; fast forward months and all of a sudden he’s got his own division and a lucrative two year contract. Apple execs should be falling over themselves to apologize for their mistakes going forward.

The rationale

Browett’s situation was simple: everyone hated him, especially his retail employees. Apple watchers, especially those familiar with Dixons in the UK (Americans: think Best Buy), were shocked at the decision to allow him to follow Ron Johnson as Apple’s Retail head.  Cook initially defended Browett but the #Firebrowett movement was too strong. So far Tim Cook is 0 for 2 in big outside hires (Mark Papermaster was hired during one of Jobs’ absences) . That might be something to be concerned about.

Forstall’s departure is an entirely different situation. Although more information may come to light, in the hours after the announcement it seems a power struggle happened, and the Ive camp won out over Forstall’s.  The two execs and Steve Jobs subordinates have faced off for years and reportedly wouldn’t be in the same meetings unless called specifically by Tim Cook. It certainly didn’t help that Mansfield didn’t like Forstall either. I think we’ll hear more of the details in the weeks and months ahead.

The new situation Read more

Jony Ive explains design process of Apple’s new EarPods [Video]

We told you they were coming: Apple officially unveiled its new “EarPods” earlier today. The company explained during this morning’s media event that the EarPods are three years in the making. Apple has yet to post the video of the full iPhone 5/iPod event, but now we get a look at a video played during the presentation. It features Jony Ive explaining the process of creating the new earbuds. In addition to the engineering process described by Ives above, Apple explained on its website that it tested over 100 prototypes to make the EarPods more durable and stable than its previous-generation earphones:

Apple engineers asked more than 600 people to test over 100 iterations of the Apple EarPods. Testers ran on treadmills in extreme heat and extreme cold. They performed various cardio workouts. They were even asked to shake their heads side to side, up and down. The result: Apple EarPods provide stronger protection from sweat and water, and they’re remarkably stable in the ear. Which means they stay in, even when you’re on the go.

FT profiles Jony Ive: Transformational designer who understood the politics of Jobs

In a Financial Times story about Apple’s Senior Vice President of Industrial Design Jonathan Ive “emerging from [Steve] Jobs’ shadow,” we get a few interesting stories from ex-Apple employees regarding the design guru’s work ethic. While one anonymous ex-Apple employee told the publication Ive’s “main talent was his ability to manage his relationship with Jobs,” Path chief and former Apple employee Dave Morin remembers Ive as a perfectionist.

Morin described a story about Ive spending three months adjusting the MacBook design to ensure it could be easily operated with one finger:

Read more

Apple SVP Industrial Design Jony Ive talks Apple design and competition

In a rare Q&A with the Evening Standard‘s Mark Prigg from the firm’s headquarters, Apple’s design guru talks about Apple’s design process and of course the competition.

When asked what made design different at Apple, Ive responded:

A: We struggle with the right words to describe the design process at Apple, but it is very much about designing and prototyping and making. When you separate those, I think the final result suffers. If something is going to be better, it is new, and if it’s new you are confronting problems and challenges you don’t have references for. To solve and address those requires a remarkable focus. There’s a sense of being inquisitive and optimistic, and you don’t see those in combination very often.

On the genesis of new products:

A: What I love about the creative process, and this may sound naive, is this idea that one day there is no idea, and no solution, but then the next day there is an idea. Where you see the most dramatic shift is when you transition from an abstract idea to a slightly more material conversation. But when you make a 3D model, however crude, you bring form to a nebulous idea and everything changes — the entire process shifts. It galvanises and brings focus from a broad group of people. It’s a remarkable process.

Apple’s goal when building a new product:

A: Our goals are very simple — to design and make better products. If we can’t make something that is better, we won’t do it.

Why is the competition seemingly unable to keep pace with Apple?:

A:Most of our competitors are interested in doing something different, or want to appear new — I think those are completely the wrong goals. A product has to be genuinely better. This requires real discipline, and that’s what drives us — a sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better.

One particularly interesting comment regarded the praise Ive has for Apple’s iOS iPhoto team (which I do not believe Ive is involved with). He gushed, “The iPhoto app we created for the new iPad completely consumes you and you forget you are using an iPad.”

The entire interview is a great read.

Read more

Adam Lashinsky’s look ‘Inside Apple’ profiles iOS head Scott Forstall as Apple’s ‘CEO-in-waiting’

Fortune Senior Editor-at-large Adam Lashinsky’s upcoming book about Apple’s inner workings titled Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired and Secretive Company Really Works” is bound to become controversial. Unlike Steve Jobs’ authorized biographer Walter Isaacson, Lashinsky did not have direct access to Apple’s leadership team, employees nor did he have Jobs’ cooperation. Nevertheless, the author has deep connections so his book draws from this expertise, focusing on Apple’s former CEO Steve Jobs, current CEO Tim Cook, design chief Jonathan Ive and head of iOS software Scott Forstall (pictured on the right). The young executive (43) has managed to accumulate power, and he now wields tremendous influence at Apple due to his iOS division contributing to as much as 70 percent of Apple’s total revenues. As such, Forstall is seen as Apple’s next CEO once Tim Cook steps down, which probably will not happen until 2021 if he is to vest his 1 million stock shares awarded last August. Here is how one source described Forstall in Lashinsky’s upcoming book, according to Fortune’s Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

He’s a sharp, down-to-earth, and talented engineer, and a more-than-decent presenter. He’s the total package.

Lashinsky conceded and explained:

Read more

Sir Jonathan: Apple’s design mastermind Jonathan Ive awarded knighthood in the United Kingdom

Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design Jonathan Ive can add a new title to his resume: Sir Jonathan Ive. According to BBC, Ive was granted knighthood in the United Kingdom in the New Year Honours List. The report said that Ive’s official title is a Knight Commander of the British Empire. Ive, who was born and raised in the United Kingdom before moving to the United States to pursue design work, said that the honor is “absolutely thrilling.”

Ive credits his home country for some of his incredible design work: “I am keenly aware that I benefit from a wonderful tradition in the U.K. of designing and making.” While Ive has had an extremely successful career in Cupertino, California as Apple’s design chief, recent rumors said the designer of the iPod, iMac, iPhone, and most recently the iPad, was considering a move back to the United Kingdom. Soon after those rumors, a reliable report claimed Ive would not be leaving…

Read more

Unibody on Ultrabook: Metal on the outside, plastic on the inside


A precision aluminum unibody enclosure gives Mac notebooks structural integrity, providing all of the mounting features in a single part.

Makers of Ultrabooks, ultra-thin notebooks that conform to Intel’s recommended specs, are facing difficulties replicating Apple’s unibody process, citing limited capacity and price restrictions on the unibody process. They’ve come to realize that unibody construction requires expensive CNC equipment to machine a sturdy notebook case from a single block of aluminum, including internal parts and mounting features. Apple’s contract manufacturer Foxconn and supplier Catcher Technology own thousands of CNC machines and you can imagine where their priorities lie.

According to DigiTimes, the makers of would-be MacBook Air killers are turning to the cheaper high-density fiberglass chassis for the low-end, said to cost up to $30. For the high-end, Apple’s rivals are combining the exterior aluminum enclosure with plastic parts inside. Such a semi-unibody case is said to cost between $40 and $80:

The new aluminum chassis with plastic internal parts design will allow Ultrabooks to feature a metal appearance, but all the internal parts will be made from plastic stuck to metal parts using glue. Read more

See if you can guess (by smile) which of these Apple Execs just got a $60 million bonus

A few Apple execs have been departing over the past few weeks which might lead some to believe that Apple could have a talent retention problem in the wake of the recent leadership transition.

Perhaps hoping to put that kind of talk to rest, Apple just dropped fat bonus stock on their heavy hitters according to SEC filings.  With Apple’s stock riding at 400-ish per share, the below bonus shares are certainly a great incentive to stay – worth $60 million/each at today’s value.

Bruce Sewell — 150,000 shares, 50 percent vest on June 21, 2013, 100 percent on March 21, 2016
Jeffrey Williams — 150,000 shares, 50 percent on June 21, 2013, 100 percent on March 21, 2016
Philip Schiller — 150,000 shares, 50 percent on June 21, 2013, 100 percent on March 21, 2016
Peter Oppenheimer –150,000 shares, 50 percent on June 21, 2013, 100 percent on March 21, 2016
Robert Mansfield — 150,000 shares, 50 percent on June 21, 2013, 100 percent on March 21, 2016
Scott Forstall — 150,000 shares, 50 percent on June 21, 2013, 100 percent on March 21, 2016
Eddy Cue — 100,000 shares, 25 percent vest September 21, 2014, 100 percent September 21, 2016.

Strangely, there is no mention of Jonathan Ive who could be considered “on a different level” since Steve Jobs made him untouchable (though there have been rumors that he may want to retire).  Perhaps that’s why he’s the only guy without a big fat smile, above. (Ha, actually Apple isn’t required to file bonus paperwork with the SEC for Ive –

…Jonathan Ive, the company’s senior vice president for industrial design, whose position at the company does not trigger S.E.C. rules requiring public disclosure of stock awards.

– Because his role isn’t important to Apple’s well being?!)

CEO Tim Cook already has a huge bonus package (1 million shares) if he sticks around to 2021. Read more