9to5Mac has a very lengthy insight into Apple's iWatch and the people associated with the project. The latest report is that Apple began assembling a team of hardware and software engineering, medical sensor, manufacturing, and fitness experts. Tim Cook has also been spotted wearing the fitness-focused Fuel Band who said "Nike did a really great job with this." Put two and two together, and iWatch may be a fitness-oriented, sensor-packed wearable computer.
Adding to the speculation is Apple’s Senior Vice President of Technologies Bob Mansfield who is supposedly leading the iWatch project and walking around the campus with his own Fuel Band. Mansfield was originally slated to leave Apple in mid-2012, but instead began working on "future products" until formally launching the Technologies division last fall. During that period, he supposedly worked on health appliances.
Sources told the site that Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller and his team have been examining new wearable products like the Jawbone Up. His team is not only responsible for analyzing the current marketplace, but setting product direction and capabilities. Meanwhile, Dan Riccio’s Hardware Engineering group, Jony Ive’s Industrial Design team, and Craig Federighi’s software developers are supposedly working together on developing the user-facing hardware and software.
Also leading the project alongside Mansfield are Apple VP Kevin Lynch and senior hardware director James Foster. Lynch is directing a group that's focused on the overall software vision, and is comprised of former iPod hardware and software designers. Foster's group is developing the mechanics and technologies that will "shape" the features of the device, and is comprised of sensor, chip, and battery/power efficiency experts. Both groups are closely knit and part of the bigger project.
The report also states that Apple has rounded up battery power experts from other divisions within the company. As an example, top engineers from Apple's Mac projects focused on power efficiency have been relocated, including the same people that worked on battery components for the MacBook Air. Thus, Apple wants their expertise in managing power in a thin and light wearable device.
Sources said that Apple pulled engineers from the original iPhone team that worked on assembly and miniaturization of internal components. The company even tapped into the staff Apple gained from its acquisition of Authentec, as some of its members are now working on sensors for the iWatch while the remaining crew focuses on fingerprint solutions for devices like the iPhone.
On the SoC side, Apple will need a chip that's smaller and more versatile than what's used in the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Thus Apple has sought out members of Mansfield's semiconductor team, and "poached" employees from chip design firms like Infineon and XMOS. TMSC will likely be the manufacturer behind these chips unless reports of Apple becoming its own foundry are true.
The report goes on, covering analyzing sleep patterns, patents owned by designer and developers that may be used in Apple's smartwatch, setbacks in retaining talent, measuring glucose and more. While there are signs that the iWatch will have fitness-related tasks, it seems more likely that Apple is shooting to define the smartwatch like it did with the iPhone, setting the standard. That would seem to mean an all-in-one computing device rather than a themed gadget.
As for when the iWatch will be ready for consumers, Apple was originally shooting for a late 2013 release, but Apple's latest hiring efforts point to a late 2014 launch instead. Currently the iWatch hasn't been officially announced, so a release date is anyone's guess at this point.