updated 11:16 pm EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Collaboration, if true, could bring diversity of styles and models
Though Swatch is perhaps best-known these days for pooh-poohing the idea that Apple's forthcoming "iWatch" health device would "be a revolution," a new rumor from anonymous sources claims that the Swiss watchmaker may be among other watch firms working with Apple to bring the "iWatch" technologies to a wide range of co-branded devices for different markets. While such collaborations would be unusual for Apple normally, the company has been opening itself up to more partnerships lately.
The idea is for traditional watchmakers to release co-branded devices that would support or at least be compatible with Apple's HealthKit and other "iWatch" sensors and technologies. However, this is the same approach taken by Microsoft with its earlier smartwatch attempts, which were not successful. The watch companies themselves, however, might be resistant to change -- the industry is centuries old and has never been known for being quick to embrace new technologies. None of the top-selling fitness bands, for example, are made by watchmakers.
Apple has, however, been hiring people from the watch industry as part of its effort to build the "iWatch" team. Most recently, the company captured TAG Heuer Vice President of Global Sales and Retail Patrick Pruniaux. The idea that Apple could work with different companies could help diffuse the "us vs. them" mentality among watchmakers, and attack diverse segments of the market. As one investor pointed out, "this could be the first product Apple makes in which an individual could want to buy more than one for themselves." In the watch business itself, models offer a diversity of moods and styles for different purposes, ranging from sports to formal occasions, as noted by Venturebeat.
The iPhone maker will need to come up with something special in order to not only outpace the various tech companies that have tried -- usually poorly -- to define the smartwatch market, but also to make watches a more mainstream accessory in the way that fitness bands (which generally also offer basic watch options). Teaming with watchmakers may help allow get up to speed on wearable technology more quickly, but may also expose the company to leaks and betray its normally-secretive nature.
To date, little solid information has leaked about the alleged "iWatch" other than people hired to join the team. Originally rumored as more of a literal watch with iPhone interface elements, the supposed product has morphed into a health and fitness device as the latter have become popular.