Apple has turned to outside expertise to find staff for its wearable computing projects, which will not be launched until 2014, according to the Financial Times, which says that a senior member of an “iWatch” team was tempted to stay by a big pay rise.
The company, which has seen slowing growth in sales of its iPhone in recent quarters as the premium end of the smartphone market becomes saturated, is reckoned to be working on new products to add to its roster alongside its phone, iPad tablet and computers.
Wearable computing has recently become a red-hot area for investment and development in Silicon Valley. Google is already testing its “Glass” head-mounted system with thousands of “Explorers” around the world. Meanwhile the startup company Pebble, which makes an eponymous “smart watch” that displays data from iPhones and Android phones, reports that it has received a total of more than 275,000 orders for the device. Others such as Fitbit and Jawbone provide clip-on recording of owners’ movements and activities.
Apple is reckoned to be working on an “iWatch” project that might be broadly similar to the Pebble. The FT says that the company is hiring “aggressively” and has made a number of “acqui-hires” – buying small companies for the expertise of the teams rather than the business’s product – as it seeks staff for its “wearables” group.
One member of the team was only persuaded to stay after being offered a substantial pay rise, according to the FT report.
It also says that Apple’s own staff have come up against “hard engineering problems that they’ve not been able to solve” in trying to develop new wearable devices – a field it has not previously worked in.
Looking for outside help is not a new move for Apple. The iPod project was extensively driven by Tony Fadell, who came to the company with his idea for a digital music player late in 2000 after failing to interest Real Networks in the concept. Fadell created the concept and initial design for the iPod, and was put in charge of it for release in October 2001.
Since then, Apple has also brought in outside expertise with mobile phone experience to help build the iPhone. The company is notoriously secretive about its hiring plans, though outsiders can deduce some of its intentions from its recruitment notices. The company presently shows more than 600 vacancies in its hardware engineering group alone.
None specifically refers to wearables, though some such as the “Sensing systems engineer” job posted in June say the job will entail familiarity with “motion sensor performance metrics, magnetic sensor usage and limitations, acoustic, pressure, optical and environmental sensing, as well as manufacturing technologies of such sensors” – which would be applicable in wearable systems as well as the iPhone and iPad.