After establishing a legacy brand for desktop computers and mobile devices that made it the most valuable company in the world, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is setting its sights on the next frontier in personal computing: wearable technology.
The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal both reported Monday morning that Apple is developing a so-called “smartwatch” run on the same iOS mobile operating system currently used for all of the Cupertino, Calif.-based company’s iPhones and iPads.
Sources told The New York Times papers that Apple is currently experimenting with a number of different models for a wearable device, hoping to set itself apart from the competition in the growing “smartwatch” market by applying materials of the same legendary imperviousness as the iPhone’s Gorilla Glass to the new product category. The Wall Street Journal corroborated the Times report, adding that Apple has already discussed the device with its manufacturing partner Foxconn (TPE:2354).
While rumors of a so-called “iWatch” have been making their rounds since the New York Times first reported in 2011 that Apple was working on a "curved glass iPod that would wrap around the wrist," technological impediments kept such a gadget from meeting Apple’s stringent design standards. Other smartwatches such as the Kickstarter wunderkind Pebble have begun to bring the gadgets into the category of mainstream tech like smartphones and tablets, but none of the current products on the market use materials as durable or long-lasting as Gorilla Glass, making the iPhone a safer and more functional choice for many consumers.
All that changed in 2012 when Gorilla Glass maker Corning Inc. (NYSE:GLW) introduced “Willow Glass” -- an adaptation of its smartphone glass to bendable technology. For the first time, having an iPhone that could fit on the user’s wrist seems more reality than purely fantasy.
"You can certainly make it wrap around a cylindrical object and that could be someone’s wrist," Corning CTO Pete Bocko told the New York Times. “Right now, if I tried to make something that looked like a watch, that could be done using this flexible glass."
Despite improvements in the technology, however, Bocko was quick to note that may challenges remain to be overcome before anything like an “iWatch” hits the shelves.
"The human body moves in unpredictable ways," Bocko told the Times. "It’s one of the toughest mechanical challenges."
But developmental hurdles aside, wearable technology remains an alluring target for major U.S. tech companies like Apple and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), which has also been showing off its own wearable gadget known as “Project Glass” recently. But while Google seems focused on crafting new headgear for its next generation of users, Apple is more interested in wristbands. The New York Times reports that CEO Tim Cook is impressed by Nike’s fitness-tracking Fuel Band, while vice president Bob Mansfield is “engrossed” with similar gadgets such as the Fitbit and Larklife wristbands -- devices that communicate with users wirelessly through a Bluetooth connection with their iPhones or iPads.
Apple stock rose more than 1.4 percent in early Monday morning trading, jumping to $482.10 per share.