Apple had a big year venturing into new markets, most notably the launch of its first 7-in. tablet device, the iPad Mini. Now reports are surfacing that Intel is working with chip maker Intel to produce an Apple-branded smartwatch in 2013.
According to the report on China's TGbus.com site, the Bluetooth-enabled device would feature a 1.5-inch organic LED screen and be able to communicate with other Apple devices like the iPad or iPhone. The watch is also reported to feature indium tin oxide- (ITO-) coated glass, made by Taiwanese panel manufacturer RiTdisplay.
While the report is nothing more than an unsubstantiated rumor at this point, a few concurrent developments could lend credence to the report, such as Apple's adoption of Bluetooth 4.0 technology, which offers Bluetooth low energy (BLE), designed for low-power and low-latency applications for wireless devices within a close range.
The partnership between Apple and Intel is also interesting in light of a Nov. 6 report in Bloomberg, which quoted unnamed sources as saying Apple is getting ready to replace the Intel processors used in its PCs with silicon developed by British company ARM. Apple has been using Intel chips in its PCs since 2005, and the transition wouldn't happen for a few more years, the sources said. Apple's iPhone and iPad use processors from ARM, which licenses chip designs to Qualcomm and others.
The smartwatch market marks another place where Apple could breathe new life into old and mostly ignored concepts. Outside of James Bond fanatics and Casio calculator watch collectors, smartwatches have held about as much consumer appeal as tablet computers once did—something that Apple irreversibly changed when it debuted the iPad.
Consumer electronics giant Sony currently offers a smartwatch powered by Google's Android operating system. The Sony smartwatch, which has a three-level micro display and acts as an Android remote, gently vibrates on the wearer's wrist to let the person know when a call, message or other notification is coming in.
The newest player in the smartwatch space is Pebble Technology, which in April 2011 became the most highly funded Kickstarter project, raising more than $10 million for an e-paper watch that can display messages from a smartphone and be customized with applications.
The Pebble, which also features Bluetooth low-energy technology, will come with apps preinstalled. Examples include a cycling app to measure speed, distance and pace through GPS and a golf rangefinder app that supports more than 25,000 courses. More apps will be downloadable from the phone, and a software development kit (SDK) will be freely available. The watch, which is expected to carry a battery that can last seven days, will be able to connect with Android and iOS devices.