Apple's iWatch: Secrecy and the perilous game of predicting the future

Summary:Apple has managed a return to secrecy around its wearable plans – just as it did around the original iPhone launch.

One of the most notable things about the iWatch is the utter lack of solid information about it.

Apart from a few 'people familiar with the matter' type stories, there have been no leaks at all; the lack of component leaks is particularly noticeable. Contrast that with the iPhone 6, where all manner of components have already been (apparently) widely leaked already.

iphone-concept
This is not an iPhone: One of many guesses at how the handset would look before it was launched. Image: ilounge.com

This could mean a couple of things. Firstly, that there is no iWatch, no fitness band, nothing in the pipeline. That would be the most dramatic and unlikely option — that a few rumours and oblique comments had made the rest of the consumer electronics industry stampede into churning out smartwatches to compete with a product that was never going to be built.

What's more, there haven't been any leaks of the now-legendary Apple TV either, so what should we read into that?

Still, in the case of the iWatch, absence of evidence is (probably) not evidence of absence. It is more likely that Apple has managed a return to its old-style absolute secrecy around forthcoming products.

Apple wants a new hit, and wearables is the obvious next market for it to enter. There's plenty of circumstantial evidence around too, such as its fashion and health related hiring spree and new features in iOS 8, pointing towards wearables of some sort on the way.

The lack of leaks also probably means that the iWatch (or whatever it eventually ends up being called) hasn't gone into mass production yet. If there is a wearable at the event in September (and that's a big if), it's much more likely to be a showcase, with the product available sometime down the line; no doubt Apple would like to have something in the shops before the Christmas rush.

Still, it's also worth looking back at the launch of the iPhone to see how wrong speculation about a new Apple product can be. Sure, it was clear for months before it arrived that the iPhone was indeed on the way, but very little detail leaked beforehand (no one was even sure of the name).

Certainly, no images of the new device leaked out, leading to the creation of some — in hindsight — horrendously, comically ugly mock-ups of how it might look, based on patent filings and guesswork. There were slide out keyboards, iPod wheels and sticky-outy antennas aplenty – pretty much every element that Apple didn't put into the iPhone.

At the launch of the iPhone, Steve Jobs even showed off a slide of what the iPhone was not (scroll down to see the iPod-dialphone-iPhone hybrid in all its glory.)

Looking back it's obvious that the expectation was of an design evolution, based on the iPod and the state of the art. The iPhone confounded everyone by being different to all of that.

And amid all the uncertainty about the iWatch, one thing is for sure; when you consider the current ( stone age ) state of the wearables market, Apple needs to pull off the same trick again.

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Topics: Mobility, Apple

About

Steve Ranger is the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic, and has been writing about technology, business and culture for more than a decade. Previously he was the editor of silicon.com.

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