Supply Chain Rumor: Apple & Intel Working on iWatch

The Apple Crystal BalApple's ever-trustworthy supply chain has let it slip that Apple and Intel are working on a wristwatch, wearable computing for the wrist that could be based on iOS. MobileGeeks spotted an article from Chinese-language Tech163 that said a supply chain source let it slip that Intel developed the watch, and that Apple is interested in it.

The device reportedly features a 1.5-inch OLED display with indium tin oxide (ITO) coated glass. That's pretty much it for the rumor.

Is it possible? Assuredly, but this rumor comes with a whole boxfull of caveats. The first of those, as we have often noted, is that Apple's supply chain is massive—there are more than a million workers, engineers, clerks, accountants, executives, secretaries, messengers, commissary employees, and who knows who else involved in that chain. Worse, most of them have brothers, sisters, parents, kids, or friends.

At this point, Apple can't keep anything it's working on a secret once it leaves the black labs of Cupertino. There are just too many people involved.

At the same time, Apple is always working on new products, but most of those products will never ship. Some of them are iterative designs from which a shipping product will be chosen, while others are products that Apple wants to see, but will ultimately reject altogether.

Some of them are also products intended to test new manufacturing techniques and methods. Apple, more than any other Western electronics company, owns much of the manufacturing processes and equipment needed to do that processing, even if it outsources the actual work to third party companies.

Apple might test a new method on a form factor completely unrelated to what it really wants to make as an added (but ultimately futile) security layer.

Add all that up, and we believe that almost every rumor coming out of the supply chain is based on some hard nugget of fact. It's whether that hard nugget actually relates to a shipping product that is up for discussion, and most of them don't.

OK, that's the standard Apple grain of salt. MobileGeeks pointed out another, and that's the notion that Intel developed this watch, which Apple was then interested in developing further.

That's not the way Apple usually works. While it's completely possible that Intel could come up with an idea and shown it to Apple, every product the company has shipped since the late Steve Jobs (re)took over Apple (and Tim Cook succeeded him) has originated from within Apple (or a service that Apple bought and then integrated into its ecosystem). Apple then goes to its partners to build it out.

There's a first time for everything, and maybe this is an example of Tim Cook not worrying about what Steve Jobs would have done.

Alternately, the supply chain source is working on something for Intel or Apple, but actually has no idea where the idea came from or who is doing what. We like that interpretation of the limited information on hand.

The long and the short of it is that Apple is undoubtedly working on wearable computing devices, just as it is working on TVs and all manner of other products. The chances that Apple is not doing so is precisely zero, but that doesn't necessarily mean that a watch or a TV will come to market.

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