Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) fans hoping for an iWatch this holiday shopping season may want an IOU from St. Nick.
London's Financial Times is reporting that Apple's foray into the intriguing smart watch market may have to wait until next year as it's only just now starting to hire aggressively for the project.
The move seems to validate KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo's claims two months ago that the iWatch wouldn't be available until the latter half of 2014.
Apple's slow-footed ways when it comes to wearable computing is a surprise. The stock has surrendered nearly 40% of its value since peaking late last year. Patient investors are betting on innovation to get the tech bellwether out of its rut of cascading margins and profitability, but that's not going to happen if the new products keep getting pushed out.
Everyone else but Apple has been vocal about their intentions to dabble in wearable computing, and some have even showed off gadgets.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) already has beta testers in the wild kicking the specs of the its Google Glass product. Apple electronics assembler Foxconn even showed off its own smart watch, and even longtime retail partner Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) began selling smart watches last week when it began stocking the game-changing Pebble.
Can Google Glass fail? Absolutely. The public is largely ridiculing it at the moment, but it's hard to bet against the company behind the Android mobile operating system that has taken over the smartphone market.
Will Best Buy stocking Pebble mean that it can't stock Apple's watch? No. Best Buy naturally will sell whatever Apple ultimately puts out, but by selling Pebble it's giving wearable computing a year's head start to get noticed before Apple reportedly even arrives. Best Buy may not be the consumer tastemaker that it used to be, but it's still a platform validator.
Then again, this could also be a good thing. After all, if Apple's iWatch would merely mirror what Pebble and Foxconn have showed, would it really be aggressively hiring outside of the company? A source tells Financial Times that the hiring spree is taking place because there are some tough engineering problems to tackle that aren't the expertise of the folks at the world's most valuable consumer tech company. If Apple is going to show up late to the party, let it be fashionably late in a head-turning outfit. It can't just be a Pebble clone that uses Bluetooth to zap a phone's data and notifications to a wristwatch.
Google clearly thought out of the box with Google Glass, and Apple will have to do the same thing here.
If the iWatch is really more than a year away, one also has to wonder if this makes it more than likely that Apple's full-blown HDTV will come out in time for this holiday shopping season. Back in April, CEO Tim Cook promised that "amazing" products were on the way, but that they wouldn't be available until the fall. Sure, maybe he was talking about updates to its existing product lines, but if the iWatch isn't coming out until next year, it could to be a rough year for investors if Apple doesn't have anything new to push revenue higher during the holidays.
Apple is apparently taking its own sweet time here -- making sure it gets this right -- but it may be hard to blame investors if they're running light on patience.
The iWatch better be worth the wait.