A Bloomberg exposé, informed by Apple connoisseurs and industry experts, paints a striking contrast between Apple's health tech aspirations and its actual achievements. It also uncovers a divide within Apple's hierarchy regarding the direction of these health ambitions.
Rewind to the 2015 Apple Watch launch. Apple's initial emphasis on notifications seemed puzzling to observers, who were left questioning the device's purpose. Later, health and fitness took center stage. However, the Bloomberg piece suggests that health was the target from the get-go; the tech giant just couldn't realize its original goals with the first iteration.
Tim Cook stood in the same packed auditorium where his predecessor, Jobs, had unveiled the original Macintosh and introduced the Apple Watch. Cook called it the “next chapter in Apple’s story.” The new device boasted health features: a heart rate monitor, a way to measure steps taken and calories burned and a fitness app for tracking workouts. But the original vision had been grander. The company had envisioned the watch as a tiny medical lab, featuring the Avolonte glucose monitor as a centerpiece.Avolonte, an Apple stealth subsidiary established with the singular focus on revolutionizing glucose monitoring, epitomized the company's thwarted ambition.
The company’s effort to weave health monitoring and disease prevention into its bestselling devices has yielded breakthroughs, but the strategy has also been short-circuited by philosophical disagreements, a culture of conservatism and technological realities. Apple has scrapped or slowed work on a broad range of promising projects, frustrating some of the doctors and engineers it hired to work on them.
The pivot shifted Apple's focus to the 'worried well' — individuals without serious health issues but with a vested interest in wellness tech — rather than aiding those with medical conditions like diabetes.
Current endeavors to integrate blood sugar and blood pressure monitoring into the Apple Watch are less pioneering. Instead of exact measurements, the goal has shifted to spotting trends that may encourage users to pursue professional medical evaluation.
Regulatory fears play a role, with medical technology's lengthy approval processes clashing with Apple's pace of innovation. But insiders suggest that a fear of failure also looms large, with leaders like Cook and Jeff Williams, the Chief Operating Officer overseeing health initiatives, prioritizing the company's reputation.
A critique from Adrian Aoun, CEO of Forward, a high-tech healthcare provider, suggests Apple's hesitancy to delve into the complexities of healthcare is at odds with Cook's aspiration for it to stand as Apple's greatest contribution to mankind.
The article offers more tantalizing insights, though it's locked behind a paywall. These include Avolonte's secretive operations, the subpar heart rate sensor of the first Apple Watch, Jony Ive's design for a non-inflatable blood pressure cuff, discussions around a suite of health devices, and the scrapped idea to make the Apple Watch Android-friendly due to concerns over iPhone sales.
Looking ahead, insiders tease future health tech from Apple: 2024 AirPods doubling as hearing aids, the ability to perform hearing tests, a forthcoming Apple Watch capable of detecting sleep apnea, and a potential fever-detecting temperature sensor.