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Apple continues medical hiring spree ahead of rumored 'iWatch'

Apple continues medical hiring spree ahead of rumored 'iWatch'

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Apple has continued to build out a team of medical technology experts in recent weeks, according to Reuters. The company is widely believed to be hard at work on wearable products, the first of which could arrive before year's end. CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly promised that Apple will launch devices in new product categories in 2014, though there's no guarantee that the oft-rumored "iWatch" will be among them. Still, its ongoing hiring spree has seen Apple pull in a number of high-level executives and researchers from biotech companies, so it's clearly an area of intense focus. Nearly all of the hirings mentioned by Reuters were originally reported by 9to5Mac.

The company has poached talent (chief medical officers, sensor experts, etc.) from Masimo Corp, O2 MedTech, Sano Intelligence, and Vital Connect, among other companies. Average consumers are unlikely to recognize any of those names, but they're all laser-focused on the medical field.

Healthbook is likely just the start

According to Reuters, one unnamed executive who recently met with Apple's biomedical engineers said the company "has aspirations beyond wearable devices, and is considering a full health and fitness services platform" that would resemble the App Store. But Apple will reportedly lead that charge with its own Healthbook app — previously revealed by 9to5Mac. Healthbook is set to be the standout feature of iOS 8 and will track a user's heart rate, blood pressure, weight, and other vitals.

Presumably Healthbook has been optimized to work alongside Apple's future wearable products, but it may also accept input from third-party health trackers. Apple will likely come under intense FDA scrutiny if it pushes forward into wearables with a medical focus, as opposed to single-purpose hardware like the Nike FuelBand and Jawbone Up. But as the FuelBand's demise illustrates, wearable devices may need to offer consumers greater benefits before reaching mainstream success. In the face of misfires from rival Samsung, some onlookers are unconvinced that Apple can magically find success. "They are just buying people," Joe Kiani, CEO of Masimo Corp., told Reuters. Kiani said Apple has successfully lured in talent by promising big salaries to its latest hires. "I just hope Apple is not doing what we're doing." That may be something of a legal warning, as Apple's growing team apparently has direct knowledge of trade secrets and other sensitive information from former employers.