We tend to be skeptics about pre-release speculation and leaks, but 9to5 Mac appears to have gotten the goods on Healthbook, Apple’s entry into the fitness tracking (and, by extension, wearables) business. The article includes extensive clear screenshots which show the direction of the iOS software and, presumably, its companion hardware.
Healthbook, which looks a great deal like Passport, appears to track not just activity, but heart rate, blood pressure, hydration, blood sugar and weight. Not all those things can be tracked with a wrist band, so it seems reasonable to assume that Apple is thinking about an ecosystem of devices and services. This sounds a great deal like the iPhone/iStore ecosystem.
But while Apple is holding what’s essentially a monopoly in the iNfrastructure, it seems unlikely that the company will want to get into the business of making all the devices that would go into this ecosystem: a scale, a pulse oximeter, blood pressure cuff, and so on. Remember, Apple is in the business of making premium devices with exceptional UI experiences. So we expect that Healthbook will either ship with a robust API and/or SDK or adopt one already out there, like the Withings software. Also, expect that when Apple ships Healthbook (which 9to5 Mac pegs to the probable release of iOS 8 this summer), there will be a number of key hardware players on board.
One of the oft-remarked-upon weaknesses of the fitness band business is that most devices require proprietary software: you can’t massage your Fitbit data with your Fuelband app. If the idea of the Quantified Self is to become anything like a reality, those walls will have to come down. Nike or Fitbit might not want to be part of a larger ecosystem, but if that ecosystem grows without them, they’ll be in a bad way if they’re not part of it. The good news may be in finding opportunities — either in hardware or software — that are under that umbrella.