There's been a lot of speculation about Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) healthcare ambitions, but so far it's been unclear to what extent they might have on the company's future.
Apple CEO Tim Cook gave a rare glimpse into the tech giant's strategy as part of a wide-ranging interview with Fortune on Monday, saying that some of the health-focused aspects of the business haven't necessarily been formed for the purpose of making money. Cook pointed to Apple's ResearchKit, launched on the iPhone in 2015, which helps researchers recruit participants for studies who can then take surveys or provide other data. The technology is being used to track Parkinson's disease -- a study that's become one of the "largest studies ever in the history of the world."
"There's a lot of stuff that I can't tell you about that we're working on, some of which it's clear there is a commercial business there," Cook told Fortune. "And some of it it's clear there's not. And some of it it's not clear. I do think it's a big area for Apple's future."
The company has primarily used the iPhone and the Apple Watch as platforms for experimenting with health and fitness-tracking apps.
The Apple Watch included health features centered around wellness, Cook noted, such as monitoring vitals that people weren't measuring on a continuous basis, including heart rate. Added health-tracking features are likely coming to the Apple Watch Series 3, expected to launch at tomorrow's iPhone X release, including a glucose tracker that Cook himself has been testing out. The feature would serve as a non-invasive method of tracking a body's sugar levels, or the "holy grail" for people with diabetes, CNBC reported.
To that end, Apple could also release some updates to HealthKit, the app that helps users track health and personal fitness data, as part of the final iOS 11 release tomorrow, but that seems unlikely given that most of the new features were detailed at WWDC earlier this year. Still, the company is believed to be interested in expanding the iPhone's health capabilities beyond just tracking health and fitness, by partnering with hospitals and other organizations to serve up lab results and clinical data on the device.
Cook made it clear that Apple plans to enter the medical space in some capacity, calling it the "largest or second-largest component of the economy." In particular, Cook said there's room for improvement in the health device category.
"We're extremely interested in this area," Cook explained. "The focus has been on making products that can get reimbursed through the insurance companies, through Medicare, or through Medicaid. And so in some ways we bring a totally fresh view into this and saw, 'Forget all of that. What will help people?'"