Apple’s new ‘Iwatch’ could pose major challenges to the entire watch industry

While many have been eagerly expecting the first Apple TV this year, the company comes with yet another hugely profitable product – a wristwatch-style device. “This can be a $6 billion opportunity for Apple, with plenty of opportunity for upside if they create something totally new like they did with the iPod — something consumers didn’t even know they needed,” Oliver Chen, Citigroup Inc. who covers luxury, told Bloomberg.

Apple has a team of about 100 product designers working on a wristwatch-like device that may perform some of the tasks now handled by the iPhone and iPad, people familiar with the company’s plans said last month.

Features under consideration include letting users make calls, see the identity of incoming callers and check map coordinates, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public. It would also house a pedometer for counting steps and sensors for monitoring health-related data, such as heart rates, this person said.

Apple seeks to introduce the device as soon as this year, this person said. Apple has filed at least 79 patent applications that include the word “wrist,” including one for a device with a flexible screen, powered by kinetic energy. To accommodate the smaller screen of a watch, Apple could adapt its iOS mobile software to limit what information is sent to a wrist device, said Scott Wilson, a watch designer who developed a line of watchbands for people who wanted to use an iPod nano as a watch.

Apple’s watch foray would also open a new front in its competition with Google — this time, in the area of wearable technology. Google is developing Google Glass, a computing device that resembles spectacles and is worn on the face. Owners of the glasses will be able to speak commands to snap photos, record videos or ask for directions, among other tasks.

Apple, more than any other company, has proved its ability to move into mature markets and remake them with new, easy-to- use innovations. Before Apple created the iPhone, cell phone makers were enjoying record sales of devices based less on technological innovation than on fashion and brand. Apple’s iPhone 5 was the bestselling smartphone in the fourth quarter, according to Strategy Analytics and its mobile operating system commanded 21 percent of the market, according to IDC.

Coming up with a single watch to appeal to millions of consumers will test even Apple’s design mettle. While consumers are discriminating about which phone they carry, they may prove even more fussy about something worn every day. The buying public may opt for different types of timepieces, depending on the occasion — for instance, a high-priced Swiss watch for a black-tie affair, or a sports-oriented smart watch on weekends.

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