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Partners: Apple Watch's Release Will Boost Smartwatch Market

While other smartwatch vendors are keepin an eye on Apple's upcoming launch, partners say the the entire wearables market will get a huge boost -- which is good for everyone.

While smartwatch vendors are certainly keeping an eye on the imminent release of Apple Watch, partners are calling Apple's upcoming launch a blessing in disguise for the entire wearables market.

Stephen Monteros, vice president of business development and strategic initiatives at Sigmanet, an Ontario, Calif.-based solution provider, said the April release of the rectangular, stainless steel-framed smartwatch may not be good in the short term for other vendors it would boost long-term consumer interest in smartwatches.

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"In the short term [the release] will hurt competitors a little, but what Apple Watch will do is open up the market and propel other wearables forward in terms of sales," he predicted. "This will be a good thing for them."

The Apple Watch will enter a U.S. wearables market that is still young and searching for direction, as vendors such as Samsung, Motorola and LG scope out the best niche to capture consumer demand.

"It's one of those newer markets where the only way is up," said Michael Oh, founder of Tech Superpowers, a Boston-based Apple reseller. "Right now, there are a lot of smartwatch products in search of direction, or a solution to break down barriers with consumer demand. Apple Watch will bring with it Apple's volume of loyal consumers … by the nature of that equation, Apple will jump-start the market."

The smartwatch industry is still fairly young, as a Canalys study released Wednesday revealed. The study found that Android Wear, the wearable devices arm powered by Google's platform, had 720,000 shipments since its debut in mid-2014. These Android-charged watches include Samsung's Gear series, Motorola's Moto 360 and LG's round G Watch R.

While partners like Monteros don't necessarily believe smartwatches will replace devices like the smartphone, they say the wearables will stand as important extensions of already existing devices. Therefore, the biggest driver for the new devices' success will revolve around the variety of apps offered and continual software updates.

Monteros, an app developer, said that there is a good outlook for wearable device apps, but vendors still need to carve out ways to attract developers.

"Wearables are seeing a slower adoption cycle, in part because it is fairly undefined where the market is going," he said. "As a developer, you want to create profitability, and you have to be very careful about where you spend your time. You'll want to see a good development kit. Adoption hasn't been as strong for wearables in the enterprise space because there's no clear path for enterprise apps in the wearables market, except maybe a product that could look at workflow and track assets. The consumer market is a little more vetted, especially with apps surrounding fitness."

Apple has tackled this concern so far with its WatchKit software development kit to maximize battery life for the platform.

While Canalys noted that competitor Samsung leads the smartband market as a whole, Canalys analysts stressed that the South Korean company would need to ramp up its efforts to attract developers if it wants its smartwatch platform to thrive.

"Samsung has launched six devices in just 14 months, on different platforms and still leads the smartband market. But it has struggled to keep consumers engaged and must work hard to attract developers while it focuses on Tizen for its wearables," said Canalys Vice President and Principal Analyst Chris Jones in a statement.

Apple Watch will display options for an 18-karat gold and aluminum model, as well as six different-colored straps. It will be sold in two sizes, 38mm and 42mm, and will run on an iOS-based interface that is redesigned from the operating system structured for the iPhone and iPad.

PUBLISHED FEB 13, 2015

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