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All eyes on Apple's Cook as Watch launch expected

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Apple Inc Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook on Monday is expected to announce details of the first product developed under his leadership, a watch that Apple hopes will transform the market of wearable technology.

[SAN FRANCISCO] Apple Inc Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook on Monday is expected to announce details of the first product developed under his leadership, a watch that Apple hopes will transform the market of wearable technology.

The company provided a sneak preview of the "Apple Watch" in September, has shown it to fashionistas, and even bought a 12-page advertising spread in Vogue magazine, but fans and skeptics are eager for more details.

With a rectangular face of about 1.5 inches (38 mm) in the smaller of two sizes, the watch wirelessly tethers to an iPhone, measures heart rate, and can tap wearers on the wrist to signal a new message or appointment. The price will start at US$349.

Apple has said the watch will launch in April and speculation is rife on what capabilities, from healthcare and fitness to navigation and entertainment, will be included. Apple fans have been waiting for a new type of product for five years, raising expectations.

It is an open question whether Apple or anyone else can create a new market for watches. The first watches based on Google Inc's Android Wear software became available last year.

Companies, including Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, LG Electronics Inc, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Qualcomm Inc, collectively have not yet had a wearable hit. More companies are expected to test the waters this year, including possibly Xiaomi Technology Co Ltd, China's largest maker of smartphones.

Meanwhile, traditional watch brands such as Swatch are beginning to make timepieces with features such as activity tracking.

Roughly 4.6 million smartwatches were shipped in 2014, according to research firm Strategy Analytics. Analysts estimate that Apple could sell anywhere from 10 million to 32 million Apple Watches in 2015. By comparison, Apple sold about 15 million iPads in 2010, after an April launch.

Apple will have to "tweak" its stores to handle the watch, Mr Cook told the Telegraph newspaper recently.

Mr Cook is expected to take stage at 10 am PST (1 pm EST) on Monday in a carefully choreographed presentation. The company has not confirmed the event is about the Watch, but the invitation simply reads "Spring Forward," a word play on the resetting of watches for daylight savings, which begins the day before.

REUTERS