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TMCNet:  Is Apple about to make next great leap? Watch this space ; A decade after it launched the iPod, Apple sold 300 million iPhones in 2011 and has... [Western Mail (Wales)]

[January 01, 2013]

Is Apple about to make next great leap? Watch this space ; A decade after it launched the iPod, Apple sold 300 million iPhones in 2011 and has... [Western Mail (Wales)]

(Western Mail (Wales) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Is Apple about to make next great leap Watch this space ; A decade after it launched the iPod, Apple sold 300 million iPhones in 2011 and has revolutionised the mobile industry, and it's grip on the computer tablet industry remains strong - selling three million iPad minis in one weekend when it launched last year. With rumours of a Star Trek-style iWatch in the pipeline, Sion Morgan explores what 2013 holds in store for the technology giant...

T HE origin of the term "smartphone" can be traced back to 1994, when the brick-like Ericsson GS 88 was launched - boasting the sort of touch-screen technology seen only on the dashboard of the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek.

The 1960s TV series, which was roughly based in the year 2260, also featured a wristwatch device used by crew members like Captain Kirk and Spock to communicate with each other.

Now rumours emanating from China suggest that Apple are ready to once again bridge the gap between science fiction and reality.

The technology giant - which sparked a new age in media technology under the leadership of its iconic late chief executive Steve Jobs in the 2000s - is apparently creating an iWatch, a smartphone that you wear on your wrist.

The space-age gadget is said to have a 1.5-inch LED screen. It will let users text, e-mail and access Facebook -- and communicate with the owner's iPhone and other devices via Bluetooth.

It is thought the watch would use Apple's voice control software Siri, which iPhone users already use to ask their device for film and restaurant recommendations and to update their Facebook accounts verbally.

Technology expert Will Shanklin from blogging website Gizmag said: "Whether this rumour has legs or not, Siri, and other virtual assistants could eventually supplant the touch screen in our mobile devices.

"Apple thrives on making tech products behave less like tech products, and more like natural human tools.

"When taken to its extreme, this could result in a device with a conversation-based interface.

"A connected iPhone would do much of the processing; the watch would record your voice, transmit it to your iPhone, and relay Siri's response." The possibility of an iWatch has been whispered among technology geeks since Apple released its new, larger version of the iPod Nano this year.

Wristbands with space to clip on the last generation iPod Nano are already available on the market.

Changing the shape of the latest Nano has led some to suggest it could now be making its own watch.

Chinese news site TGBUS reported that sources in the supply chain said "Apple is building" a device using Intel chips and new low- power Bluetooth technology. It claims the device could launch within the next six months.

John Koetsier from technology blog Venturebeat said the iWatch in its simplest form would be a step backwards for Apple.

"But would the company that reinvented the computer, the phone, and the way we consume media be aiming so low " he said.

"If so, it needs to be much more than a watch, and much more than a way to communicate with the device that is already just a few inches away in your pocket. In other words, it needs to be a personal quantification device for the masses." John Koetsier said there are currently over 500 tools and gadgets available on the market, including Nike's FuelBand and the Zeo personal sleep coach, which are designed to measure and modify health and fitness by connecting to an iPod.

He added: "This is more than a fad - it's a movement.

"While smartphones like Apple's iPhone are often components of these systems, they're just one component in an ecosystem that includes sensors, apps, online social experiences, and analytics. "Apple could be so much more, if it wanted to play in this market.

"The iWatch is just a rumour right now, but I'm hoping it's more, much more." Other companies have tried to market similar smart watches in the past, but so far none have been a commercial success.

Microsoft gave up on its version in 2008.

Sony more recently released a smartwatch design to accompany mobile phones which was met with mixed reviews.

Meanwhile inventors hope to begin production of a similar gadget to the iWatch called Pebble within months.

The Pebble comes with apps pre-installed, including a cycling app to measure speed, distance and pace through GPS, and a golf range- finder app that supports more than 25,000 courses.

More apps will be downloadable from the phone.

One reviewer noted: "Pebble is a hands-free solution to determine why your pocket is vibrating, without having to dig out your phone." But if anyone can successfully market a previously-failed idea, tech experts are backing Apple to do it.

Will Shanklin said: "For wearable computers to catch on, companies will need to simplify, minimise their geekiness, and give average people a reason to salivate over them.

"What company does those things better than Apple " (c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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