San Francisco - Under pressure to come up with a new device category that will replicate the astonishing success of the iPad and iPhone, Apple is reportedly developing a computer wrist watch that will work in conjunction with its other gadgets.
A report by Bloomberg News triggered a flurry of speculation on blogs and the revelation that Apple had obtained a provisional patent.
The report said that hundreds of Apple employees were working on the wearable computer, which would likely face stiff competition from Google's eyeglass-embedded computers that screen information discreetly to a tiny screen in front of the users' eyes.
Apple's small new device is initially expected to use Bluetooth to connect to its owners' smartphone or tablet, but as the technology develops, the wearable computer could become a standalone device that would be cheaper than the iPhone and iPad and help Apple build its market share in emerging markets.
Wearable computers are already a hit among early adopters. Nike's strap-on Fuelband tracks physical activity and the Pebble, a watch that communicates with smartphones, displays notifications and other information on a user's wrist.
But interaction design expert Bruce Tognazzini believes that Apple's device will take the sector to a new level.
"The iWatch will fill a gaping hole in the Apple ecosystem," he noted in an online posting.
"It will facilitate and coordinate not only the activities of all the other computers and devices we use, but a wide array of devices to come. Like other breakthrough Apple products, its value will be underestimated at launch, then grow to have a profound impact on our lives and Apple's fortunes."
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