Reports that Apple (AAPL) is preparing to launch a Bluetooth wrist watch picked up steam over the weekend, as sources in Cupertino and Taiwan both spoke to the U.S. press about work on wearable smart devices. The Apple smart watch rumor surfaced in December when a Chinese news source reported that Apple was working on such a device with Intel (INTC).
A win with an Apple mobile device would be a coup for the world’s largest chipmaker. Intel started supplying chipsets for Apple’s Macintosh computers about 7 years ago, but Apple has relied on ARM-based technology for the iPhone and iPad. Now ARM and Intel are in a race to create the world’s smallest mobile processor, with Intel promising a 22nm chip this year, and ARM aiming for 14nm in a partnership with IBM (IBM).
Corning (GLW) could be another beneficiary of an Apple wristwatch. The company’s bendable Willow Glass is a logical choice for a smart watch, and Corning already has a relationship with Apple as the glass supplier for the iPhone.
Apple is not commenting on the wristwatch reports, but there are several reasons to think they hold credence. Building out the iOS ecosystem creates “stickiness” for the iPhone and iPad — an iPhone user is much less likely to switch to Android or Windows if s/he’s invested in a smart watch that talks to the phone. The iPhone 4S and the iPhone 5 are both Bluetooth 4.0-enabled, as are the iPad and the iPad mini.
Consumer interest in smart watches also makes the product a logical one for Apple. The company’s Silicon Valley neighbor Pebble has raised more than $10 million on Kickstarter to produce a smart watch, which is currently in production. That device connects to both iOS and Android devices.
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