Samsung Electronics is developing a smartwatch — supposedly named ‘Altius’ — that will compete with Apple (AAPL) in the wearable device industry, the executive vice president of Samsung’s mobile business said in an interview on Tuesday. Speaking to Bloomberg, Lee Young Hee confirmed for the first time that his company, well-known rival of Apple, is working on its own version of a watch-like computer:
“We’ve been preparing the watch product for so long,” said Lee during an interview in Seoul. “We are working very hard to get ready for it. We are preparing products for the future, and the watch is definitely one of them.”
The VP didn’t provide any specific details concerning features, price or a sales timeline for the product, but a Reuters report citing a source “with direct knowledge of the matter” claims that the wristwatch will perform many of the tasks of a smartphone.
Laurence Balter, chief investment strategist at Oracle Investment Research, told Bloomberg that it will be important to price wristwatch-like devices under $200 to attract the app developers. He feels that around a quarter of existing Samsung users could be interested in using a watch-like device from the South Korean firm, and so it’s crucial for Apple to get into the market early so it can dominate.
“This is a new category that Apple is trailblazing that will see competition from Samsung,” Balter said.
“If I were Apple, I’d strategically price the watch as low as possible to bring as many as possible into the ecosystem. Samsung is going to be there for many years to come and try to cut them off.”
Apple is believed to be launching its own smart watch offering, dubbed the ‘iWatch’ by gadget geeks, later in 2013. Rumors point to a device that is made of a type of glass that’s incredibly thin and bends with the movement of the human wrist. The product is thought to be capable of performing tasks similar to the iPhone and iPad.
Earlier this month, a report from Citigroup (C) analyst Oliver Chen suggested that if Cupertino decided to enter the growing wearable technology market, the move would result in profit generation reaching billions for the iPhone maker.
“This can be a $6 billion opportunity for Apple, with plenty of opportunity for upside if they create something totally new like they did with the iPod — something consumers didn’t even know they needed,” said Chen.
The race to develop such a device is definitely on at this point. “The issue here is who will first commercialize it so consumers can use it meaningfully,” Samsung’s Lee said.