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Smartwatch Supremacy Battle Is Heating Up

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Samsung is reportedly ready to announce its second-generation smartwatch at the Mobile World Congress industry show next week in Barcelona. That fact has been leaking from South Korean "inside sources" for weeks.

Expect the new Galaxy Gear (possibly called the Galaxy Gear 2) to be at least one redesigned smartwatch. It could be a line of new smartwatches. As with any modern electronic gear, expect the new version to be thinner and lighter, slightly cheaper in price and chock full of new features.

What else would Samsung be announcing? How about a brand new operating system to run the smartwatches? According to USA Today, Samsung may use its own Tizen OS -- and not Google's (GOOG) Android -- in at least one of the new wearables.

Samsung has been busy developing a new mobile operating system for years, just in case Google did something like buying a rival cell phone manufacturer -- such as Motorola -- to possibly keep Samsung from using Android in its devices. And even though Motorola is now on its way to new ownership (Lenovo), Tizen and its boosters now have a new mobile system ready to go.

The people behind Tizen include Samsung, Intel (INTC), Sprint (S), Softbank and the Linux Foundation. The open-source operating system is designed to excel at running HTML5-based applications. Those same apps also run on Android, Firefox OS, Ubuntu Touch OS and Palm/Hewlett Packard's (HPQ) late, great webOS (the remnants are now owned by LG). Tizen is said to be able to run on smartphones, tablets, in-car entertainment systems, smart TVs and possibly smartwatches.

Some pundits believe Galaxy Gear 2 will sport a totally new curved design and will stress health and fitness as well as delivering simple messages and Bluetooth phone connectivity. Samsung could be planning to include fitness and activity tracking programs to compete with current wrist computer designs from Nike (NKE), Polar and others.

The Galaxy Gear 2 will also have to deal with smartwatches from Pebble (a Kickstarter darling) and Sony (SNE). Apple (AAPL) has been rumored to be working on an "iWatch" for years. Steve Wozniak actually mentioned that an "iWatch" was in the works way back in 2008. Exactly what Apple is working on and when it might announce a wearable computing device has been debated for months.

There have been hundreds of Photoshopped renderings of what an iWatch might look or what it might be able to accomplish. But, to date, Apple isn't saying when or even if an iWatch might be a possibility.

The latest thought on the subject comes from a new Slate dispatch which postulates one of iWatch's most important features has already been introduced.

iBeacon is a wireless system currently being tested at Macy's (M) and other retailers that measures where a shopper is actually walking in a retail store and then sends messages about products and bargains directly to the shopper's smartphone and soon other smart devices. Think of it as a very short-range GPS network.

In addition to Macy's, iBeacon is currently being tested in a number of supermarket chains nationwide. It was also in use at the Super Bowl earlier this month and will soon be tested in nearly two dozen Major League Baseball ballparks this spring.

-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

To submit a news tip, send an email to tips@thestreet.com.

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