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How Apple and Microsoft Can Dominate The Next Big Thing

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Companies such as Microsoft (MSFT), Apple (AAPL), Samsung, Fitbit, Jawbone, and to as lesser extent, Garmin (GRMN), are currently or reported to be betting part of their futures on wearable devices, with a market that is poised to explode over the next few years, as devices go mainstream.

According to research firm IHS, the wearable device market is expected to be worth $60 billion by 2018. This fact is corroborated by research firm ON World, who estimates that mobile sensing wearables-- fashionable devices that perform sensing and location functions, will be a $50 billion industry in the next five years, led by products such as smart watches, smart glasses and a host of other wearable devices.

It's expected that over the next five years, more than 700 million wearable tech devices will be shipped, as consumers begin to realize the benefits of such devices. ON World surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. consumers, noting that 19% already own or plant to own a wearable technology product in the next year, with another 13% likely to purchase one within two years.

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How Apple's iWatch Can Help Wearables

Enter reports such as one on Microsoft, which is reported to be working on a wrist computer that will either look like a wristwatch and perform tasks like a smartphone or may even be a slim connected exercise/wristband which could also include some smartphone-like messaging features.

Microsoft could not be reached for comment to confirm the patent.

Redmond, WA.-based Microsoft has long had a track record of being first with innovative idea, that have not worked out as successful consumer products. Microsoft has had issues with hardware products, including the Kin, Zune, WebTV and recent software, such as Windows Vista and Windows 8. In 2002, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates took to the stage at the COMDEX show to talk about connected households and how products would soon talk to and inter-operate with each other. Less than two years later, Microsoft announced SPOT (Smart Personal Objects Technology), a system that had the ability to connect personal devices such wristwatches with household items like Melitta coffee makers and bedroom alarm clocks. SPOT turned out to be a flop and the system was discontinued in 2008.

This time around Microsoft won't be first in the marketplace, but may incorporate one major feature. The Microsoft watch is rumored to connect not only with Windows, but Google's (GOOG) Android and certain Apple devices, potentially giving the product a slight advantage over most of its competition. The smartwatch may also able to connect to Xbox gaming consoles, helping it appeal to the same audience which eschews the idea of wearing any sort of timepiece.

With Windows 8 never really catching on, mixed, but improving results for the Microsoft Surface, and the Xbox One trailing Sony's SNE PlayStation 4 in console sales, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella could use a hit consumer-facing product.

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