NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There's been a lot of talk recently about wearable technology and Apple's (AAPL) upcoming role in it as the iWatch launch gets closer to reality. However, if the iWatch costs as much as some think, wearables may fall flat on their (watch) faces.
From 9to5Mac (a partner with TheStreet), comes a report from KGI Research analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who in the past has been spot on with Apple's product releases even if the timing has been a little off. This year he's not expecting much in the first half of the year, only a small update to the iMac. But in the back half of the year is when Apple goes beserk and has the mother of all product updates, including the unveiling of the iWatch.
Starting in the third quarter and going to the fourth, Apple will update the iPad Air and iPad mini, the Apple TV, as well as all of its MacBooks. In addition, we'll also see the long-awaited launch of the next iPhone, dubbed by many to be called the iPhone Air, which will come in two sizes, 4.7-inches and 5.5-inches. The 4.7-inch model, according to Kuo, may be released before the 5.5-inch version because of manufacturing issues for the larger screen.
However, the big release for Apple this year will be the iWatch. What's most troubling from Kuo's report is not that it will be available in a variety of different styles and two sizes but how much it will cost.
"Fashion is the name of the game; most expensive model likely priced at several thousand US dollars," Kuo wrote in the report. "Referring to the rules of the fashion market, we predict the iWatch casing and band will come in various materials. The most expensive model of the iWatch line will carry a price tag of several thousand US dollars. Assuming the iWatch proves to be a success, we expect Apple's key competitors in 5-10 years will be the current fashion brands, not the existing tech companies."
Should the most expensive version of the iWatch be priced at several thousand dollars, not only would it not be competing with today's current crop of smartwatches, including Samsung's Galaxy Gear, and watches that run on Google's (GOOG) Android Wear, it would be competing with the likes of Rolex, Cartier, Patek Philippe, Baume and Mercier, and other extremely high-end luxury watches.
This would likely be a disaster for Apple, given the market for high-end luxury watches is nowhere near large enough to make a dent in Apple's roughly $160 billion or more annual revenue. More likely is that the high-end iWatch (or whatever Apple decides to name it) costs around $1,000. The model that most people buy will wind up costing somewhere in the neighborhood of around $300.
"Our working assumption is that iWatch will largely be adopted as an accessory device and therefore sold into the existing customer base like the iPad rather than to new customers like the iPod or iPhone," Morgan Stanley analyst Katy Huberty wrote in February research note on Apple. "Assuming an ASP of $299 and Apple customer base penetration rate similar to the iPad, we see up to $17.5B of revenue in the first 12 months compared to $12B for the iPad and $2.5B for the iPhone."
Apple has made no bones about the fact that it's not going to cater to everyone with all of its devices, simply because it has to. Apple and CEO Timothy D. Cook have never cared about market share, despite pressure from Wall Street and the media to do so. But should Apple choose to go the ultra-high end route with its wearable tech offering, it likely would not end well and could result in a massive disaster for Apple, the likes of which it hasn't seen since perhaps the Newton.
-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in New York
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