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Apple CEO Tim Cook begins to make the case for Smartwatches

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(Bloomberg Business) — Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) began making the case for its first new device in five years, a smartwatch designed to put information on peoples’ wrists and break open the fledgling market for wearable technology.

Apple Watch tracks health and fitness information, displays message notifications and lets users control their music. It comes in two sizes and three styles with a starting price of $349, according to the Cupertino, California-based company. Apple is holding an event in San Francisco Monday to provide new details about the gadget, which goes on sale in April.

With the watch, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook is pushing Apple into a new product category that seeks to further immerse users into the company’s digital universe. As a health and fitness tracker, the watch opens new possibilities in the health industry. It also expands the number of devices that work with Apple Pay, the company’s new mobile-payments system. To fully work, the watch, which has a color touchscreen, needs to be paired with an iPhone.

Apple Watch, first revealed in September, marks the first new gadget to be released since Cook became CEO in 2011. The new product, plus new larger-screened iPhones, have helped boost optimism about Apple’s growth, sending its shares to a record high in recent weeks.

Apple’s Watch sales this fiscal year may reach almost 14 million, according to the average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. The global market for all smartwatches may rise to 28.1 million units this year from 4.6 million, with Apple capturing 55 percent of the market, according to researcher Strategy Analytics.

The sophistication of the applications available will be key to wooing Apple Watch buyers. Just as the App Store has been a key reason for the iPhone’s success, tools for Apple Watch will help determine how customers use the gadget and whether it will be a sales hit.