Could Apple really ship 50 million iWatches in first year?

Another day, another iWatch rumor.  This time, however, it looks like there could be some fire behind the smoke, as Reuters reports the company is looking to start production of the watch in mid-summer for a October release.

According to the Reuters report, the iWatch will have:

…a display that likely measures 2.5 inches diagonally and is slightly rectangular, one of the sources said. The source added that the watch face will protrude slightly from the band, creating an arched shape, and will feature a touch interface and wireless charging capabilities.

What was most interesting for me, however, was not the specs but the number of anticipated shipments. According to the same source, Apple expects to sell 50 million devices in the first year.

Now, let’s take all of this with a giant barrel of salt.  Understand this is an unnamed source, an iWatch rumor (of which there have been  many) and that production estimates are remarkably unreliable.

But all that said, if the 50 million watch production run for the first year is even close to what Apple is forecasting, it shows the company fully expects to create a massive new category and instantly become one of the biggest watch manufacturers in the world.

If this is indeed how they see the market – and that’s a big if – then it means the company is expecting much of their near AND long term additive growth to come from wearables (and smartwatches in particular). It also means the company believes that they can capitalize on their core brand enough to convert consumers to an emerging category like no other tech company has been able to so far.

And maybe they can. This is Apple after all, a company that is, in many ways, as much a fashion brand as much as a tech brand, one that still holds lots of cachet in its name despite some recent sluggishness on the innovation front.

My feeling is that while 50 million is too aggressive a number even for Apple, the company could very well grow the market – after all, their entry is part of the reason I forecasted 37 million smart watches to ship in 2015 – and that’s something that would benefit the wearable category as a whole.