"Watch makers will want to include functionality such as wireless connectivity with the smartphone or to add alerts or a connection to a personal assistant," she said. "That's a natural evolution of watch capabilities, as with many consumer electronics. We'll continue to see inclusions of smartwatches in the overall watch category."
In one future scenario, she said smartwatch makers could design a smartwatch to be an extension of a home-based personal assistant like Amazon Echo. In that case, a command to the Echo could be spoken into the watch when the user is it out of the room where the Echo device is located. "A smartwatch could be used to get information or to control your connected home," she said.
One of the pioneers in smartwatches, Pebble, announced Wednesday it would no longer make Pebble devices; Fitbit said it acquired Pebble's assets, including intellectual property and key employees. Fitbit was interested in the PebbleOS, which can be paired with Apple's iOS and Android.
Some see the Fitbit move as a negative for the future of smartwatches. But McIntyre said the acquisition could mean Fitbit will use Pebble technology and engineers to build products that "blur the line between Fitbit sport watches and smartwatches."
Fitbit reportedly bought those assets for $40 million, which could have been a move to go "bargain shopping for engineers and IP," she said, adding: "It's hard to say what's motivating this move."
Apple CEO Tim Cook earlier this week bolstered Gartner's long-term upward trend for Apple Watch sales in a statement to Reuters.
"Sales growth is off the charts," he said Monday. "In fact, during the first week of holiday shopping, our sell-through of Apple Watch was greater than any week in the product's history. And as we expected, we're on track for the best quarter ever for Apple Watch."
Cook seemed to be responding to an IDC report the same day that third-quarter shipments for Apple Watch were down by 71% for the third quarter of 2016 over the same quarter in 2015. IDC was referring to the quarter prior to the fourth quarter Cook mentioned and didn't forecast how well Apple would do in the current quarter.
IDC wasn't available to comment on Cook's statement of "off the charts" successes in the fourth quarter, but IDC did say in its Monday statement that Apple's successes with its latest generation smartwatches "will likely be muted as the smartwatch category continues to be challenged."
Still, the research firm has been optimistic about the smartwatch category, seeing a rebound in 2017.
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