Tim Cook on Apple Watch: Fighting the 'New Cancer'

The Apple Watch may be the most eagerly anticipated gadget of the year, but it also has a lot of doubters, who say the $350 device is too pricey or that the design is clunkier than the Moto 360. Or the critics may just be down on the smartwatch category altogether.

But, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook, the Apple Watch possesses several unique strengths, including a variety of designs, Siri integration and, yes, the ability to fight "the new cancer": sitting. Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference yesterday (Feb. 10) in San Francisco, Apple CEO Tim Cook likened today's smartwatches to early MP3 players before the iPod came along.

"We weren't the first company to make an MP3," Cook said. "They were fundamentally too hard to use, and the user interface was really bad."

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Cook was clearly drawing parallels to today's smartwatches. Android Wear devices, for example, involve a fair amount of swiping to get things done. The Pebble Watch, which uses a somewhat awkward button-based interface, is now on more than a million wrists, but that doesn't impress Cook.

"There are several things that are called 'smartwatches' that are shipping," he said, "but I'm not sure you could name any."

So how does Apple plan to shake up the market? By "changing the way you live your life," according to Cook. And that could include saving it. Apple's CEO told conference attendees that the Apple Watch will give you a little tap 10 minutes before the hour if you haven't moved within the hour. Why?

"Because a lot of doctors believe that sitting is the new cancer, right?" Cook said.

Apple's CEO said a lot of his employees who use the watch are now standing up and moving around at 10 minutes before the hour. In addition,  the Apple Watch has the ability to track your activity and exercise. But that's not all the Apple Watch will do for health.

Dexcom's upcoming Apple Watch app, for instance, will be able to help diabetes patients report glucose levels on a graph by working with a tiny monitor that's inserted under the skin. The app has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Cook believes that, just like the iPhone, the app selection for the Apple Watch will be a huge differentiator to separate Apple's offering from those of its competitors.

"The things third parties are working on? — I'm super excited about," Cook shared. "Just like when the App Store came out, and you remember the tagline, 'There's an app for that?' And the way you felt with your favorite apps, and so you're going to have a feeling like that."

It's not as if other smartwatch platforms are standing still. At last count, there were nearly 200 Android Wear apps in the Google Play store, 4,200 Pebble apps and watchfaces and more than 1,000 Tizen-based apps.

With Google I/O coming up in May, we expect to see many more enhancements for the Android Wear platform in general, as well as new designs to battle the Apple Watch. Pebble, too, has promised new hardware and software for this year.

However, Cook seems confident that the Apple Watch will rise above the competition, and will be much more than a novelty.

"There's just an enormous number of things that it will do," Cook said, "and I think you're going to find it something that you're going to think, 'Wow, I can't live without this anymore!'"