Where Dick Tracy and Apple may meet

Nick Bilton

Dick Tracy had one. As did Inspector Gadget and James Bond. A watch that doubled as a computer, two-way radio, mapping device or television.

Now the smart watch might soon become a reality, in the form of a curved glass device made by Apple. In its headquarters at California, Apple is experimenting with wristwatch-like devices made of curved glass, according to people familiar with the company's explorations. Such a watch would operate Apple's iOS platform, two people said, and stand apart from competitors based on the company's understanding of how such glass can curve around the human body.

Apple declined to comment on its plans. But the exploration of such a watch leaves open lots of exciting questions: if the company does release such a product, what would it look like? Would it include Siri, the voice assistant? Would it have a version of Apple's map software? Could it receive text messages? How much will it cost? Could Timothy D. Cook, Apple's chief executive, be wearing one right now, whispering sweet nothings to his wrist?

Although it would take Dick Tracy to find the answers to those questions, it's clear that Apple has the technology.

Last year, Corning, the maker of the ultra-tough Gorilla Glass that is used in the iPhone, announced that it had solved the difficult engineering challenge of creating bendable glass, called Willow Glass, that can flop as easily as a piece of paper in the wind without breaking.

Pete Bocko, the chief technology officer for Corning Glass Technologies, who worked on Willow Glass, said that the company had been developing the thin, flexible glass for more than a decade.

"Apple's certainly made a lot of hiring in that area," said Sarah Rotman Epps, a Forrester analyst. "Apple is already in the wearable space through its ecosystem partners that make accessories that connect to the iPhone," she said.

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