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Canadian companies line up to release apps for Apple Watch launch

Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple, speaks in San Francisco on Monday.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

How many apps will be available to download for the new Apple Watch as of its April 24 launch? Fewer than you might think, owing to Apple Inc.'s tightly controlled and secretive process for approving software for the wearable device.

There are 1.4 million apps on iOS, the Apple mobile platform that powers iPods, iPads and iPhones. In 2014, Apple says its developer partners collected $10-billion (U.S.) in revenue from those apps.

Apple spokespeople declined to comment on the process by which apps designed with the company's WatchKit software developers kit will be approved for use on the Watch. Current iOS apps also must receive final Apple approval, but access to the exclusive club of Watch apps reportedly includes another layer of approvals and tests.

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Apple has invited some companies to a lab facility in California to test software on developer models of the Watch, though representatives are not allowed to discuss those trips, owing to strict non-disclosure agreements they signed.

Apple has a history of keeping a tight rein on third-party software when it introduces new devices to the public. The original iPhone didn't even have an App Store, and the first iPads had a small number of apps optimized for the larger tablet.

One potentially serious limiting factor is the onboard storage: There are only eight gigabytes of flash storage in the Watch, and some reports suggest at least two GB could be dedicated to music, and only 75 megabytes to photos.

The latest version of iOS, 8.2, comes with a Watch app users cannot delete. Inside that app is a separate App Store that will host the wearable-specific software.

The wearable enthusiast site WatchAware has tracked 62 Watch apps that might be there as of April 24, but there could be more.

Several Canadian companies said they will be on the Watch as of Day 1.

Desjardins Group, which has an iOS app that allows users to send e-mail money transfers, check balances and so forth, said on Twitter: "We welcome the upcoming arrival of the #AppleWatch#AppleWatch. And we'll be on board with an app from the very start."

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Air Canada's logo was spotted during Monday's Watch demonstration by Apple vice-president of technology Kevin Lynch, though the company declined to comment.

Montreal's Transit App Inc., makers of a public transportation tracking service, also appeared in the demo and later tweeted out: "But can your Rolex do this?"

The Globe and Mail also intends to release an app.

Google's Android Wear also has criteria for developers looking to access smartwatch users: "Only apps that are usable on Wear will be designated as Wear apps on Google Play – your apps can participate if they meet a set of basic quality criteria."

Most of Apple's chosen few seem to focus on automation, fitness and social connections.

Apps include a remote-worker panic button from StaySafe, and a one-touch walkie-talkie app from Zello. HoneyWell (thermostats), Lutron (lights) and BMW will offer automation and monitoring apps for the home and car.

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There are numerous fitness apps – from Instructor's seven-minute workout, to an updated Nike activity tracker.

Apps from major social networks and chat services such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WeChat will be available at launch.

There will still be somewhat silly apps, such as the Boiled Egg Timer. One company is promising a "FartWatch" app for, um, virtual whoopie cushion noises. Games, the most popular apps on iOS, appear to be in short supply.

In many ways, Apple is taking a big risk with a new and unproven luxury category device that chief executive officer Tim Cook described as "not just with you, it's on you." Apple appears to have treated that intimate relationship with great care, not allowing the free-for-all of virtual beer apps or battery-hogging games that typified the earlier openings of the App Store.

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