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Apple to offer Watch to employees at half price

It's a nice discount for all Apple employees, but it doesn't quite match the free iPhones Apple handed out when its first smartphone hit the market.

Apple will give employees a 50 percent discount on its first smartwatch. James Martin/CNET

It's a good time to be an Apple employee.

CEO Tim Cook on Monday sent a memo to employees saying Apple will give all workers a 50 percent discount on Apple Watch or Apple Watch Sport. The purchase has to be for personal use, and the discount, which starts at the time preorders begin on April 10, is only valid for the first 90 days after Apple Watch is available, the memo said.

"Our products enrich people's lives like no others, and we think Apple Watch is going to delight our customers in ways people can't yet imagine," Cook said. "We want you to share in that experience right alongside them."

The discount is a generous one, particularly when compared to rivals such as Samsung and to the launch of iPad. Samsung gives employees minimal discounts, and Apple didn't give employees special pricing for the iPad when it first came out. Apple did, however, give all employees free iPhones when the smartphone hit the market in 2007 -- making a 50 percent discount a little less attractive.

Still, Apple's headcount has soared since it released iPhone, making it pretty expensive to hand out free watches (though its sales have also soared -- to record highs). In fiscal 2007, which ended September 29, Apple had 21,600 full-time employees. In fiscal 2014, which ended September 27, Apple employed 92,600 full-time workers. About 46,200 of those 2014 employees worked in Apple's retail stores.

Apple's first smartwatch, Apple Watch, hits the market April 24, and presales start April 10. The device comes in two sizes, three different models, a couple different finishes per model and with a variety of band options. The entry-level device, the aluminum and glass Apple Watch Sport with plastic band, starts at $349. The midrange Apple Watch ranges from $549 to $1,099, and the premium gold Apple Watch Edition starts at $10,000 and goes as high as $17,000.

But you won't be able to walk into a store to purchase an Apple Watch like you can with the iPhone and iPad . Instead, all sales will be made through a reservation system, Apple confirmed to CNET on Friday. And that's true for the indefinite future. Apple has no plans at this time to allow you to stop into a store and walk out with an Apple Watch, even after the device officially hits the market. Starting April 10, you can set up an appointment for an in-store fitting in one of more than 400 stores across four continents.

What will ultimately determine the success of Apple Watch are the apps offered on the device. Apple, at a press event in early April, showed how you'll be able to call an Uber car using the watch or unlock your hotel room door. You'll also be able to check in for a flight or turn off your house lights using a tap on your wrist. Initial watch apps are largely an extension of the main iPhone app, providing users with quick notifications and fairly limited abilities.

Cook's memo on Monday noted that developers submitted more than 1,000 Apple Watch apps in the first four days the App Store started accepting them, "and the rate of submissions has only been climbing since then."

"Some of the most innovative developers in the world are working on new experiences designed specifically for Apple Watch," Cook said.

9-to-5 Mac earlier reported the news about the employee discount for watches.