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Why a smartwatch is no big leap for Apple: Analyst

Entering the smartphone market—and the lifestyle market by extension—is not as big of a leap for Apple as some have suggested, Raymond James analyst Tavis McCourt told CNBC on Monday.

"I would argue they've been managing a lifestyle brand for quite some time," he said in a "Squawk on the Street" interview. "Part of the magic of the iPhone is clearly the ecosystem."

Further, the iPhone can be seen as a lifestyle success story in foreign markets, where fewer carriers subsidize the cost of smartphones and tariffs apply, making Apple's handset an $800-plus product.

Apple is expected to reveal new details about its smartwatch at an event in San Francisco at 1 p.m. EDT. The company gave market watchers a glimpse of the device's look and functionality in September.

Click here to take our poll: Which Apple Watch feature is most important for you?

Reports indicate Apple will release the watch in an array of casings and straps and allow buyers to customize the look to some extent. The priciest model—a gold Apple Watch—is expected to run as much as $10,000.

That decision shows the difference between the cultures of Apple and Samsung, said Ken Segall, a former creative director at Apple who worked with Steve Jobs for 12 years.

While Samsung came out with its Galaxy Gear watch first, it released a standard, one-size-fits all version, he told "Squawk on the Street." Apple studied the market and decided to launch a greater variety of devices, he added.

"I think it's the beginning of really mainstream wearable technology. We've seen a lot of things out there, but nobody has the ability to do what Apple does, to really come up with a world-changing device," he said.

Read More Poll: Which feature is most important for you on the Apple Watch?

Apple still faces significant challenges, McCourt said, noting that with revenues running close to $200 billion it will be tough for the Apple Watch to move the needles on the company's overall earnings.

"The watch market today is $30 billion or so, so they've got to not only take some share but actually grow that market," he said. "They've done that in smartphones and tablets before."

About 10 percent of iPhone users—or roughly 30 million people—have serious interest in buying an Apple Watch, according to a Raymond James survey. For every 10 million watches sold, depending on the price, the watch could add 25 to 40 cents to Apple's earnings per share on an annual basis, according to McCourt.

He also said it would be tough for Apple to sell 1 billion smartwatches, responding to research that projected the company could reach that mark if the Apple Watch's sensors are good enough to make it a must-have health-monitoring device.

Read MoreApple Live Blog: Here comes the smartwatch

"Apple has shown that really what it wants to do is dominate the high end of the markets that it is in. That's where the vast majority of the profits are," McCourt said.

However, the projection brings up a good point, he said: Much of the success of the device will not be decided in the first four quarters, but in the following years when the app ecosystem develops.

In the early stages following the release of Apple's previous products, the developers who are able to define the basic use cases for the device have made all the gains, said John Malloy, co-founder and general partner at BlueRun Ventures.

Apple made a software development kit available to app makers in November.

"Unless you're in the core group of developers that have been given special access, it's kind of hard to make a gamble on this to put a lot of development and resources on it. I think you're better off waiting to see what happens over the next six to 12 months," he told CNBC's "Squawk Alley."

"I know everybody's excited about today, but it's really the second year that really tells you whether this is going to become a new platform and I think there's plenty of time to figure that out."

Read MoreApple's big Watch problem: The wearable market

—CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this story.