The latest rumors suggest Microsoft is following Apple, Samsung, Google and LG into the smartwatch market.
The Wall Street Journal Monday reports that executives at Microsoft's Asian suppliers claim the software firm has ordered batches of 1.5-inch displays as part of development work on a touch-enabled "watch-style" product. One executive the publication spoke to said that he had even met with Microsoft's research and development team at the software company's headquarters. However, he also added that it isn't clear whether the device will go beyond prototyping.
If the watch does move beyond R&D it could be one of five potential smartwatches hitting the market in 2013. As well as the well-documented rumors regarding Apple's iWatch, reports also claim that Google is developing an intelligent timepiece. Meanwhile, South Korean tech firms Samsung and LG have both made official statements announcing their intent to join the fray with their own devices.
Like Samsung and LG, Microsoft is not new to the smartwatch market. It launched its first smartwatch back in 2004. However, unlike early attempts by Samsung and LG to incorporate phone-like features -- such as voice calling and text messages -- into a personal timepiece, Microsoft's approach bought a host of ‘alerts' such as the weather, news headlines, stock prices and even the latest sports results and live scores, as well as email notifications which it transmitted to the devices using FM radio broadcast signals.
The company was too early to market and the watches and other devices (such as coffee makers) that used its SPOT (Smart Personal Objects Technology) platform never caught on -- even though they offered a host of services that, 10 years later, every smartphone owner takes for granted and probably can't live without. Part of the reason was the devices were not only expensive (a Fossil-built MSN Direct Wrist.NET watch cost $250), but owners then had to pay a monthly or yearly subscription to receive the updates. SPOT watches were pulled from market in 2008 and Microsoft finally turned off the supporting FM signal for its few remaining customers in December 2011.
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