Microsoft copies Apple, may design touch-enabled watch device

by CXOtoday News Desk    Apr 15, 2013

Microsoft

It looks like Microsoft does not want to be left out of the bandwagon anymore. After having lost out in the mobility and tablet race, Microsoft is not taking any chances. It was recently revealed that the software giant is keen to enter the hardware space and is working on its own designs of smart watches, similar to those that Apple is currently developing.  

Quoting supplier executives Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft Corp is working on designs for a touch-enabled watch device, potentially joining rivals like Apple Inc. in working on a new class of computing products.

The report stated that earlier this year, Microsoft asked suppliers in Asia to ship components for a potential watch-style device. One executive told the website that he had met with Microsoft’s research and development team at the software company’s Redmond, Washington headquarters. But it’s unclear whether Microsoft will opt to move ahead with the watch, they were reported saying.

Microsoft declined to comment for the report.

Some of the new wearable gadgets like Nike Inc.’s FuelBand measure physical activity while others are intended to supplement functions of a smartphone, such as receiving text messages, taking photos or checking the weather. Apple has also experimented with designs for a wristwatch-style device, The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year.

Startup Pebble Technology Corp. is selling a watch that syncs wirelessly with smartphones and vibrates to alert wearers to incoming phone calls, Twitter posts and emails. Google Inc. is also testing with consumers a device it calls Google Glass, an eyeglass-style gadget that displays certain computerized information in a user’s field of vision.

“We see growing demand for wearable gadgets as the size of the smartphone has become too big to carry around,” RBS analyst Wanli Wang told WSJ. “A smart watch that is compatible with a smartphone and other electronics devices would be attractive to consumers.”

Research firm Gartner expects the market for wearable smart electronics to be a $10 billion industry by 2016.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that Microsoft has shown an interest in wearable gadgets. Microsoft a decade ago unveiled a “Smart Watch” powered by the company’s software. For a subscription fee, Smart Watch wearers could have news headlines, sports scores and instant messages beamed over FM radio to their wrists. But sales stopped in 2008.

For its potential new watch prototype, Microsoft has requested 1.5-inch displays from component makers, said an executive at a component supplier to the website.

The tests of a computerized watch also underscore Microsoft’s ambitions in expanding its hardware offerings. Last October, Microsoft launched the Surface tablet-style computer, and the company is prepping more homegrown computing devices including a smaller, 7-inch version of a tablet to compete with popular gadgets like Apple’s iPad Mini, people familiar with the matter said.

Microsoft also is continuing to test its own smartphone, although it isn’t clear whether it will bring such a device to market, component suppliers said.