Microsoft unveils smart watches, portable media box

Date 9-Jan-2003 8:26:25
Topic: Miscellaneous News

Microsoft Corp. unveiled plans for a portable media player and a radio-linked wristwatch on Wednesday as it tries to move its software from desktops to hands and pockets.

Microsoft Chairman and founder Bill Gates said the market for ``smart objects'' such as watches that can download data was potentially massive.

``The only screen you carry around with you and you can just glance at is a wrist-sized screen,'' Gates told Reuters ahead of a speech at the Consumer Electronics Show. ``If we get five percent or 10 percent of the people who have watches, it's a huge, huge number.''

The smart watches, which recall the futuristic designs once popularized by the comic book crime fighter Dick Tracy, will receive data over FM radio spectrum leased by Microsoft, a system the company calls DirectBand.

The announcements are part of a push by the world's largest software company beyond its stronghold in computer operating systems toward a range of devices such as Tablet PCs, cars, monitors and even exercise bikes.

The strategy comes as the PC industry, which has suffered slower demand over the past two years, faces uncertain recovery prospects in the next six months in the view of many industry watchers.


No determination had been made yet as to what, if any, monthly service fees would be charged for the smart watch service, or whether Microsoft or the watch makers would control how users customize their wrist-borne devices, company representatives said.

The watches could start at $150 and would also have features like auto-updating time through an atomic clock.

Some manufacturers, Microsoft said, are also looking at making the watches into tracking devices using the satellite-based Global Positioning System, a step that would allow for a range of features like navigation.

Microsoft also said it is working with Intel Corp. on a design for portable players code-named ``Media2Go.'' The devices, which would hold at least 12 hours of audio or six hours of video, are targeted to hit retailers later this year.

Among the companies that will build the units, Microsoft said, are Sanyo, Samsung and ViewSonic. The new players will feature screens at least four inches wide, with ports to connect them to television sets for video-quality playback, the company said.

Gates told Reuters it would be at least three years before it would be possible to make a portable video game device that built on the company's existing Xbox game console.

``It'll be several years, more like three years, before you could do something like an Xbox in a portable factor,'' he said.

Gates' remarks came a day after Apple Computer Inc. introduced two new programs that compete with already-dominant software from Microsoft.

One of those new Apple products, called Keynote, is positioned to compete with Microsoft's PowerPoint, while a Web browser called Safari could replace Microsoft's Internet Explorer for Mac users.

``I doubt what they've done is as rich as PowerPoint,'' said Gates, who added he had not seen Apple's program.

Gates spent most of his 90-minute speech to the Consumer Electronics Show talking about smart objects and other media devices, though he did talk about how the company's Internet access service, MSN, was evolving into a broadband offering.

Earlier in the day Microsoft announced a deal with No. 3 cable company Charter Communications Inc. for Charter to promote MSN 8 Internet access. It marked the first major tie-up of that service with a cable provider, a market Gates described as increasingly important.

This article comes from AmigaWorld - Amiga Community Portal

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