May 7, 2014
Wearable Market May Soon Include A Smartwatch From Microsoft
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
This hot market has attracted tech giants Apple and Samsung, which are each working on their own smartwatches, and this week it was reported that Microsoft is also developing a fitness-based smartwatch.
On Monday Patent Bolt reported that the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Microsoft last week for a smartwatch. The device could be used for general uses but had built-in features aimed at fitness enthusiasts.
The patent noted that the device includes a special docking station that charges the watch wirelessly, and it features fitness related icons that can track distance, heart rate and calories burned -- much like traditional heart rate monitors and other fitness trackers. However, the device could be adaptable to multiple uses as it contains a computing unit that can be removed from the wrist band. This could also eventually let users swap their bands around for color and design purposes, suggesting it would be a fashion accessory as well as a smartwatch.
The patent's abstract was far more "abstract" in the potential uses of the watch. It noted:
"The system may include a portable information device having a housing including a top surface defined at least partially by a display, a bottom surface configured with a central region in which an optical sensor, electrical connector, and data connector are positioned, the housing enclosing an internal volume in which a processor is provided, the top surface and bottom surface being coupled by a perimeter side edge extending there between, and a mounting structure formed at least partially around the perimeter side edge of the housing. The system may further include a frame, which may be connected to a band, the frame surrounding a void and configured to receive the mounting structure, the frame and mounting structure being releasably [sic] securable via a tongue and groove connection. The system may further comprise a dock to which the information device may be connected."
As noted, Microsoft is not the only company working on a smartwatch; Samsung has recently released its Galaxy Gear smartwatch, while Apple has been long working on the rumored iWatch.
The start up Pebble has also brought a device to market.
Pebble was able to successfully launch via a Kickstarter campaign, which followed a series of venture capital investments, which suggests that at least investors see a potential future in wearable smartwatches.
Microsoft is also making a return to the market, as this is not the first time reports have surfaced that Microsoft could be developing such a device. Rumors have abounded for some time that the Surface team has been working on such a device and the timing of the patent is notable as Microsoft is hosting a Surface event later this month in New York City.
PC Mag also noted that Microsoft had attempted to bring a smartwatch to market. In 2002 it introduced the Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) Watch, which delivered information including news and weather, as well as instant messages via an FM signal. The watch was likely ahead of its time and was discontinued in 2008.
Given that the SPOT didn't actually leave a mark the question becomes why Microsoft would want to enter such a crowded market again?
"The hype around wearables continues," Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics, told redOrbit. "Companies are flocking to the segment more out of fear to be left behind in case someone delivers a breakthrough device rather than any real market. The challenge that nobody has yet been able to meet is to offer something non-repetitive while bringing the power/heat/weight conundrum under control."