Microsoft makes time for Smart Watch

Move over Rolex, Timex and for that matter Palm as Microsoft releases its much anticipated Smart Watch.

Microsoft Smart Watches made by Suunto and Fossil for use with MSN Direct were been made available to Canadian retailers Tuesday.


giving you the time and date, the Smart Watch through its own FM band, can deliver news, weather, calendar appointments, text messages, and up-to-date stock quote information. The watch is also smart enough to change the clock depending on what time zone you are in.

Currently Microsoft Canada is looking for more content providers for the MSN Direct service. The service is currently available in Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Ont., Kitchener, Ont., London, Ont., Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria.

Aaron Woodman, group program manager for Microsoft consumer strategy, said the company is working with CBC and Rogers Communications to provide more local content for the Smart Watch.

The Smart Watches retail between $199 to $399 and the MSN Direct service is $14.99 a month or $99 for the whole year. Major mass merchants such as Future Shop, Best Buy and London Drugs have confirmed they will carry the watches. Woodman added that other smaller computer retailers will have Smart Watches shipped to them also before the holiday season.

“”There are three truths Microsoft has discovered. Individual devices will do more tomorrow than today. Content is going digital eventually and it is a connected world,”” Woodman said about the reasoning behind Microsoft developing a smart watch.

Chris Schneider, a spokesperson for MSN Direct and Microsoft’s Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) initiative, said that Microsoft surveyed 12,000 Canadians and Americans for SPOT and from that the company learned people wanted technology to be more personal.

In January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Smart Watch was offered with only news, personal messaging, and Outlook calendar. Today, Schneider said the watch comes with “”This Day in History,”” lotto information, horoscopes and other daily diversions.

“”This is a consumer device, not a productivity tool and it is good for movie theatres and meeting rooms where they ask you to turn off devices such as cell phones,”” Schneider added.

However, Michelle Warren, market analyst at Evans Research of Toronto, believes Smart Watches offer consumer and corporate users the ability to increase productivity and efficiency by offering a simple form factor.

“”As this market matures, increased competitors bode well for the purchaser, and for the reseller. The reseller will continue to play a critical role in pairing the proper product with the user’s requirements,”” she said.

Microsoft’s Smart Watch is not in colour, but that is coming, Woodman said. Different styles and sizes are also on the way, he added. “”We are limited to the display image for icons and text size for now it’s an issue, but rest assured we can make it smaller,”” he said.

Woodman also said that the cost of colour LCDs made it prohibitive for the Smart Watch to be in colour today.

For those Dick Tracy fans, voice is also not available yet, but will be a possibility in the future, Woodman said.

“”Microsoft’s consumer research showed that people do not want to communicate via voice in this form factor today,”” he said.

However, as processing power increases the Smart Watch will be able to play MP3s and be able to tell you how long the line up is at a particular Disney World ride. As you wait for the ride, Disney will be able send special Disney Store promotions directly to your Smart Watch.

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