Does anyone remember the Timex digital wristwatch that once interfaced with Microsoft Outlook or even Clive Sinclair's ill-fated Black Watch in 1975?
Well, digital watches are back. There's a new generation of gadgetry and the hanging promise of the next Windows monopoly on your wrist, through the announcement of Microsoft's Smart Personal Object Technology (Spot) technology last week.
In a keynote speech at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Bill Gates explained how Microsoft's recently unveiled Spot would be integrated into watches.
Not only will the watches tell the time, but they will also deliver up-to-the-minute and useful information, which all rather sounds to me like SMS alerts on mobile phones, today's horoscope and more photos of David Beckham.
This next great technological breakthrough will also embrace the fridge magnet, which Microsoft appears to believe is as ubiquitous as the wristwatch. The fridge magnet is, of course, an integral component of US foreign policy. If you don't have one, you could expect a surprise visit from the US military, which is preparing the way for the introduction of fridge magnets to Iraq.
Personally, I prefer the watch as an elegant item of fashion and function, rather than an "el gismo fantastico", but there is a danger that Microsoft might find itself following in the footsteps of Sir Clive Sinclair where this technology is concerned.
Of course, Spot isn't really about a new generation of Microsoft-badged plastic gadgets, magnetic or otherwise. It's about wireless or, more accurately, radio. Data-broadcast Networks is Microsoft's next great leap, and there is early evidence of the company morphing into new technologies and markets, as I suggested in my predictions for 2003.
This gives us a future with four principal communications and broadcast mediums: digital television, the Internet, digital (3G) telephony and digital radio. There are no prizes for guessing who might be focusing on preparing the ground for the anticipated growth of these last two with new "smart" keyring type devices and new partnerships.
Whether the world is ready yet for more digital gadgetry is a moot point but the company has enough investment capital to be able to gamble with new ideas. Microsoft took a considerable risk by entering the PDA and the mobile phone market. The former, through Pocket PC, finally paid off after the painfully expensive learning experience of Windows CE, but the market for the latest Stinger phones has yet to be proven.
What's your view?
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Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.
This was first published in January 2003