Microsoft's Spot watches run slow

Watches equipped with Microsoft's Smart Personal Objects Technology (Spot) will not be available until early next year, missing...

Watches equipped with Microsoft's Smart Personal Objects Technology (Spot) will not be available until early next year, missing their holiday shopping season target.

Microsoft and watchmakers Fossil of the US and Suunto Oy of Finland only recently started a large test, and for the watches to be widely available around the holidays, they would have to be shipping to retailers in September, said Roger Gulrajani, director of Spot at Microsoft.

"First and foremost we want to make sure we have a great consumer experience," Gulrajani said in an interview at the Comdex trade show in Las Vegas. "We are putting watches on people's wrists and seeing what the overall experience is."

The Spot watches are equipped with a radio frequency receiver and work with MSN Direct, a Microsoft subscription service which transmits information over an FM radio network. Users will be able to select from a menu of information transmitted to the watches, including news, stock quotes, weather, traffic and restaurant guides.

Users will be able to receive messages via MSN Messenger and appointment reminders. The service will be largely text-based, with some icons for weather reports, for example.

Spot watches and the MSN Direct service initially will be available in the US and Canada only. MSN Direct sends information to the watches over the Microsoft DirectBand network, an FM radio network built from spectrum Microsoft leased on the networks of broadcasting companies in the top 100 US metropolitan areas and the largest Canadian cities.

However, Microsoft is studying the possibility of expanding the service to Europe and Asia, Gulrajani said. "We are doing some research about what the business and regulatory challenges might be outside the US and Canada."

MSN Direct pricing was announced in June and is set at $9.95 per month. As an introductory offer, the service also will be available for $59 per year.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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