Microsoft to launch internet ‘smart’ watch

The company plans this fall to introduce a service, called MSN Direct, that will stream weather reports, stock quotes, sports scores, and other information to digital “smart” watches over FM radio waves to users in about 100 North American cities, including Boston. The service will cost $9.95 a month, or $59 a year, the company said yesterday.

MSN Direct is the latest example of the efforts by Microsoft, the world’s largest maker of software for personal computers, to extend its software into a wide range of devices.

The service will work initially on special digital watches by Fossil Inc. and Suunto Corp., a Finnish watchmaker, that run a Microsoft operating system. But through an initiative that Microsoft calls Smart Personal Objects Technology, or SPOT, other simple yet wirelessly connected devices such as key chains and alarm clocks are expected to follow.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates first showed off prototypes of the wristwatch service in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Microsoft said it has signed licensing deals with companies such as Clear Channel Communications Inc. that control the low end of the FM radio spectrum in more than 100 metropolitan markets in North America. Microsoft will stream the information to watches across those radio waves.

Customers interested in receiving information on such a small screen as a watch face will be able to visit a Microsoft website to choose the information they want delivered. Choices will include news headlines, restaurant listings, movie listings, and traffic updates. Microsoft would not say yesterday which content providers it would use.

Other features include time updates when the watch enters a new time zone, synchronization with Microsoft’s Outlook calendar program for appointment reminders, and the ability to receive, but not send, instant messages from Microsoft’s MSN Messenger program. America Online’s instant messaging program won’t work, and only people approved by the user in advance can send messages, the company said.

“You won’t be getting spam to your watch,” said Cindy Spodek Dickey, a group program manager in Microsoft’s SPOT group.

Source: Boston Globe