Microsoft Delays Launch of ‘Smart’ Watches

The market launch of Microsoft’s new “SPOT” watches, which display customized, up-to-date information like weather, sports, and news, has been delayed until early 2004, according to Microsoft and electronics and computer industry news reports.

The “smart” timepieces, developed by the software giant in conjunction with the watch brands Citizen, Fossil, and Suunto, were scheduled to go on sale this fall, before Christmas. Microsoft—whose president Bill Gates announced the project in January 2003—gave no reason for the delay. However, insiders quoted in the press reports say the sophisticated radio-based “Smart Personal Objects Technology” (SPOT), developed by Microsoft Corp., may need some further testing.

Meanwhile, Citizen may be rethinking its involvement in the project, say electronics and computer industry press reports quoting Citizen officials. One sign of that was the absence of Citizen from Microsoft’s stand at the 2003 COMDEX Las Vegas electronics show (Nov. 17-20), where Microsoft had been expected to launch watches with SPOT technology. Instead, only Suunto and Fossil’s prototypes were shown there and at the event’s first-ever fashion show, which Microsoft called a “public preview,” not a launch. “SPOT” watches will get the information they display (customized to individual wearers’ specifications) via FM signals from Microsoft’s MSN North American radio network, also due to launch in early 2004. Users will pay a monthly fee to use the service.