Microsoft kills off Smart Watches

April 25, 2008 | 09:33

Tags: #spot

Companies: #microsoft

If I told you that Microsoft has decided to kill off its range of SPOT-enabled Smart Watches, you'd be forgiven for asking what the heck I was talking about. So, a little background might be in order.

SPOT, or Smart Personal Objects Technology, is a Microsoft initiative aimed at creating 'intelligent' devices that can receive and display useful data. The first attempts at commercialising this technology into an actual product resulted in the Smart Watch – a range of wristborne products that tapped in to an FM broadcast service to display news and weather information.

While the devices were initially popular with gadget obsessed technophiles living within the DirectBand coverage area, the rather poor design and bulky size of the watches – along with a rather steep $9.95 per month subscription fee to MSN Direct – meant that they never had a mass-market appeal. The failure of the watches to make much of an impact in their home turf, along with the lack of available cheap spectrum for commercial radio services, meant that we never even got to see them in action this side of the pond.

With that kind of outlook, it should come as no great surprise that after five years Microsoft is finally pulling the plug on the project. In a statement the SPOT Program Manager at MSN Direct Jon Canan stated that the last Smart Watches had sold out and would no longer be for sale. Canan stated that MSN Direct and their hardware partners “do not have immediate plans to create a new version of the Smart Watch, as we are focused on other areas of our business,” but assured users that his company “will maintain support of our watch customers and continue to deliver information to the watches.

While it's no great shock that the service tanked – paying such a high subscription to something most mobile phones will do for a small cost in data transfer charges was never going to be a winner – I have to admit to seeing the Smart Watch programme disappear with a small but palpable feeling of loss. Being the sad gadget freak I am, I always wanted a radio-enabled watch that would tell me what the weather was like without having to venture into the Big Blue Room.

Any American readers who own a Smart Watch and have any comments on how useful a device it may or may not be, or did we all smell a dead tech from a hundred paces and avoid it altogether? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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