updated 01:48 am EDT, Mon April 15, 2013
Software giant's move into hardware may continue
Microsoft is the latest tech giant said to be working on designs for a smartwatch. Sources tell The Wall Street Journal that the Redmond-based company has been working with suppliers in Asia to acquire components for a wearable computing device, though the likelihood of such a device's release is uncertain. Should a Microsoft smartwatch emerge, it might find competition from similarly rumored devices from Apple and Google, as well as a confirmed device from Samsung.
The Journal's report cites executives at component suppliers, who say that Microsoft has been requesting components. The Windows maker is said to have requested 1.5-inch displays, according to one executive. The component buys jibe with reports of similar devices at Microsoft's competitors: such components would, in concept, contribute to a touch-enabled device that would connect to a user's smartphone. That connection would allow the device to display key information and allow the user to interact with data without the needing to pull out the larger smartphone device.
Microsoft's rumored device wouldn't be the software giant's first foray into wearable computing. Roughly a decade ago, the company released a Windows-powered "Smart Watch" that had news headlines, sports scores, and instant messages beamed over FM radio on a subscription basis. The product never caught on, though, and Microsoft stopped selling the devices in 2008.
As the traditional computing industry appears in the process of collapse, Microsoft has found itself needing to move away from its software-centric comfort zone and more toward the manufacture of its own hardware. The company took its first steps in that direction with its Xbox consoles, but Microsoft took a much bigger step into the hardware pool with its Surface tablets. Despite the middling sales of those devices, Microsoft is said to be working on a second generation of Surface tablets, including a 7-inch model that would take on Apple's iPad mini and other similarly sized tablets.
The wearable smart electronics market is projected to become a $10 billion industry by 2016. A number of smartwatches are currently on the market, including Pebble, likely the most popular option currently available. Reports of tech giants working on their own versions of the technology, though, began to spring up earlier this year, following open speculation by Apple Human Interface Group founder Bruce Tognazzini.
Shortly after Tognazzini's prognostications about an Apple smartwatch, rumors of similar devices began to pop up, with companies like Google said to be working on their own wearable wrist tech. Samsung first leaked, then confirmed reports of its own wearable device.
Rumors of an Apple smartwatch flourished in February, but have since died down. The iPhone maker is said to have an iWatch team with roughly 100 members, but details on the supposed project have been scarce in the two months since that item leaked. [Preview image via Techloob]