June 5, 2003 6:39 AM PDT
Microsoft: See SPOT run on your wrist
As expected, the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant on Thursday announced a wireless service, called MSN Direct, for use with devices running its Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT). The service is being tested in eight U.S. cities, with the goal being to have it available eventually in 100 cities.
The SPOT initiative is another way Microsoft is trying to get consumers connected with their personal computing information. SPOT products are household and personal items--such as refrigerators and portable stereos--that can receive and display information from the Internet beamed over a nationwide FM radio network. With the service, for example, an alarm clock on Thursday morning could divulge the latest twist in Martha Stewart's legal saga.
The first round of devices that will use the service will be watches coming this fall from manufacturers such as Fossil and Suunto.
"The wrist is a natural place where people go to for information," said Chris Schneider, a program manager at Microsoft. "Time equals the timely delivery of information."
SPOT products run a Microsoft operating system and the company's DirectBand radio technology developed with SCA Data Systems. National Semiconductor is providing the chipsets for SPOT products. The chipset includes a processor based on designs from ARM, a radio receiver and memory.
MSN Direct's timely service
New "smart" watches running Microsoft
technology will appeal to affluent early
adopters--a small, but key, market.
The MSN Direct service will cost $9.95 per month with the first month free as part of an introductory offer, or $59 for the entire year. The service will allow consumers to stay informed about news, weather, sports scores, stock quotes, movies listing and local dining spots. Consumers will also be able to receive messages via MSN Messenger and calendar reminders from Microsoft Outlook.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates in January outlined his plans for SPOT at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. SPOT first came to light before the Comdex computer trade show last November.