Microsoft Spot watches delayed

Need further testing, apparently

Microsoft's information-by-radio Spot watch technology will now not hit the market until early next year rather than this week. And some of the software giant's hardware partners may not even ship product then.

Citizen, for one, may decided not to offer a Spot-compatible watch after all, ExtremeTech reports, citing company executives.

Spot ('Smart Personal Object Technology') was announced by Microsoft last January, backed by watchmakers Citizen and Fossil. The MSN-branded system uses FM radio signals to broadcast weather, traffic and other information to $10-a-month subscribers' watches. The signals are broadcast from sites in 100 US and Canadian cities and can reach 80 per cent of the North America, Microsoft has said.

A month or so back, we heard that the Fossil Spot watch had been delayed. That setback has now been confirmed. A third Spot supporter, Suunto, is also believed to have rescheduled its product launch too. Citizen has also rescheduled, potentially indefinitely. If Citizen does abandon Spot, that leaves Suunto and Fossil as the only companies keen to commercialise the technology.

Officially, Citizen has made no decision as to whether it will continue with the Spot project, Stuart Zuckerman, senior VP of merchandising for Citizen USA, told ExtremeTech.

However, Microsoft separately said that only Suunto and Fossil Spot watches will be shown on its Comdex stand this week.

As for the cause of the delay, the finger appears to be pointing at the radio infrastructure, which may be too weakly powered to allow subscribers to get up-to-date information exactly when they want it. The delay has been instigated to provide time for further testing and tweaking, it is believed.

For Fossil, the delay comes after a sequence of set-backs for its other hi-tech timepiece, the Palm OS-based Wrist PDA. Launched one year ago this week, the Wrist PDA was due to have shipped last June. Despite denying claims from company insiders that the product had been put back to Q1 2004, Fossil has nevertheless been forced to put back the product's release four times since June. The company's release target is now... er... Q4 2003/Q1 2004. ®

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