Smarter gadgets

Mathieu Turgeon of the Flying Aces trampoline act of Park City, Utah, practices at the Phillips Electronics booth on Wednesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center for the International Consumer Electronics Show.

(AP Photo)
Published: Thursday, January 9, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 9, 2003 at 12:32 a.m.
LAS VEGAS - Microsoft, continuing its effort to extend its reach beyond computers, Wednesday introduced designs for a new class of watch that gives more than the time and a pocket audio and video player.
The designs, which will be available from several manufacturers by the end of the year, were presented by Microsoft's chairman, Bill Gates, in a speech Wednesday that opened the annual International Consumer Electronics Show here.
But even as it extends its reach to new devices, Microsoft's vision is closely linked to the computer. Both the watch - which can provide weather, text messages and other information - and the media player are designed to be controlled through wireless connections to their owners' PCs.
In an interview Wednesday, Gates said he saw a world in which the personal computer is increasingly linked wirelessly to all manner of displays.
"You will have devices in the home of different screen sizes: wall-sized for a lot of people to watch, desk-sized for doing homework or taxes, and pocket-sized for information you have with you at all times, and watch-sized," he said. "We will make all those work together."
Gates' vision is very much a hot topic of the electronics show here, where more than 2,000 manufacturers are displaying their wares to 100,000 attendees. Much of the focus has been on wireless networking and other ways to connect digital devices such as CD and DVD players, cameras and computers.
But Microsoft is trying to avoid the cutthroat business of hardware manufacturing in consumer electronics, as it has in computers, and it hopes instead to profit by licensing its software. The new products have license fees that range from $10 to $25 per unit, Microsoft executives said.
The watch will initially be made by Fossil, Citizen and Suunto. The simplest versions will cost less than $150, but watchmakers also will make much more expensive designs.
All of the watches will have a small, rectangular liquid crystal display and the ability to receive short data messages, much like a pager. This technology will allow the watch to identify where it is and what the local time is - and the local weather forecast - as the user travels.
Microsoft has built a new national wireless data network, based on the data broadcasting ability of FM radio stations.
Microsoft's watch design is the first instance of what it calls Smart Personal Object Technology, or SPOT, which powers devices with access to information.

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