It appears that Microsoft is planning to launch a smartwatch platform later this year. Last month, we heard that Microsoft was planning a device that worked with multiple platforms, and now Tom’s Hardware has corroborated that report with a slew of new details: the Microsoft smartwatch is going to be a sleek, Fuelband-like device, packed with 11 sensors, according to an unidentified source.
The new report adds weight to the notion that Microsoft’s wearable wrist device will work across platforms including iOS and Android in addition to Windows Phone. This is interesting, as Android Wear, which was released last week, appears to work exclusively with Android by design. While Apple’s smartwatch hasn’t been announced, Apple tends not to support other platforms, and it is unlikely (to put it mildly) that it would release an Android companion app. If Microsoft’s smartwatch is cross-platform and has comparable fitness features to its competitors, it would fill an interesting niche in the market.
The 11-sensor detail is key; Apple is expected to launch a wearable computer for the wrist later this fall and that device too has been rumored to have “more than 10” biometric sensors. Whereas Android Wear is focused on contextual notifications, it appears that Microsoft is going a more fitness-focused route with its wearable device. The report also says the device’s display is supposed to be worn on the inside of the wrist, which is markedly different from the Android Wear form factor. Tom’s Hardware’s source points to the platform having an open API, similar to Healthkit on iOS and Google Fit.
Microsoft has had designs on producing a smart watch for a while and may be realizing the time is now or never: in early 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported that the company was sourcing parts for a wrist device but upper management was not sold on the concept. As my colleague Kevin Tofel wrote back in April 2013, “The last thing Microsoft needs right now…is for an Apple iWatch or Google Now timepiece to hit the market sooner rather than later.”
Well, the Google Now timepiece is already here, and according to the report, the latest Microsoft wearable gadget — “Windows Watch”? — will be released in October, a few months later than previous reports, which would put it pretty close to the estimated release date for the Apple smartwatch.