Microsoft could beat the Apple Watch to market, if the latest Forbes report is accurate. The publication says that Microsoft will debut a smartwatch “within the next few weeks” and that it will run for more than two days on a single charge. The Apple Watch works with iPhones only, so why would an iPhone owner even care? Perhaps because Microsoft’s smartwatch is expected to work with iOS devices, and Android phones as well. I suspect it will look nicer than the company’s SPOT watches from 2004, as well.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard whispers of a [company]Microsoft[/company] smartwatch working with handsets that use non-Microsoft software, and it makes complete sense. Android and iOS handsets account for nearly 98 percent of the global smartphone market, so a Microsoft wearable device that worked only with Microsoft Windows Phones would have a small potential audience. Microsoft knows this and that’s why the company is making a concerted push to get its apps and services on iOS and Android as well.
The smartwatch will track your heartrate, says Forbes, suggesting a health-focused experience. I’d also expect other sensors such as a pedometer, accelerometer and possibly a barometer to measure air pressure changes, which can be used to track how many stairs you climb or descend in a day. If the device has a two-day battery life, I’d also expect a color screen of some sort; any wearable device with a black and white e-paper display would last longer.
Microsoft’s cross-platform approach would surely make it stand apart from the Apple Watch and Google’s Android Wear smartwatches. Those specifically work with their own software; you can’t use an Android Wear watch with an iPhone, for example, nor will the Apple Watch work with an Android phone. That’s disappointing since all of these use a standard Bluetooth connection to pair with and get data from a phone.
Will that unique aspect of Microsoft’s watch — assuming the reports are true — make a difference in the market? Perhaps, but ultimately it will come down to what value such a smartwatch adds to your daily routine and what apps you’ll be able to run on it. Hopefully, Microsoft can sway developers to help with the latter part of that — something that has been a challenge with its Windows Phone platform.