Lump This One In With Microsoft Bob

march 1, 2004

Remember that flop named Microsoft Bob? Yeah, not many people do except for hardcore nerds and geeks. Well, Microsoft Bob is a great example of how a Microsoft product can flop really hard. It was designed and built with no one really in mind. So why am I bringing up Bob? Easy, I have been seeing these advertisements for Microsoft's new "smart watch" based on their SPOT technology. I have seen the ads in my last two or three issues of Wired. What is a "smart watch" you ask? Well the first one is the Abacus from Fossil. The watch has a radio receiver built-in (only receiver, no tranceiver). It listens to a pre-tuned radio station that Microsoft has bought a piece of. On that station there are packets that are tagged and broadcast out on the radio waves. For a mere $10/mo or $60/year one can sign up for MSN Direct. With MSN Direct, one can choose the channels that they wish to receive on their watch. They can have their Outlook Calendar events broadcast to their watches. And they can even have (almost-)instant messages broadcast to their watch. Notice the word "broadcast" because there is no two-way here, it is strictly one-way communication. So, I am looking at these ads and scratching my head. I ask myself, "Who is this "smart watch" made for?" Most all of us carry mobile phones around. Those with enough geek factor to want a "smart watch" will definitely have a high-end phone. Now, with a high-end phones we can get Web/WAP access on the phones. With most phones there is built-in AIM for chatting two-way. There is a browser for getting the stuff that matters -- and not all the junk that is broadcast. On most phones there is already a built-in calendar, and some even sync nicely with Outlook so that changes to the calendar can be made and not just seen on the phone. So, I gotta ask one more time: Just who is this "smart watch" made for anyways? When all of the stuff that the "smart watch" is able to do can be done better by a mobile phone, who is this targetted to? When I can do two-way communication for data with my phone, why would I want to settle for one-way broadcasts on a watch (especially when I have a very nice Breitling)? When I already pay for data on my phone for which I can access all sorts of stuff, why would I want to pay more just so that I can get broadcasts that are limited to MSN Direct? Why Microsoft? Why build a "smart watch" when there is already a technology better? I wonder if the marketting people at Microsoft are wondering the same things because I cannot see any market for this watch nor this Microsoft technology. It is unneeded and not useful. I have a suspicion that the SPOT technology from Microsoft will quickly go the way of Microsoft Bob and the dinosaurs.