Smartwatches are coming from every major consumer electronics company, or at least that’s what the reports say. On the heels of stories that Apple, Samsung and Google are working on watches that pair with a phone, The Wall Street Journal now reports that Microsoft is prepping a “touch-enabled watch device” too.
According to the Journal’s story, Microsoft has begun to ask hardware suppliers in Asia to ship parts for a “potential watch-style device.” People within the supply chain met with members from Microsoft’s research team about the device. The Journal’s story doesn’t elaborate on what sort of features Microsoft’s entry might have, but it’s likely it would pair with a smartphone and show text messages and other notifications right on the watch screen.
When reached by ABC News, a Microsoft spokesperson said the company would not comment on rumors or speculation.
If Microsoft were to make a watch, it would actually be a return to the category for the company. Almost a decade ago, in 2004, Microsoft released Smart Watch, which displayed calendar notifications, news headlines, sports scores through its MSN Direct software. The company partnered with other watch companies, including Fossil and Swatch. The watches and the software were discontinued in 2008.
Microsoft has recently begun to ramp up its own hardware manufacturing. Its Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets are made by Microsoft itself, not by other hardware manufacturers, such as Dell, Lenovo or HP. Microsoft’s Panos Panay, the general manager of Microsoft Surface, told ABC News that it plans to continue making hardware products and implied the company was working on a laptop of its own. Earlier this month, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also said that Microsoft was now a hardware company.
Apple, Samsung and Google are said to be working on smartwatches of their own and have clearly seen the market demand. Pebble, the smartwatch that works with the iPhone and Android, beat all the odds on the fund-raising site Kickstarter, receiving more than 85,000 orders for the watch and more than $10 million from people who wanted to back the company. Many companies have also joined the fitness tracker market, including Nike, Motorola and Jawbone.
Analysts have said that the smartwatch business could be a $6 billion opportunity for Apple and a big market for the major consumer technology players. Microsoft has been struggling to keep up with Apple and Google in the mobile phone and tablet space. Last week, when news that PC shipments plunged, Microsoft shares took a beating after Goldman Sachs issued a “sell” recommendation following the news.