Executives from Asian component suppliers told the paper that Microsoft has asked for shipments of potential watch components, with one of them admitting to have met with Microsoft’s research and development team at the company’s Redmond headquarters regarding a smartwatch project.
Details remain scarce at the moment besides one source claiming a potential new prototype would use a 1.5-inch touch panel. It's unclear whether Microsoft will move ahead with the project or any time frame for a launch.
The rumored device would actually be Microsoft's second attempt at the smart watch market. As The Wall Street Journal notes, back in 2004 the company partnered with the likes of Fossil and Swatch on a series of devices based on the SPOT platform (Smart Personal Object Technology), which used FM radio signals to send instant messages from Windows Messenger, news headlines, stock information, and weather forecasts.
Whether smart watches take off or not this time around remains to be seen. But the category is part of a larger trend around wearable computing, with most notable examples revolving around health and fitness applications, such as the Nike FuleBand and Fitbit One. Pebble also released its own take on the smart watch following a successful Kickstart campaign, and of course then there’s Google with its intriguing Google Glass project.
Research firm Gartner expects the market for wearable smart electronics to be a $10 billion industry by 2016.