Microsoft Targets the Smallest of Screens

microsoft watch
Microsoft has asked suppliers to provide parts for use in a touchscreen wristwatch. But it’s not clear if this will go any further than exploratory designs.

It certainly wouldn’t be alone in working on a wrist-based gadget. Apple is known to be working on something along the lines of an iWatch which would connect to an iPhone and allow you to get key information such as texts or e-mails without needing to dig your phone out of your pocket.

An independently made gadget along the same lines for both iPhones and Androids, the Pebble (which uses electronic ink for the display) is still the most funded project on Kickstarter, taking more than $10 million in donations and pre-orders.

Samsung has publicly confirmed it is working on a watch, though hasn’t revealed a timeline.

The Microsoft news is also limited. The company isn’t confirming anything, though the Wall Street Journal quotes an anonymous executive from a parts supplier who says he’s visited Microsoft HQ to discuss the project.

The big difference with Microsoft compared to other manufacturers is that suppliers have reportedly been told it wants parts for a 1.5 inch display. That suggests it will be a fixed screen similar to that of a traditional wristwatch, and that it will inherently be limited by the variations in people’s arm size.

Other manufacturers appear to be more interested in flexible displays that can adjust to fit different sized arms and give the maximum practical display area without being unmanageably bulky.

The WSJ notes that back in 2008 Microsoft attempted to create a “Smart Watch”, but it proved a miserable flop. The devices simply displayed news and weather details that were transmitted via FM radio broadcasts and required a $9.95 a month subscription fee. Even if there had been any interest in such technology, it was pretty much doomed at a time when smartphones were becoming more than a niche product.

(Image credit: Alexander Else, via Creative Commons license)