Tissot offers MSN Direct watches

Devices use Small Personal Objects Technology

Swiss luxury watchmaker Tissot SA has joined Fossil Inc. of the U.S. and Finland's Suunto Oy in offering watches that use Microsoft Corp.'s Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT), Microsoft said Monday.

Tissot's new High-T watch is the first Microsoft-based smart watch with a touch screen. Users touch their watch dial to receive news, weather, appointment reminders, messages and other information they selected to receive through Microsoft's MSN Direct subscription service.

With a suggested retail price of $725, the Tissot High-T is the most expensive SPOT watch and is sold only at jewelry stores in North America. The price includes six months of MSN Direct service, which would otherwise cost $59 a year or $9.95 a month.

The addition of Tissot brings the total number of SPOT watches available to seven. Suunto offers two watches and Fossil has four different styles. Citizen Watch Co. was also supposed to offer SPOT timepieces, but although it builds parts for the Fossil products, Citizen has yet to deliver on any of its own models.

SPOT uses a portion of the FM broadcast radio networks to deliver snippets of information to wristwatches equipped with the technology. Microsoft announced availability of the first SPOT watches and its MSN Direct service at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas early this year, months later than originally planned.

Despite missing the year-end shopping season last year, thousands of watches have been sold, according to Microsoft. The software maker and its partners are preparing a marketing campaign that it hopes will lead to a busy holiday season at the end of this year, said Chris Schneider, a program manager for SPOT at Microsoft.

"We have thousands and thousands of customers subscribed to the MSN Direct service and who have purchased MSN Direct watches," Schneider said. "The vast majority of watches are purchased during the October, November, December time frame, so we are looking forward to really making this a successful holiday season."

To make SPOT watches more attractive, Microsoft will add more content to the MSN Direct service, including information on movies and football, and watch makers are expected to offer more styles by year's end, Schneider said.

MSN Direct and the SPOT watches are currently available in the U.S. and Canada. Microsoft continues to look at international markets, but no international service is planned until at least next year.

"We are looking at expanding into Europe and other geographies where it makes business sense," Schneider said. "However, we are focused on the North American market for this holiday season." Microsoft has no time frames to share for international availability of SPOT watches, he said.

REFERENCES:
Gates keynote short on new technology, Jan. 7, 2004
Microsoft SPOT watches to go on sale in January, Dec. 16, 2003
Microsoft's SPOT watches will be late, Nov. 17, 2003
Gates unveils smart wristwatches, Jan. 8, 2003