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Microsoft will launch its first foray into modern wearable computing in the next few weeks, according to the usual “sources” close to the project. Depending on which source you listen to, Microsoft’s wearable is either a smartwatch with fitness band functionality, or a fitness band with limited smartwatch capabilities. In either case, the leaks seem to agree that Microsoft’s first modern wearable will have a screen (but maybe not a big one); passively monitor your heart rate (even while you’re asleep); support cross-platform notifications from iOS, Android, and Windows Phone; and that the device will get around two days of use between charges. (The image above is a render; I doubt it’ll actually look like that.)
You might not know this, but Microsoft’s hardware and gadget efforts long predate the Surface line of tablets. At the very least, you’ve probably seen a Microsoft keyboard or mouse — but there has also been a large number of other, relatively unknown and unloved devices that were meant to establish a Microsoft beachhead in new markets, but were, almost universally, critical flops. Way back in 1992, Microsoft began its love affair with pen computing — yes, there really were Windows 3.1 devices that were controlled with a stylus. In 2006 there was the Zune media player, and in 2010 the very short-lived Kin mobile phone. And, though very few people actually remember it, in 2004, in partnership with watchmakers like Fossil, Microsoft released some very ill-fated SPOT smartwatches. SPOT used MSN Direct — a wireless network that used FM radio signals — to send data to SPOT devices across the US and Canada.
Right on schedule — just a couple of days after the release of Google Fit, in fact — Microsoft has unveiled its first modern attempt at a wearable computer: the Microsoft Band, a fitness tracker with a small screen and some smartwatch-like properties. To get the most out of the Band, you’ll also need Microsoft Health, a quantified self/mobile health app that produces pretty graphs and tracks your various fitness-related activities (or lack thereof). Microsoft Band is available to buy today (in the US) for $200, and the Health app is available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.
First, let’s talk about the Microsoft Band. Yes, it has an awful name — but I guess the only other option was the Windows Band or Surface Band, both of which are pretty bad, too. The Band is pretty much your standard fitness tracker, but with a rather large selection of sensors, including GPS, heart rate, and even UV, so that you know when to reapply the sunscreen lotion. There’s also a 1.4-inch touchscreen display (33mm by 11mm) with a fairly high resolution of 320×106. The whole thing, including 24-hour heart rate monitoring, will apparently have a battery life of 48 hours.
LG will supply flexible OLED displays for Apple’s much anticipated “iWatch” project, the results of which will be unleashed to consumers sometime next year, various industry insiders are signaling. But the Korean company will only be a secondary provider for the displays, if Seoul-based HMC Investment Securities analyst Kim Young-woo’s estimation is of any import. Taiwan-based RiTDisplay will be the primary source, he told The Korea Herald.
“Instead of relying on one supplier for its iWatch, which will be unveiled next year, Apple will have two vendors to be safe. The key provider will be RiTDisplay and LG Display will be the second,” Young-woo said. “Japan Display might also be a candidate, but so far its capacity seems lacking.”
Nowhere is it currently indicated that early speculations that Corning Glass’s ultra-flexible, ultra-thin, ultra-light Willow Glass will be used in the iWatch still carry any weight. For now it seems Apple will go the way of Pebble–and somewhat the way of Galaxy Gear–by incorporating a somewhat less impressive design that stops short of wrapping the display completely around the wrist.
According to Latin Times, with Samsung, Pebble and Sony diving head first into the smart watch pool, Apple cannot be far behind with its latest tech in order to keep up with the competition. The rumor mill has been churning with news of the long anticipated iWatch. The futuristic device will allow users to make calls, listen to music and do a number of other tasks right off of their own wrist. Oh yea, it tells time to, just incase you were wondering. Rumors regarding the iWatch release date and a number of other features have been flying around as of late.
Rumored features for the iWatch include a slap wrist design for the bracelet and a flexible OLED display among others. Many people may not think of Apple first when it comes to flexible displays. However the Korean media website The Chosunilbo is reporting that Apple is working on equipping the iWatch with a flexible display. The Chosunilbo is reporting that Apple is testing out plastic OLED monitors that will allow the wearer to bend the screen. It does make sense for a device that is intended to wrap around your wrist to have a flexible display.
Other rumors surrounding the Apple iWatch say the device will run iOS perfectly and will give the user easier access to apps. The Verge is reporting that the iWatch will be compatible with iOS rather than use the sometimes-limiting operating system featured on the iPod Nano. Unfortunately iOS on the iWatch may limit battery life. Rumors suggest that Apple is hoping for at least four days between charges. However reports are suggesting that Apple has been testing the device, which needs charging every two days.
Dara Kerr states that it doesn’t look like Apple will be cooking up its own rendition of Google Glass, but some other sort of wearable technology could be brewing.
During an interview at the D11 conference on Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that he thinks wearable computing is “profoundly interesting.” While he noted that glasses seem to be “risky,” the idea of wearing something on the wrist is “natural.”
However, he said, “you have to convince people it’s so incredible you want to wear it.” Cook pointed out that most young people don’t wear watches, so it would be the company’s job to make them appealing.
Everyone’s favorite smart watch — the Pebble — just raised $15 million in Series A funding. The company also released the next evolution of its official SDK, now known as the PebbleKit.
Led by Charles River Ventures, the $15 million Series A isn’t the biggest amount of funding we’ve seen in the hardware space, but it’s impressive when you consider the context of the round — and Pebble’s crowdfunding roots.
Pebble remains one of Kickstarter’s most endearing stories. More than 68,000 backers pledged over $10 million to make Pebble the most successful Kickstarter project in history.
A year later, watches are slowly but surely making their way to backers, and the developer community around the watch is heating up.
When wireless headset company Jawbone announced plans Tuesday to buy wearable sensor maker BodyMedia for what a source said was more than $100 million, it may well have marked a turning point for wearable computing.
The technology, which includes everything from Google Glass eyewear to heart-rate monitors to sensors that slip into running shoes, has come of age. It’s moving past the niche gizmos that only appeal to geeks and gearheads.
As a real business materializes around the technology, a battle is brewing among companies that want to put themselves at the heart of it, and profit from its growth.