When we first learned about Microsoft’s patent for a smartwatch in early May, it seemed as though the company’s press event later that month might be the perfect time to unveil the new device. Though the event came and went with nary a glimpse at any such wearable, a new report today claims to have details about Microsoft’s plans for your wrist, and why the company might be poised to steal the spotlight away from the competition.
The report from Forbes cites “multiple sources with knowledge of the company’s plans” who paint a picture of an advanced wearable that will boast deep biometric measurement. According to the post, the smartwatch will be “sensor-rich,” and will rely on “optical engineering expertise from Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect division to continuously measure heart rate through the day and night.” Moreover, the smartwatch will apparently offer users two days’ worth of battery life, and – most interestingly – will be cross-platform compatible with iOS and Android smartphones.
That last detail is by far the most important takeaway from this report. As we all know, cross-compatibility is one of the most important features a smartwatch can offer. Samsung has carved out a nice corner of the market with its line of Gear smartwatches, but one of the device’s biggest drawbacks is the fact that it is only compatible with select Samsung Galaxy smartphones. Meanwhile, this summer’s inaugural Android Wear devices will undoubtedly be more open than Samsung’s in terms of compatibility. Though we still lack hard details about how Google’s smartwatch OS will work, it seems very likely that Android Wear will play nice with most other Android—powered devices.
By that same token, should Microsoft truly be entering the wearable space, the company would be doing its products a disservice by relying on its mobile operating system, Windows Phone, which holds one of the lowest mobile OS adoption rates in the world. As such, it would have been a major gamble for a Microsoft smartwatch to rely on Windows Phone users in terms of a target market.
But a cross-compatible Windows watch that can sync with an iOS or Android smartphone? That might give Microsoft a way to beat the competition at its own game. Cross-compatibility is one of the reasons the Pebble has stayed successful since its launch last year. In fact, just last week an analyst reported that Pebble owned 35 percent of the smartwatch market, despite being significantly less powerful than many of its competitors.
If Microsoft can make a wearable that looks stylish, offers real technological value, and actually works with other mobile operating systems, it might have found a way to beat its rivals. While the new report doesn’t provide any solid release window, it does claim that it could be launched “as soon as this summer.” Hopefully we won’t have to wait long before hearing more concrete details about what could eventually be at the top of the smartwatch heap.