Reports over the weekend said that Microsoft will release its own entrant into the growing field of consumer smartwatches. If the reports are true (and some believe they aren’t), analysts are saying that Microsoft will be wise to integrate the new device tightly with Microsoft productivity tools in the workplace.
Rumors of the Microsoft watch have been swirling since last spring, and a Forbes story Sunday says the new watch will include a heartbeat sensor and will sync with phones using a number of operating systems, including iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone.
“My sources at Microsoft tell me that the watch will be deeply integrated with MS Outlook and services such as Lync,” Pascal Koenig of the Smartwatch Group in Zürich told VentureBeat. Lync is the messaging and voice communications piece of the Microsoft stack of services for the enterprise.
With the barrier between workplace technology and personal technology breaking down, users might buy the watch for work (or have it provided to them) and then begin using it for aspects of their personal life.
“In general, I believe the access to big corporations and an excellent understanding of business processes must be the focus of Microsoft to come up with a valuable product offering,” Koenig said.
Still, the question remains whether it makes sense for Microsoft to launch its own hardware, rather than coming up with software-based solutions.
“We are skeptical whether a critical number of people wants to wear a Microsoft-branded watch,” Koenig said. “However, the product may only be a showcase to get other hardware partners on board.”
This is what Google did by providing it’s Android Wear OS to its smartwatch-making partners.
Microsoft’s response to VentureBeat yesterday? “We do not comment on rumors … ”
A move into smartwatches might make sense for Microsoft on a purely strategic level.
“In some ways Microsoft has more to gain than anybody because they have been a distant third in the smartphone race, so being able to move into wearables might allow them to establish a beachhead in this next wave of personal devices,” Reticle Research analyst Ross Rubin told VentureBeat.
Rubin adds that an enterprise-focused smartwatch would fit in with the stated plans of CEO Satya Nadella, who has said that any new Microsoft products will have to pass a validity test for use in that environment.
“Of course some of that will have to cross over into personal productivity, because there’s only so many smartwatches people can wear,” Rubin says.
If a new Microsoft watch does show up before the holiday season (a goal Apple could not meet with its Watch), we’ll likely know on first sight if the device looks good enough (and comes in enough styles) to be worn outside the workplace.