Between Samsung’s Galaxy Gear offerings, Google’s plans for two Android Wear devices this summer, and ongoing rumors that Apple plans to launch the iWatch later this autumn, it seems likely that 2014 could be remembered as the year the smartwatch went mainstream. Case in point: an inside source has hinted that shifts in Microsoft Store categories could signal the company’s entry into the world of wearables.
The source says that there’s “a big push in wearables” and accessories happening at the Microsoft Store. Specifically, items in the Store’s “App-enabled accessories” – or “appcessories” as they’re called in-house – are showing up with more frequency, which seem to signal Microsoft’s intentions to release its own smartwatch in the very near future.
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Many of these items, like those from Insteon and Oplink, mostly fit into the “smart home” category, and are designed to be controlled by apps on remote devices – such as smartphones or smartwatches, for instance. By stocking up on items that could be controlled via wearables, it would seem that Microsoft is getting its storefront ready for its own wearable device.
That leap of logic is further supported by some of the other items that appear in the category, which are of the wearable technology variety. According to the source, those devices are “third party now,” but the company will be carrying a lot more in store. Indeed, alongside the aforementioned smart home appcessories are smartwatches and fitness bands from Adidas and Garmin, not to mention the GoPro camera and its assorted peripherals.
A smartwatch made by Microsoft would fit right at home with the rest of the items in the App-enabled accessory category. With the recent discovery of Microsoft’s smartwatch patent filing with the USPTO, as well as Forbes’ Parmy Olson’s report about the device and its possible release this summer, it seems as though the company could make a smartwatch announcement any day now.
There are also plenty of hints outside of the Microsoft Store’s stocking methods that show the company’s interest in the wearable sector. Just this week, news broke of a partnership between Microsoft Mobile and British fashion designer Adrien Sauvage to create pants that can charge your cell phone through electromagnetic induction. Microsoft’s Adam Johnson explained the company’s evolving philosophy, saying that they “want to create technology that you want to use and wearables should be.”
Even with all of these signs and hints, however, Microsoft may think better of putting out a smartwatch entirely. When the Surface Pro 3 was announced last month, many believed that the event Microsoft billed as “a small gathering” would see the launch of the Surface Mini tablet. That device never materialized, apparently pulled from the schedule at the last minute. The move was a surprise after months of reports and rumors from inside the company that claimed it was in development, but it’s possible that Microsoft is looking to avoid putting more products out than the market can handle. The fact that the Windows RT-powered Surface tablet line seems to have died after two iterations – leaving the Surface Pro 3 to stand as the brand’s sole representative this quarter – may be proof that Microsoft won’t release a product that isn’t going to offer more than the competition.
With so much competition in such a young tech category, can Microsoft truly release a smartwatch that stands out and captures consumers’ attentions? Or will the Microsoft smartwatch go the way of the Surface Mini – a rumored piece of tech that we’ll never actually see?