Fossil squeezes PDA into a watch

The trendy US watch maker has announced a Palm- and PocketPC-compatible watch, but is it one gadget too many?

Fossil, the Texas-based maker of fashion watches, clothing and other accessories, has launched the latest twist on the 1980s-style watch-calculator with the Wrist PDA, a watch that doubles as a Palm- or Pocket PC-compatible organiser.

The device will be available in early 2002 in a variety of retail outlets in the US, as well as in Fossil's own retail stores, which sell in 80 countries. It will sell for $145 (about £100). The launch is significant in that Fossil is a major consumer brand, but the gadget could have a difficult time of it in a market where the handheld computer industry saw a 9.5 percent drop in shipments for the third quarter.

Wrist PDA is not a handheld computer in itself: the owner uses the infrared transmitters built into most PDAs to input read-only information like to-do lists, memos and contacts. The watch can also receive up to 20 business cards beamed from other Wrist PDAs or handhelds.

The watch has 190KB of memory, the equivalent of 1,100 contacts, 800 appointments, 5,000 to-do notes or 350 memos.

Industry observers are unsure whether gadgets like Wrist PDA can carve out much of a market for themselves, given their limited functionality and dependence on already owning a handheld computer. "My first impression really is that it will attract gadget people," said Roberta Cozza, analyst with Gartner Dataquest.

"It seems a little bit redundant," she added. "The market doesn't need to think about another gadget to carry around with them."

What's more, a wrist-based "connected" organiser is nothing new. For several years Timex and others have offered watches that can download data from PC-based organisers through a cable or even, in one case, via a pattern of flashing lights on the PC monitor.

See the Mobile Technology News Section for full coverage.

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