Is this Microsoft's Surface smartwatch?

Is this Microsoft's Surface smartwatch?

Summary: A newly-published Microsoft patent supports rumours about the design of its smartwatch.

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A patent application that Microsoft filed in 2012 has just surfaced, potentially detailing how the company could tackle wearables with its own smartwatch.

Following last year's rumours that Microsoft's Surface team was working on a prototype smartwatch, details of how it might look have arrived in a newly-approved patent application published by the US Patents and Trademark Office last week.

Microsoft's "wearable personal information system" includes a small computing device that can be locked into a frame that's housed on multiple wearable bands.

The device could be removed by pressing down on the top surface and mounted to a dock that would be secured magnetically, the patent suggests.

The device can be mounted onto the dock without its frame, allowing it to charge and or swap data with another bit of hardware.

2014-05-07 11.36.11 am
Image: Microsoft

The dozen images included in the patent indicate the back surface of the device would have an optical sensor — potentially used to measure a biometric parameter, such as heart rate — electrical connector and a data connector.

Input sources to the processor include the touchscreen, optical sensor, and other sources such as the GPS unit with internal compass.

In other words, the patent describes many similar features that are appearing in devices such as Samsung's Gear range and LG's forthcoming Android Wear watch. Despite gathering rumours and hints at new product lines, Apple is still to reveal its own smartwatch, dubbed the iWatch.

As for Microsoft, the company has made no secret of its attempt to focus more on the Internet of Things, a blanket term that can cover wearable tech.

The company was thought to be working on an answer to Google's Glass last year, with those efforts driven by Alex Kipman, who had been leading Microsoft's Xbox incubation and worked on the Kinect sensor.

Microsoft's smartwatch efforts were reportedly being led initially by the Xbox team but then moved to its Surface team. Rumours about a Microsoft smartwatch — such as that it could be housed on a variety of different bands — are consistent with the designs in the patent, including that it would come with a heart-rate monitor.

A prototype of the device was also said to be running on a modified version of Windows 8 that supported integration with other Windows devices. Other rumours suggested it had 1.5-inch screen, 6GB of storage, and supported LTE networks.

Read more on smartwatches

Topics: Hardware, Emerging Tech, Microsoft

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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19 comments
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  • Swatch This Space ...

    ... it appears that Microsoft seek to capitalize on the fashion side of the watch, allowing for interchangeable bands.

    If they launch before Apple, that could do them some good.
    Heenan73
  • Cool

    I'd get that. I hope it can play my music to my bluetooth headphones, though. I'm getting tired of running the track while holding my Lumia 1520.
    WBCO
  • How far we've come

    6 GB of storage on my wrist. I remember when 1 MB of RAM cost $100.
    vincewansink
  • Not shown...

    Not shown is the full-size keyboard to make this latest Surface device actually usable.
    Quidproquorum
    • Well, that would be a plus, and would make the MS watch a productivity

      device, and way ahead of all the others.

      BTW, any bluetooth keyboard could turn the MS watch into a productivity device.

      I'm sure MS will be thanking you for the idea.

      BTW, are you aware that MS's Surface tablets can work like the old-fashioned iPads, and not need keyboards? Keyboards just make then a lot more usable than as just "tablets".
      adornoe@...
  • Microsoft has blown opportunity before - I expect no less here.

    Look at how badly MS has blown mobile before...
    Windows Mobile 6.5 was terrible, and an effort to do "Windows on everything", really.

    That got even worse when they HAD the opportunity to come up the middle between too-restrictive iOS and too-confusing Android... but rather than create a balance within the mobile paradigm the world was voting with their wallets on, and capturing that marketshare - they decided to rename to "Windows Phone" and only do phones... (because they were going to try to sell us "Windows on a Tablet" for the 10th-in-a-row failed year), then abandoned THOSE early adopters on WP7 just a year in. End result? Less marketshare than they even had with Windows Mobile 6.5. Wow.

    Imagine how different the mobile landscape might look right now, if Microsoft committed to the concept of a "mobile OS", and DID create phones and tablets that not only competed with, but struck a balance between iOS and Android? Such a shame.

    Same with this watch thing...
    Microsoft has Xbox, Xbox has Kinect...
    They could be using that technology to support gestures over the watch (or, phone!).
    But they won't.

    Hell, they'll probably try to sell us "Windows-on-a-watch!"
    I'm groaning inside just thinking about what this might become.
    geolemon
    • Supporting Microsoft products is a loser with a capital "L"

      There is just no point for the reasons you state (above) and mine (below). What Microsoft has been trying to do for the past 10 years, Google and Apple did it rather instantly.

      What also has turned me off by Microsoft are their ads. They are so misleading. Even the pro-Surface and Windows Phone ads....those people are all ACTORS. They are all ACTORS with IMDB information on them. (LOL) Then there is the Scroogle/Gmail campaign, where we see later Microsoft actually going into SOMEONE's PRIVATE Hotmail account to get information. Microsoft is just a losing company.
      VictorWho
  • LOL...always late; never innovating.

    Microsoft always does this. THIS product is going to be an epic FAIL just like Surface (RT, PRO), Windows Phone, Zune, Ultimate TV, SPOT, Xbox One, Windows 8, Web TV, Wireless Router, ..... if there is nothing in this watch to be excited about.

    LOL...are you kidding me? If this products has any chance to be taken seriously, then it needs to be release to sell this year AND a couple of other things, which I am not going to mention because i do not want to directly and indirectly help Microsoft. They have to do things on their own.
    VictorWho
    • "They have to do things on their own."

      Such hubris... As if MS is actively monitoring these forums for "The Next Big Thing" from VictorWho. VictorWho? indeed.
      Nierteroth9
  • You're so punny

    "A patent application that Microsoft filed in 2012 has just surfaced"
    apoteke
  • Microsoft was behind the ball on the Phone

    I admit that! They didn't just stumble, they lost the plot! But they have created a fine product which is selling and considering how late it came to the party, it's actually selling fairly well. The X-Box One is selling, 5 million or so at last count so I don't think it's a flop. I doubt MS will get the wrist computer thing right but ya never know. They have the power to do amazing things and have done quite a few amazing things over the years. The Kinect sensor was, and still is, an amazing piece of Tech. I admit they have been a bit hit and miss of late as they have lacked direction and vision from the top. Ballmer may have been many things but a visionary wasn't one of them. Hopefully the new guy is and from what I've seen there is change afoot and it looks ok from where I'm standing and I'm hoping for more.
    ursulus
    • Sounds right

      For years everything released by MS excited people, even had buyers camping out overnight to get the latest and greatest from MS. Every new release of Windows, word, visual studio or whatever else, was better than the last version. New products either had great new features, had a better interface or supported new technology.

      But then MS seemed to stall out, new products had no new improvements, things just got changed, or menus got shifted around or the menu bar went to ribbon. Clippy was put in as a new feature in MS Word, then it got removed as a new feature. In visual studio the keyboard macros keep coming and going. Vista sucked and Win8 sucked more.

      Ms needs to find some way to get consumers excited with MS products again, instead of making a lousy OS and then incrementally, over years changing it back to the OS before.

      I don't think MS needs to keep copying others or they'll always be the 'me too' company.
      FrankInKy
      • Just the opposite, Frank: MSFT needs to RETURN to what it did best

        There are only so many ways to improve a can of tomatoes. Makes a big difference how you can it, i.e., the lining inside Red Gold cans, makes their tomatoes far and away better, avoiding that horrid 'canned' taste.

        Of course, the basic tomato ingredients have to be right, in the first place. MSFT was on the road to getting the right ingredients; but instead of finishing the job, it changed the can lining (interface for the end users) to make its products, distasteful.

        Tomatoes are popular, and remain so. One learns NOT to innovate in the wrong direction, and keep making a good product, in order to keep selling it. The longer a good product keeps selling, the lower a share of the fixed costs, the lower the marginal costs, and the more profit. A good product becomes a staple. People depend on it NOT changing.

        MSFT hasn't learned that lesson, either. Innovation can always be a separate part of the business. But when you get even the popular tomatoes that make you successful wrong, then people lose interest in whatever else you're selling.
        brainout
  • Another Epic FAIL...

    Here we go again ...
    Hey, I have an idea, lets add a watch into the mix to see if we can get our
    failing WP platform to sell ... Wow .. One after another product fails ..
    And Ya, 2012 was the date of that patent .. Wow
    CND-Dude
    • "Epic FAIL"

      ...is that even a "thing" anymore? Isn't there some other meme you can move to just for some variety? Something with Lulz cat maybe?

      A little history lesson - once upon a time, there was this particular fruit-themed company that very nearly ceased to exist. But they managed to persist, and subsequently created the single most iconic electronic device of our time. The moral: comebacks are possible.

      How about we wait for an actual product announcement/demonstration vs. a patent filing before we consign it to the trash heap? What benefit or satisfaction do you armchair CEOs get from slagging a product _BEFORE_ its in the market? Ya know - that whole judge it on its own merits vs. its ancestry?
      Nierteroth9
  • MicrosoFunny

    Lately it has become so difficult trying to classify MS as a company. I don't know anymore what to cal them. An Internet company, software, hardware, enterprise solutions, consumer electronics, entertainment provider, smart mobile device maker......Diversification is seriously bleeding MS. Trying to focus on all these kinds of products from Enterprise to silly Entertainment and consumer products is not really helping. It seems that MS is in a shock state after losing its dominance in many fields and is trying to redefine itself in any cost. Focus, focus, focus is seriously needed.
    TechnoFixation
    • I feel so sorry for MS too. They're earning billions more than Google, and

      it's Google that gets the headlines for being innovative, when they're not.

      Yeah, MS is on the verge of going out of business, and yet, they're the biggest innovators around, spending more on R&D than Google and Apple combined.

      Yeah, diversification is so bad, that MS is actually the brand with the most products and services and software on the planet, and they all have made MS the most prolific tech company on the planet. I don't know about you, but, earnings of $7-8 billion per quarter is something that Google can only dream about, and Apple will be wishing they still had in about 3-4 years.
      adornoe@...
      • You can spend 100 times more on R&D

        Doesnt mean you are better innovators just means you dont have particularly good talent in said R&D
        Bladeforce
  • Yet again...

    ..the Microsoft zealots will say the thieves at Redmond invented this...sigh
    Bladeforce