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June 13, 2006

Microsoft launches branded webcams and there’s a new SPOT watch

Posted by David Hunter at 11:27 PM ET.

Press release:

Consumer research1 has revealed that people want to stay connected, and many would use webcams if they were easier to operate and provided better audio and video quality. To counter those frustrations, Microsoft Hardware and the Windows Live team have joined forces to introduce a line of LifeCams starting with the LifeCam VX-6000 and LifeCam VX-3000.

These next-generation webcams provide groundbreaking video and audio quality that opens the door for richer digital communications experiences. Optimized for use with Windows Live™ Messenger, the world’s largest instant messaging network,2 LifeCams meet the growing demand for easier, more meaningful connections.

More details by following the link including a promise that “Microsoft will introduce additional LifeCam products in September 2006.” Todd Bishop has more on the business aspects.

While the Microsoft Hardware team is a savvy bunch with a variety of industry leading products, it’s harder to find nice things to say about Microsoft’s dogged persistence in getting partners to turn out SPOT watches:

Microsoft Corp.’s Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) initiative today launched the next generation of Smart Watches for MSN® Direct: the ABACUS Smart Watch 2006. These newest watches feature double the storage capacity of previous watches, improved download speed, a thinner bezel and several stylish bands.

From Fossil Inc., one of the original providers of Smart Watches, the new ABACUS Smart Watch 2006 is the next evolution of the Smart Watch category. It features a metal bezel and a choice of watch bands: black leather, brown crocodile leather, green fabric, classic metal or modern metal. In addition to the new styles, with the increased storage capacity and download speed, wearers of the ABACUS Smart Watch 2006 can download even more MSN Direct channels, providing them with additional value and a wide range of choices.

If the whole thing’s a puzzle, MSN Direct is a specialized FM radio broadcast service for these watches. Silicon Valley Sleuth provides some caustic perspective in Microsoft turns the knife on its self inflicted SPOT wound:

Microsoft has unveiled an updated SPOT watch: the Abacus Smart Watch 2006 started selling today for $179.

Microsoft must like rubbing salt in its own wounds. Most of the world would have forgotten about SPOT if the company wouldn’t have reminded them of this technological failure by keeping it on life support.

SPOT uses the FM radio signal to broadcast data such as weather and traffic info. Microsoft was hoping that consumers would fork out $10 per month for such a service, but has now lowered the subscription rates to $39.95 per year.

That’s still 40 dollars too much for a service that comes bundled with most mobile phones.

More by following the link, but it’s past time to put this one out of its misery. Interestingly, the SPOT/MSN Direct team is responsible for the Vista Sideshow design – it’s the little ancillary external screen supported on notebooks running Vista.

Filed under MSN, MSN Direct, Microsoft, Microsoft Hardware, SPOT, Technologies, Webcams

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