After wading into wearables last month with an app, Microsoft appears to be poised to enter the smartwatch market in earnest.
The company is preparing to launch a multi-platform smartwatch within weeks, according to a report in Forbes. Like Apple's upcoming device and Motorola's Moto 360 smartwatch, Microsoft's wearable device will track a person's heart rate.
Microsoft has been rumored to be working on a smartwatch for over a year. Last year, sources told The Wall Street Journal that the company had been shopping around for 1.5-inch touch-enabled screens and that component makers had met with its research and development arm.
Details concerning the device's branding, pricing and exact availability are still under wraps. However, signs point to Microsoft's smartwatch beating the highly anticipated Apple Watch to store shelves.
"The wearable will hit stores soon after launch in a bid to capture the lucrative holiday season, a timeline Apple was reportedly targeting before it delayed its own Watch to early 2015," stated the report. Microsoft may also pull ahead of the competition in one critical area: battery life.
Insiders also revealed to Forbes that the smartwatch's battery would last more than two days between charges. Rival smartwatches, including the Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Gear and Moto 360, require daily charging.
Despite this limitation, Apple Watch is expected to fuel demand for wearable devices.
Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed the company's smartwatch, named simply Apple Watch, during the company's fall launch event on Sept. 9. Featuring near-field communication (NFC) technology, Apple Pay support and a "Digital Crown," the smartwatch is expected to sell for a starting price of $365 when it ships next year.
"Apple has finally unveiled its Apple Watch, which we expect to trigger more consumer interest once it starts shipping in 2015," said Gartner's Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner, said in a Sept. 17 statement. Premium pricing may restrict how many Apple Watches make it to consumers' wrists, but it won't keep buyers away.
"As with the iPhone, Apple's high-price strategy for the Watch will limit its market share; yet, with its attention to design and the user interface, we believe this product will attract many users," said McIntyre.
Shipments of wearables are skyrocketing, according to IDC. The research firm forecast in April that shipments would reach 19 million units in 2014, triple last year's level. By 2018, IDC expects volumes to reach 111.9 million units.
Microsoft's smartwatch won't be the company's first foray into wearable technology.
The tech giant made an early effort more than a decade ago with its Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) for smartwatches and household devices. In 2012, Microsoft pulled the plug on MSN Direct, the FM radio-based platform used for SPOT data services.
Last month, Microsoft quietly launched a companion OneNote app for Google's wearables software platform. Dubbed OneNote for Android Wear, the app allows smartphone wearers to dictate notes on their device and view them later on the OneNote Android App.