SPOT Watch First Look

Microsoft's announcing the New MSN Direct Watches this week, but PC Magazine Editor-in-Chief Michael J. Miller has been living with them for weeks.

If you want your watch to deliver the news headlines, local weather, and stock prices, youll like Microsofts new MSN Direct watches. Bill Gates first showed off his SPOT technology at last years Consumer Electronics Show a year ago. Its now a year later, and the first watches are here. Over the last few weeks, Ive tried out two of them, along with the information service, now called MSN Direct.

The service uses unused portions of the FM radio band to send out information in a local area. Each watch has a unique ID and pulls in only the information that you ask for—news, sports, particular stock prices, or messages. The bandwidth is limited, so you get only headlines and short messages sent from MSN Messenger. But the idea isnt to spend time reading your watch. Rather, a quick glance every now and then will keep you up to date.

You can set up the service to deliver several kinds of information, including national, business, international, or sports news headlines; stock prices of specific companies; and basic market indices. Using a utility from your desktop, you can send calendar items to the watch as well as get personal messages sent through MSN Messenger. It can also receive multiple watch faces with alarms and timers. I found the Glance mode to be the most useful; it cycles through the information on your watch, so you can just glance at your wrist and get information.

Some of the services arent working yet, but Microsoft says that soon youll be able to customize MSN Direct to get information about specific sports teams. And I like the idea of getting the traffic report for a selected route. But such a service is a ways off. The MSN Direct service costs $9.95 per month or $59.95 per year, plus the cost of the watch.

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