Microsoft rumored to be working on touch-enabled 'smart watch' designs

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Coming amidst rumors of so-called "smart watch" products from Apple and Samsung, software giant Microsoft is now said to be mulling an entrance into the still nascent wearable computing device sector with designs of its own.

Executives at Microsoft's Asian suppliers told The Wall Street Journal that the company is working on designs for a touch-enabled "watch-style" product, and requested shipments of 1.5-inch displays for internal testing earlier this year.

One executive reportedly met Microsoft's R&D team at the firm's headquarters in Redmond, Wash., but offered no specifics regarding the watch's feature set. It remains unknown if the product will even move out of the prototyping stage.

As noted by the publication, the rumored device would be Microsoft's second attempt smart watch initiative, the first being an offshoot of the Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) platform for which watchmakers like Suunto, Fossil and Swatch made products until 2008. The program, launched in 2004, was subsequently adopted in a wider range of electronics including GPS units, and sent weather, traffic and other data from MSN Direct servers to devices over FM radio broadcasts. The service cost $59 per year.

Apple and Samsung are said to be preparing smart watch devices which are said to communicate wirelessly with the companies' respective smartphone offerings. While information regarding Apple's supposed offering has only been whispers and speculation, Samsung went so far as to announce they are actively working on a such a product, having worked on it "for so long." In addition, Google and LG are also rumored to be preparing branded smart watches, suggesting the industry could see a major boom in the coming months.

Today's news points to a possible expansion of Microsoft's first-party computer hardware offerings, with the company perhaps looking to build on the moderate success of its Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets. The stripped-down RT launched in October, followed by the Pro in February, with combined sales reaching a total of 1.5 million units. The company is also thought to be readying a 7-inch Surface to cash in on the growing popularity of small form factor tablets like Apple iPad mini.