Scott Hanselman

REVIEWED: Microsoft Wrist.NET (MSN Direct) Watch from Fossil

January 12, '04 Comments [4] Posted in Reviews
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Well, I've had my Microsoft SPOT Watch for over 24 hours now, so it's time for the obligatory review.  I don't have time (nor do you have interest) in a Anandtech/Tom's Hardware-sized review, and since most people just skip to the Conclusion anyway, here's it is:

Conclusion

The MSN Direct (Wrist.NET) watch is the best PDA-Watch I've seen so far.  As a Palm fan, I was stoked about the Palm PDA Watch, but it was WAY too big, and tried to be too much.  I don't want to use a freakin' stylus on my watch.  At the same time, I have been one of the 'bat-belt' people with a cell-phone, pager, PDA, digital camera and laptop (not to mention a Glucose Meter and Insulin Pump).  I really don't need another battery to charge! 

I don't expect a watch to replace my current ONE device - a Blackberry Phone (that handles email, calendar, web and cell phone on a single device) - but I would like something to provide me with a little more information than just the time, without making me feel overloaded with information.  Plus, it has to look good and not make my one arm 5 lbs heavier than the other.

What's cool about the MSN Direct Watch

  • VERY Cool Charging Mechanism - There's no wires or things to plug in to the watch.  You literally just set the watch on a small watch-holding platform (with no metal contacts) and it charges just sitting there.  I knew I wouldn't dig this watch if I had to plug ANYTHING into it.  I just put the charging platform by my alarm clock (next to the basket I usually throw my other watches and rings into in the evening) and I pick it up in the morning.  I've charged it once so far and it's still at 97% so I anticipate that the watch will have no trouble lasting the 2-3+ days the instructions say it will.  Needless to say, having the watch charge just because it's sitting on the holder is pretty slick.
  • Not Too Big - I was taking a chance ordering the watch without seeing it (I ordered the Fossil Round), but I wasn't disappointed.  It's certainly WAY smaller than the Casio G-Shock Crap Watches I see other folks wearing.  It's SLIGHTLY (0.1"-ish) thicker than maybe it ought to be, but it's not at all thick enough for someone to double-take.  Basically I'm saying that it's NOT an obviously dorky watch.  With the proliferation of large watches out there, I'd say this watch is squarely in the medium category.
  • Runs some version of .NET - Deep in the watche's menus and settings is a screen that shows versions and such of various modules.  One of them says MSCORLIB 87.49.59.D2! 
  • Messenger Users can send me messages! - If you are running MSN Messenger 6.1 you can Right-Click on my name and click "Send a message to an MSN Direct Watch."  If you've got me on your messenger list, feel free to send me some Wireless Watch SPAM now! :)
  • Downloadable Watch Faces - If you're a fan of the Fossil watches with various animated faces, you'll like that this watch supports multiple (I've got 10+ on it) Watch Faces.  Some are analog with watch hands, some digital, some hybrids.  Some support multiple time zones (which is cool for me travelling all the time) and some are just funky. 
  • Glance Channel - The Glance channel is the one I'll use the most.  It cycles automatically through the latest messages, news, weather, etc while still showing the time and date.
  • Integrated with Passport - I don't mind Passport for harmless stuff like Alerts and Messenger, so it was cool that the Watch came with an internal hardware Guid that you associate with your passport.  It automatically knows where you are and takes some of your existing preferences. 
  • Public and Private Information separate - I knew that the watch used the FM Radio bands to send data at 12Kb/s, but I didn't realize that they kept public and private information separate.  I figured they just sent all info on the public band.  Turns out they use the watches private Guid to encrypt private alerts and appts. while the public stuff like Weather is sent in the clear.  Cool, which leads me to:
  • Integration with Outlook - This was a surprise.  A small Outlook Add-In (that I just run at work) that automatically sends the next few days of appts to the watch.   This will be cool as I use my Blackberry now to tell me what room the next meeting is in.  This information is encrypted and sent only in the City that I“m currently in.

What's lame about the MSN Direct Watch

  • The backlight is a side-lit white LED, rather than a Blue Indiglo backlight.  I'm a BIG fan of the Indiglo-style backlight, and I just assumed that all watches in the world were either Indiglo or traditional Glow-In-The-Dark.  Not a huge deal, just surprising.
  • The container it came in was damn near impossible to get into.  The watch came in some kind of plastic cylinder with metal ends and I had to knife my way into the thing.  Sounds cheesy, but it was seriously hard to get into.  Presumably to prevent shoplifters, but it took me 20 minutes to open it before I decide that destroying it would be more effective.

What I want the watch to do in the (near) future

  • I'd like to push some software out to this watch.  If it's running a CLR, let me program to it.
  • I'd like traffic updates - I don't see this channel yet, but it's in the ads and promotional material.
  • I'd like airline/flight information and updates.  I use SMS for this now.  If this watch had an SMS'able address or an email address, that'd be cool.
  • More Channels to choose from.  There's 10 or so, but I'd like things like Ebay alerts, etc, and better integration with MSN's existing Alerts structure.

All in all, I'm VERY happy with my dork watch and would TOTALLY recommend it to other dorks.

UPDATE: Holy crap, I'm glad I didn't get the Suunto Wrist.NET Watch!  It's freaking huge - pictures here.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.