MSN Direct (SPOT) watch review

Microsoft officially released their MSN Direct watch line after some delays.

The current incarnation of the device delivers news, weather, stock quotes, calendar, and instant message capabilities as part of the subscription fee of $9.95 a month or $59 a year. The $150 watch will still tell the time and sync itself to local time servers without service activation, but you lose all of the personalization and data. There are tens of choices of watch faces (ways of displaying time and date) to choose from, and an option to receive a new face monthly is available. You must dock your watch into an MSN Direct charging station at least once every two days to charge the batteries. The charging mechanism transfers power through the wrist-facing side of the watch and nothing is plugged in to the watch itself.

All channels are configured via the MSN Direct website and updates sent to your watch approximately every 20 minutes as long as your watch remains within the service area. As of October 2003 100 service areas were covered. Maps of coverage in San Francisco, Seattle, and New York are good examples. The watch’s antenna is the watch band’s brilliant copper.

The calendar function is simple enough. You download a small application that works with Outlook to synchronize your Outlook calendar with your MSN calendar. Your calendar alerts appear on your watch just like they would in your desktop version of Outlook.

Standard news feeds are available in business, entertainment, headline, health, international, local, sports, technology, and weather. Sports scores are in development in partnership with ESPN.

Stocks is the most interactive channel. As long as you have a ticker for the stock or index of interest, it will be sent to your watch. You can even view a 7 day graph of price changes.

The weather view allows for both the weather in your current city as well as places you frequently travel to or would like to keep an eye on. Current temperature, a small graphic for what the weather is like outside, and wind speed are all included. There is even a three day forecast.

Instant messages work well but with a noticeable delay. Using MSN Messenger 6 a user can opt to “Send a Message to an MSN Direct Watch” for users who own and have associated the device with their Passport used by MSN Messenger. There are no per message charges for these messages.

Who will pay $150 plus $60 a year for these services? Anyone who wants to track their stocks and indices in a more interactive and wrist bound ticker seems like a good candidate. I leave my watch in cycling between the weather and the stock channels until the U.S. stock market closes. Once more devices are available using the MSN Direct technology the subscription fee will seem more worthwhile spread across your alarm clock, coffee maker, and maybe even your refrigerator.

I usually do not wear a watch. The first watch I purchased in years was the Nike Triax Stamina for its sporty yet modern look, slim watch face, chronograph, and countdown timer. Both the Nike Triax and the Fossil FX3001 communicate a lifestyle to curious onlookers. (Athletic and geek respectively) The Triax Stamina remains my watch of choice, but for people who have always worn a watch and are looking for more information always available to them at a glace, check out the new watches featuring MSN Direct.