Microsoft is reportedly moving ahead quickly on development of a smartwatch, having reached the prototype stage with a 1.5-in. device running on a modified Windows 8 housed in a translucent aluminum case.
In addition to a housing made of an expensive material called aluminum oxynitride, the watch will feature removable wrist bands in blue, red, yellow, black, white and gray, AmongTech reported Friday, citing trusted unnamed sources.
The aluminum is 80% transparent but four times harder than glass.
What may be the most innovative thing about the device is that it won't completely rely on a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone, as many smartwatches would, and instead will include an LTE wireless chip, 6GB of internal storage and a connection to cloud storage. Still, the watch can be used to communicate with a smartphone for some functionality, AmongTech's sources said.
Previous reports have indicated that Microsoft has been taking bids for 1.5-in. displays from manufacturers. The Verge also reported today, citing unnamed sources, that Microsoft has moved the prototype testing of the watch to its Surface team of developers and designers. The work was previously done by the company's Xbox accessories group.
The switch of the prototype to the Surface team could be a reflection of the corporate reorganization that Microsoft announced last week, which refocuses the company along a "devices and services" concept previously outlined by CEO Steve Ballmer.
Various reports have suggested a Microsoft Surface watch could appear in 2014, which would be later than the rumored iWatch from Apple, which is presumably due this fall.
Meanwhile, Sony revealed its third-generation SmartWatch 2 on June 25. That device features a 1.6-in. display, but no pricing or availability was announced.
Some analysts have been skeptical about the potential market for smartwatches, but others have said that Apple will help create interest with its device, as it did with the iPhone six years ago. Sony expects 41 million smartwatches to be sold by 2016, but that's just a fraction of the nearly 1 billion smartphones sold globally in a year.
This article, "Surface Smartwatch in Prototype With Modified Windows 8, Reports Say," was originally published on Computerworld.com.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is email@example.com.