Features

Only time

National

Issue: "How to fix baseball," June 21, 2003

It was only a matter of time that the common wristwatch would become obsolete. Watchmakers Fossil and Suunto are rolling out this fall Internet-enabled devices that will sell for $150-$200. Microsoft's MSN Direct service-$9.95 a month or $59 a year-will provide features as movie times, restaurant listings, and games, as well as the ability to receive instant messages and appointment reminders on the wrist.

The service relies on SPOT, or Smart Personal Objects Technology, which uses special FM signals known as subcarriers (inaudible parts of the signal, which special receivers can pick up). Microsoft hopes SPOT will eventually work on all sorts of new handheld gadgets from alarm clocks to electronic refrigerator magnets.

One big plus for SPOT is its versatility. Electronic makers can use their imaginations to develop gadgets that deliver live updates on LCD screens. A decoration on a kid's backpack, for example, could display his school's lunch menus, announcements, and sports schedule.

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