Microsoft: smart watches/glasses 3-5 years away from mainstream. Google preps Glass 2&smartwatch launch

Microsoft has been notorious for missing some major computing trends over the last decade, then spending years and billions of dollars trying to catch up. Usually without much success.

And, if wearable computing in the form of smart watches and glasses takes off in a year or two, they may do it again. Because at least some of Microsoft execs are pretty skeptical about the hype surrounding Google Glass and various smart watch efforts.

According to Focus Taiwan, Microsoft corporate VP and chairman of the company’s Asia-Pacific research group, Zhang Ya-qin, had this to say about wearables during Global Views Business Forum in Taipei:

“I think wearable devices require more time, maybe three to five years in development, before they can become mainstream. We expect to see a lot of try-outs of the devices in the coming years, in forms that include watches and eyeglasses”

Maybe it is a misdirection, because Microsoft most definitely has a lot of wearable stuff cooking in its R&D labs:

Microsoft Project Glass

Or maybe Zhang Ya-qin is right, and technology for a mainstream consumer wearables is just not there yet.

But Google has been testing a real Glass device with real people in real life for more than half a year now, collecting a lot of valuable usage data, and has a version 2 almost ready to ship. While WSJ reports that Google smart watch will enter mass production within a few months. Apple  also is all in on wearables and will, most likely, have a consumer ready iWatch out before the end of 2014.

Sitting still on the commercialization of wearable computing devices, playing with the concepts and prototypes in R&D labs, waiting for the right technology to come around, while major competitors around you are busy launching real devices, sounds like a recipe for another disaster for Microsoft.

Microsoft had almost monopoly in browsers, a lot of other Internet properties and yet it ignored the importance of search and search advertising until it was way too late to catch up with Google. After the decade of devlopment and tens of billions invested, Microsoft Bing is still a distant second in the field. They’ve been in smartphones since the beginning of this age. And yet, when the new true mobile computing paradigm came along, Steve Ballmer laughed at iPhone right until the moment he had to kill Windows Mobile and start fresh with Windows Phone. 3 years later and billions down the drain, the results of Microsoft mobile efforts are pathetic.

Even if wearable computing is just a hype today and is not ready for prime time, can Microsoft risk to be wrong on this?

I hope the new CEO in Redmond will learn from mistakes past, and whip the R&D department to produce some real stuff to ship fast. Waiting until the technology is truly ready, or the proof that the new concept really works, can be too late.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • JamesSB

    As always, Microsoft is 10 years too early. The SPOT watch came out in 2004.