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Microsoft pitches sports for smart watches

Owners of smart watches will be able to get NBA and other basketball updates from ESPN with the launch of the first add-on information service from MSN Direct.

Microsoft aims to score with sports fans with the launch Monday of its first add-on service for so-called smart watches.

The company unveiled its MSN Direct data service in June, delivering news headlines, weather forecasts and other updates to smart watches. The add-on promises to provide MSN Direct subscribers with the latest information on basketball teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA), Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA), and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I teams.

The content itself will be generated by ESPN, a television and Internet sports network, and will feature information such as scores, statistics, standings and game times, according to Microsoft.

SPOT watches

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant has been pushing hard to establish itself as a software and content vendor in the nascent market for smart watches, devices that look like traditional wristwatches but feature embedded capabilities for receiving data via wireless transmissions.

In addition to creating subscription-based content services, Microsoft has introduced Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT). The technology, designed for use in smart watches and other personal and household items, combines a user interface, an operating system and communications technology. At the moment, MSN Direct service only works with SPOT devices.

Microsoft said it plans to add Major League Baseball (MLB), National Football League (NFL), NCAA football and National Hockey League (NHL) games to its MSN Direct sports service. Information for those leagues will also be provided by ESPN, whose Web site is part of Microsoft's MSN online network.

Wristwatches embedded with Microsoft's smart technology arrived in U.S. retail stores in January, after a delay of several months. The $100-to-$300 smart watches, built by device manufacturers including Abacus, Fossil and Suunto, let people check personal messages and calendar information. For a $9.95 monthly fee, watch owners can also get news, weather and stock quotes from MSN Direct.

The new sports package will sell via Microsoft's Web site at a subscription rate of $9.95 per month or $59 per year. In addition to general sports league information, the service will also offer pregame and postgame summaries and details on top scorers.

"The Smart Watch is the perfect timepiece for passionate sports fans who can't be there to watch the game, but still want to follow the action," Eric Lang, general manager of the SPOT group at Microsoft, said in a statement. "We are proud to offer the first of what will be many new channels of information available from MSN Direct."