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Microsoft reportedly considering selling a smartwatch of its own

The tech giant has requested components for a potential touch-enabled watch device, executives at Asian suppliers tell the Wall Street Journal.

Does Microsoft think the time is right to compete with the Martian Passport in the smartwatch sector?
Sarah Tew/CNET

Microsoft is reportedly exploring the idea of joining what promises to be a crowded smartwatch market.

The tech titan has asked suppliers in Asia to ship components for a potential touch-enabled watch device, executives at the suppliers told The Wall Street Journal. One executive told the Journal that he had met with Microsoft's research and development team in Redmond, Wash., but it's unclear whether Microsoft will commit to producing such a device.

CNET has contacted Microsoft for comment and will update this report when we learn more.

Microsoft has dabbled in the sector before, marketing devices running its once-hyped Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT). After pouring a lot of money into the effort and partnering with watchmakers such as Fossil, Suunto, and Swatch on high-end, touch-screen models that cost as much as $800, Microsoft pulled the stem out of the project in 2008.

If Microsoft opts to market a smartwatch, it will join a pack of tech leaders reportedly looking to produce the wrist-worn technology. The New York Times reported earlier this year that Apple is experimenting with wristwatch-like iOS devices that feature curved glass, and Bloomberg reported that the company has about 100 people working on a smartwatch project. Apple board member Bill Campbell recently gave more weight to those reports by discussing the value of "intimate" devices such as cell phones and Google Glasses.

A senior executive at Samsung told Bloomberg last month that the electronics giant has been working on wearable devices likes smartwatches and has "been preparing the watch product for so long." Meanwhile, a patent application from Google, which is already taking the spotlight for wearable devices with its Google Glass, shows a timepiece with a clear touch screen that flips up from the base of the watch to serve as a secondary display.

Whatever these companies decide, it's likely going to have to make a significant advance over what is available on the market now to attract consumers' dollars.

Smartwatches, fitness bands, and hybrids of the two were talked up earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show. Some of those devices include the the long-awaited Pebble wristwatch, which made its debut at the conference, and the 007-inspired Martian Passport Watch.