A Year with Fossil's Tech Watches

Discussion in 'Headline News' started by shawnb, Feb 21, 2006.

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  1. shawnb

    shawnb Brighthand Staff

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    The last two years saw the release of some long-anticipated computer wristwatches. Both were announced early 2003, a year that saw some of the most unique products announced in the handheld space -- but it would take more than two years before anyone could strap one on.

    I was fortunate enough to see the Fossil Wrist PDA running the Palm OS at the 2002 announcement in Las Vegas: a working prototype. As I beheld the little metal 66 MHz Dragonball-powered wristwatch, Bill Gates had just announced the SPOT watch, then also in development at Fossil and other watch companies. At the time I thought it ironic that just as a Palm licensee was actually showing a product that looked like it could ship soon, Microsoft was playing catchup. It would turn out differently.

    [​IMG] Fossil's SPOT-based Wrist Net watches, which incorporate an FM radio receiver to receive news and information, would eventually ship in early 2004. The Wrist PDA that looked so ready back in 2002 didn't ship until January of 2005, entering a market that was no longer ripe for PDAs of any kind. 2003 and 2004 saw many major handheld players drop out of the market altogether, notably electronics and entertainment giant Sony Electronics. So Fossil's once ambitious Wrist PDA sailed into stagnant waters.

    In a recent interview with Fossil's Bill Geiser, who runs Fossil's Watch Tech Division, I learned a little bit about what happened with the Wrist PDA, and got just a clue about where the company's headed.

    "The Wrist PDA faced huge distribution challenges from the day it came out," said Geiser. Though Fossil has excellent distribution channels for watches, few of their regular retail customers would be interested in stocking significant quantities of a high-tech watch, according to Geiser, and they had few relationships with the consumer electronics retailers that would be interested. So getting the product to potential buyers was difficult.

    Supply was the other problem. "We're the 800 pound gorilla when it comes to sourcing things like hands, watch faces, and cases; but we had no leverage when it came to buying massive quantities of Dragonball processors," said Geiser. "We had really pushed the technology to make a PDA so small, especially in the display area." So it was supply-side difficulties that ultimately delayed the release of the Wrist PDA.

    While he wouldn't elaborate, Geiser maintained that Fossil's line of tech watches would continue.

    Still, it seems clear that the Palm OS Wrist PDA has not been a success, with the formerly $199 to $250 watch now selling for as low as $80, and no longer available from Fossil's own website. The WristNet watch, on the other hand, will continue to be available for some time to come, with Microsoft still committed to SPOT (Smart Personal Objects Technology) and Fossil announcing a new batch of watches at CES 2006. The new line will include a new band design and several iterations of that band, leather, metal, and nylon, rather than the thicker nylon/leather hybrid currently shipping.

    So What Happened?

    I was originally slated to review the Fossil Wrist PDA when it came out, but the birth of my second son brought with it some serious health issues for both him and his mother that continued through 2005, so the review never happened despite my best intentions. Because my intentions never ceased, however, I did get a lot of experience with the Fossil Wrist PDA and later the Abacus Wrist Net and Abacus Wrist PDA. Both served me frequently on hospital visits and organizing a remarkably hectic work and family life.

    A good deal has been written about both watches, so I won't go into detail about every feature or foible. I have been surprised by just how many reviews, especially of the Wrist PDA, introduce all the features of the watch, but completely avoid the issue of whether either watch is truly useful. So I'll talk more about my experience with the two watches.

    While mom and baby were in the hospital -- totaling more than a month and a half -- I wore the Wrist PDA every day. Though I still had my LifeDrive with me for email and work, it was usually tucked in a diaper bag or backpack. The Wrist PDA was more convenient for retrieving nursery security codes and caregiver names in a hurry. I even used the miniature stylus to record medications and conditions to look up later on the Internet. Usually without even removing the stylus, I could navigate to the Memo Pad and get the info necessary to enter any hospital floor completely prepared.

    I'd loaded up the Wrist PDA with an old copy of Scripture (now MyBible by Laridian Software), and managed to sync a small set of AvantGo channels to the watch, so I had plenty to read while waiting for doctors and nurses. As anyone familiar with AvantGo knows, you can keep current on news, weather, sports, and even keep up-to-date local movie times on your PDA if you sync regularly, so I had almost all I needed on my wrist. Passwords Plus secured all my important personal data, and CityTime kept me on top of world time for my occasional international calls. The version of TimeCopy that came with Mark/Space Missing Sync kept the watch relatively accurate (the Wrist PDA's clock drifts this way and that like the weeds of the sea if not synced every other day).

    [​IMG] Others had mentioned problems with battery life, but I tend to keep my Palm devices in a cradle and sync daily, so I had no problem keeping the Wrist PDA charged. Shortly after receiving the Fossil Wrist PDA, I built two stands to make charging them overnight a little easier, while leaving them functional as a desktop clock at home and at work.

    But there was one problem. The Fossil was really heavy, and after a month of wear, my wrist started to ache, and typing -- as necessary as breathing for this writer -- became painful. The hospital trips were less frequent by then, so I wore it only when I was away from home or office, as a backup Palm.

    Part II discusses:

    • Wrist Net
    • Abacus Wrist PDAs
    • Conclusions

     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 20, 2015
  2. JeffLewis

    JeffLewis Mobile Consultant

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    "2003 and 2004 saw many major handheld players drop out of the market altogether, notably electronics and entertainment giant Sony Electronics. "

    Not actually correct. It was when the US (and to a lesser degree, Canada) saw several major handheld players leave those markets.

    Sony is transitioning to pads from PDAs, and has already indicated that they may be back in the market soon.

    Toshiba is still selling their e800 series in Canada

    http://www.toshiba.ca/web/products.grp?lg=en&section=1&group=22

    Other companies like Fujitsu Siemens simply aren't interested in the US market.

    The problem as one fellow at Sony put it: North Americans are "lazy, cheap and stupid". By that, he meant that we tend not to take the time to read the manual or learn the software, we buy the lowest price version and then complain because it doesn't have the same features as the high end version, and when it doesn't work the way expected, we take it back and demand a refund rather than trying to work out what the problem is (which is, more often a 'stupid user problem').

    Sony noted that they were essentially losing money on each unit sold in North America because the margins were so small (cheap) and they were spending too much in support (stupid and lazy).

    It's of note that Sony in Japan makes money on the same devices. Europeans clearly provide enough margin for Toshiba and Fujitsu t make PDAs and market them there.

    In fact, even here the release of two new lines of PDAs from Fujitsu in Europe and Japan only show the problem.

    So - short version - just because someone dropped out of the US market doesn't mean they've dropped out of THE market - just one part of it - and from what I've read, when it comes to PDA, not a particularly lucrative part.
     
  3. x999x

    x999x Mobile Enthusiast

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    Great Article :)

    Sums up what all of us in the WristPDA Yahoo Group have felt for some time.

    What it comes down to for me is, the ability to take the same synchronized data and leisurely applications with me, be it on my pocketpc or wristpda. Contacts, Appointments, Notes, Email, AvantGo, and Pacman, I must have my Paccy.

    For the times I can't take my ppc with me, there's always room on my wrist.
     
  4. ackmondual

    ackmondual Mobile Deity

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    I bought it at $50 just to try it out and i guess as a collectors item, the "i guess" stemming from I don't really collect PDAs at all.

    For my brief usage, I think it's neat, I didn't like it enough to replace my main PDA. I've got a T|T3 which is mounds and mounds better than this wrist PDA, but I'd still prefer my old Visor Neo to this.

    In the days of BB's, Palms, PPCs, and ipods, there's not that great of a "shock" reaction from carrying/using a T|T3. In the wrong circles however, this wrist PDA looks geeky and ugly.

    Leaving fashion out of it now, the watch faces are neat, it's not as bad as one may think to look up info on this watch, but I do need more from my PDA. I can't play most games since there are no PIM buttons on this wPDA and on screen writing through Graffiti2 or Jot is always active which is a bummer for someone who does much PDA gaming. No pics, music, nor videos which I like to occasionally do. Other apps that I also use like FileZ, BankBook, etc. work OK, but the TINY stylus and smaller screen have made me realize just how sweet my T|T3 really is. I *could* make the wPDA work for my needs eventually, but I won't with a T|T3.
     
  5. Hendrixus

    Hendrixus Astroman

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    Last week I sold my Abacus quickly. It not even worth being a gadget with such a bad battery. The old one I still have is using the CR2032 takes 7-8 months before it runs out. And that's even a real Fossil:D

    Hendrixus
     
  6. ackmondual

    ackmondual Mobile Deity

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    Is that still a Palm wrist PDA with the souped up battery, some other model of a Palm wrist PDA with a souped up battery, or something totally different?

    Or if you have a link, that would be nice :cool:
     
  7. Hendrixus

    Hendrixus Astroman

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    The one with the bad battery.

    [​IMG]

    The one which is using the CR2032(2025)

    [​IMG]

    link

    Hendrixus
     
  8. PlasticMan

    PlasticMan Mobile Deity

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    bad battery vs $60 a year.tough call.
     
  9. Hendrixus

    Hendrixus Astroman

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    Your maths arn't very good. Back to school!:D

    Hendrixus
     
  10. tmn72

    tmn72 Mobile Enthusiast

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    I found the article to be very intersting, and I really like the personal approach the author took to telling me how they actually used the Wrist PDA.

    I purchased one when a local store was trying to unload their watches. I thought, why not? $50 for a watch is not bad, and one with a PDA built in is even better.

    I really like it more than I expected to. It does need to be recharged every night, but there are times I unexpectedly need data, and have left my Palm TX at my desk, or it is in my backpack in the trunk of the car.

    Obviously, my TX is a much better PDA, but the Fossil watch does what you want it to do, have PIM data accessible for the user. It does a great job at this.
     
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