Ina Fried

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Intel, Microsoft Also Eyeing Wearable Device Market

It’s fair to say that everyone who is anyone in tech is trying to find a place in the budding market for wearable technology.

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Google has its Glass eyewear and has also bought WIMM Labs, a smartwatch maker. Samsung, Sony and Qualcomm have launched smartwatches of their own. Apple hasn’t talked much, but is said to be working on a watch.

CEO Tim Cook did nothing to disabuse that notion during his appearance at our D11 conference in May.

“There’s lots of things to solve in this space,” he said, adding that it is an area that is “ripe for exploration.”

But Apple isn’t alone in trying to quietly develop a play in wearables. Both Intel and Microsoft have “new devices” teams designed to look for ways to expand their heritage into computing’s latest frontier.

Former Palm and Apple executive Mike Bell heads up Intel’s effort. Bell, who previously headed Intel’s mobile phone and tablet unit, has been pretty quiet since assuming the new post. However, he was quoted on Thursday in a press release announcing Intel Capital’s investment in Recon Instruments, a five-year-old Canadian maker of heads-up displays.

“Wearable computing is a major, accelerating phenomenon that re-defines how we use and interact with information,” Bell said in the release. “In Recon Instruments, we see compelling technology and a solid strategy to capitalize on the wearable revolution. This is an area of significant focus for Intel Capital, and our investment in Recon Instruments is a key part of our approach to innovation in this emerging space.”

Intel confirmed that wearable computing is among the new areas that Bell is overseeing.

“We’re actively working on multiple opportunities across wearables,” an Intel representative told AllThingsD. “It’s an exciting extension of computing, and we believe there will be a lot of innovation and growth in this space.”

Microsoft has been more circumspect about its interest in wearables, though CEO Steve Ballmer made several references to working on the next big thing, both at last week’s analyst meeting and during a companywide meeting held Thursday. And during last month’s Windows unit reorganization, Microsoft created a future special projects team alongside the groups working on each of the existing Windows devices — phones, PCs, tablets and Xbox.


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