How about IM via a Dick Tracy watch?

The .Net Common Language Runtime can power Internet-aware devices ranging from PCs to wristwatches that exchange instant messages.

Soon CLR will keep dashboard and refrigerator magnets up to date with whatever Internet data their owners want to see, said Rick Rashid, Microsoft Corp. senior vice president for research.

Rashid, who helped develop the Mach operating system at Carnegie Mellon University before joining Microsoft 12 years ago, said Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT) using CLR is the foundation of what he called 'an ecology of devices that know about you. The intelligence is in the device, not in the network.'

A SPOT device downloads Extensible Markup Language data via Web services. It continually displays or scrolls through a user's desired data'time, weather, calendar, news, instant messages'via MSN Direct's nationwide agreements with radio stations across the United States and Canada.

About 80 percent of each country's population can receive the signals on devices with FM subcarrier chip sets from Motorola Inc., Rashid said.

Fossil, Citizen and other watchmakers will charge $100 to $200 for a SPOT watch, he said. The prototype he wears has a black-and-white bitmap screen with 90- by 120-pixel resolution in a boxy Dick Tracy style; see www.microsoft.com/SPOT for more information.

MSN Direct's monthly charge for the Internet service has not yet been decided, he said.

A SPOT device's private key is installed during manufacture to receive signals from MSN Direct. The user can set up a secondary private key for instant messaging with chosen persons, but no others will know it. 'You don't want to get spam on your watch,' Rashid said.

Microsoft has adapted CLR for Windows CE devices such as a forthcoming Global System for Mobile Communications smart phone, code-named Stinger, that will be available soon through AT&T Wireless.

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