Nokia was developing a good-looking smartwatch

Nokia logoA bunch of pictures of a smartwatch were briefly posted to a (now-deleted) Tumblr account said to belong to Pei-Chi Hsieh, a designer who worked for Nokia and then moved to Microsoft when the software firm bought Nokia's device division. The pictures were spotted by prolific leaker and gadget writer Evan Blass.

Codenamed Moonraker and bearing product number LS-50, the boldly colored devices had an interface using similar Metro design cues to those found in Windows Phone. More specifically, the interface looks more than a little similar to that used in the Microsoft Band: the watch's apps are presented as a series of strips (scrolling vertically, as opposed to the horizontal scrolling on the Band) reminiscent of the Band's primary strip/tile system, and apps like e-mail have a similar kind of styling and design to the SMS app on Band.

Nokia was developing a good-looking smartwatch; Microsoft apparently killed it

Many of the watch's home screens also look similar to the Band's home screen, with their use of white text on a detailed, often monochromatic, background.

The Verge reports that, according to its sources, Microsoft killed off the Moonraker watch when it bought Nokia, as Band had more sensors. While Moonraker could do things such as turn on the screen when you raise your arm and turn it off when you lower it, this apparently didn't compare with the breadth of sensors found in the Band.

According to the Verge's sources, the pictures are marketing images, not mere concept art, and Nokia originally intended to unveil the watch at the same time as the Lumia 930. This timing is a little surprising. The Lumia 930 was announced on April 2, 2014. That announcement was at Microsoft's BUILD conference, but it was nonetheless an announcement made by Nokia. The sale of the devices division to Microsoft wasn't completed until later that month, April 25. If the Verge's sources are right then it would seem that Microsoft exercised considerable influence over Nokia even before the division had officially changed hands.

As it is, it seems that the watch will never see the light of day. Microsoft is continuing to work on the Band, with a release date later this year. While this will hopefully be a little sleeker, it isn't expected to make any radical changes to the software platform.

Nokia Moonraker

While Google and Apple smartwatches both run operating systems that are closely related to their phone platforms, Band is believed to run software that's substantially lighter weight. While this allows Band to be smaller than full smartwatches, it also limits its utility as an app platform. Similar to the Apple Watch's WatchKit (but unlike the forthcoming native SDK), Band apps run on the paired phone, using the Band itself only as a display device.

Presuming the Moonraker project was able to deliver a working product in a reasonable timeframe, the apparent cancellation is a shame. The watch would likely appeal to a different, possibly wider market than the fitness-oriented Band. More fundamentally, the lack of a smartwatch within Microsoft's product portfolio once again threatens to leave the software giant looking out of step with its competitors.

The desirability and purpose of smartwatches still isn't proven, and nobody can be sure that there is any longterm future for such devices. But if they do prove to have a longterm future, ceding that market to Apple and Google feels like an unwise strategy. The Moonraker pictures look clean and elegant (though of course they do not address key concerns such as battery life or device size), and if such a product could be brought to market, it would surely be a credible alternative to those that are already out there, especially if it could retain the Band's cross-platform compatibility.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Microsoft, Nokia, smartwatch

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