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Fossil, Sony Ericsson Partner to Launch Caller ID Watches

New York — Fossil, maker of mostly mid-priced watches, has partnered with Sony Ericsson to create a wristwatch that functions as an accessory to a cellular phone. Sony Ericsson designed the software for a caller ID watch that connects to one’s cellular phone via Bluetooth.

The analog/digital watch with Bluetooth technology will allow the Fossil Caller ID to notify a phone’s user when the phone is ringing or when a text message is received. It also shows the name and number of the caller on the watch face and provides the user with the opportunity to mute or reject the incoming call through the watch, without having to dig the phone out of a pocket or purse.

Fossil’s watch technology VP, Bill Geiser, told TWICE that this technology could be particularly useful for someone who must remain connected to their phone at all times for business or social reasons but who would still like to avoid using the phone in public situations unless absolutely necessary. He pointed to the growing stigma against cellphone usage in public places and explained that this technology was designed as an accessory that still meets the needs of the mobile user, but does so in a way that is discrete and not as disruptive to those around the user.

Each company will be launching versions of the watch through their own brands. Fossil’s first models will be available in the fall. One version, set to retail for $250, will be available exclusively on its Web site. A second version will be called Mobile Gear and will be launched under the company’s Abacus line. The two Mobile Gear watches, the AU6001 and the AU6002, differ only cosmetically and are to be available in October for a suggested $200 each. Geiser told TWICE that the Abacus line launched two years ago to help take Fossil products with CE-related components into more traditional consumer electronic retail channels.

Geiser explained that the company’s interest in linking a watch to a cellular phone comes because “to some degrees it’s true” that the penetration of cellular phones into the everyday life has made some people less inclined to purchase watches. He admitted that Fossil’s past attempts to incorporate consumer electronic technology into watches have not gone as well as hoped because the watches “looked like technology watches” in that they were designed bulkily without much consideration for being both fashionable and functional. He said this latest iteration of a technology watch maintains a focus on fashion while still concentrating on values like convenience, and the ability for users to stay connected to their mobile phones discretely.

Right now, the watches only work with Bluetooth-enabled Sony Ericsson phones, but Geiser predicted that they should be compatible with Nokia smartphones by the end of the year, or“perhaps [even] by the time the product [first] hits retail.” He also said that the company intends to make the watches compatible with more phone models as time goes on.

Geiser explained that the technology is only compatible with certain phones because “there is no standard [Bluetooth] profile for how a phone and a watch interact.” This means that Fossil has to work with each handset provider individually to design the phone so that it understands the commands that the watch gives. He noted that there are watch companies working on a standard phone-watch profile as part of a Bluetooth special interest group, but he said that he did not expect this standard to be published until 2008. He said that this is why Fossil decided, in the meantime, to partner with handset carriers to make this type of technology work in a simple manner for users.