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Let's get one thing straight. We were about to write off SPOT. The technology, while very cool, has thus far been limited to a few geek watches and weather stations that the average Joe—the guy who might want to wear a watch rather than check the time on his cellphone—would consider picking one up.

That has changed, thanks to Microsoft's decision to create a SPOT watch that anyone—from jock to dork to nerd to alternakid—would wear. I know that sounds like a shallow assessment, but it's the truth. The one thing holding back SPOT was mass acceptance and understanding of the concepts behind this FM-radio based data transfer system. Now that Microsoft will have to explain the SPOT concepts to the rest of the free world, we're might just be ready for a blossoming of the service into something ubiquitous and useful.

The latest models are designed to be fashion watches rather than geek watches. The LCD screen is much brighter, the brushed steel case is heavy and attractive, and the whole movement is 3mm thinner and has a more accurate antenna. Best of all, each new $179 comes with a 12-month subscription to Microsoft Direct, a considerable improvement over the old "Open the box and pay lots of money" scheme.


The watch also has double the memory of the previous versions which lets you download just about everything on the MSN Direct service has to offer including sports scores, lottery numbers, and traffic information. The general, yearly subscription costs $39. Outlook Sync and MSN Direct messaging services cost an extra $20 a year.

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The styling is much improved over the previous models. Band is very easy to resize. All it requires is a small screwdriver and a paper clip. Plastic covers keep the bracelet pins in place and simply slip out. Overall, the metal version we test looks more like a bracelet than a watch, but that's fine. Fossil also offers leather and cloth bands in various colors.

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Another excellent improvement is the charging system. The watch comes with a USB cable that can plug into a wall adapter or USB port. The watch connects to the cable with magnets. No ugly stand, no strange prongy thing—the charger snaps into place.

These Abacus watches will be available online on June 10. While this won't mean the end of our constant wariness towards the technology—these models certainly improve our opinion of the platform on the whole and make us look forward to a SPOT-filled future.

Product Page [MSNDirect]