Posted by bink on October 21 2004, 4:05 PM. Posted in SPOT (MSN Direct).

Microsoft Corp. and watch maker Swatch are offering a new line of wireless data watches, the companies said yesterday, bringing the era of Dick Tracy wristwatch radios one step closer.

The watches offer news, sports, weather and stock quotes, among other snippets of content, via Microsoft's MSN Direct wireless data service. Twice the number of information channels of earlier Microsoft-based models are available.

Known as the "Paparazzi" line, the computerized Swatches also offer local entertainment updates through a deal with publisher Time Out, as well as a chance to meet celebrities.

The watches come with three levels of service. Each comes with free local weather, news headlines and stock-index levels. For $40 a year, users can receive more weather data, personalized news and sports scores, stock quotes, horoscopes and the like. For $60 annually, they can receive instant messages and calendar reminders from their PC if they use Microsoft Outlook software.

Microsoft and Swatch began work on watches three years ago.

"This is a new way of getting information," said Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect.

Paparazzis retail for $150, or two to three times the cost of conventional watches sold by the Swiss watch maker