“Smart watches” could be the next big thing in technology, after reports that Microsoft is researching a 1.5-inch touchscreen wrist device - joining other big-name firms such as Samsung.
Apple and Google are also rumoured to be launching devices - and several smaller firms are already selling thousands of touchscreen watches, billed as bringing the internet to people's wrists.
The report in the Wall Street Journal said that research teams at Microsoft had met with Asian suppliers to start development of a device.
“Smart watches” pair with internet-connected phones via Bluetooth, to offer functions such as email, Facebook messages and apps on a small touchscreen.
The gadgets hit headlines after the cult Pebble “smart watch” went on sale this year, after launching via crowd funding site Kickstarter. The watch is priced at $150 (£95). Fans raised $10.2 million for the hi-tech gadget in just 120 days.
Samsung has already said that it is working on a “smart watch”, Sony already sells a model - and persistent internet rumour says that Apple is working on one, too.
Bloomberg News has said that Apple's product is already in development, quoted “sources” at the company saying that a team of 100 are already working on the gadget.
The Pebble offers users notifications for emails, texts and calls, and also offers running apps and music controls.
The trend for bigger and bigger smartphones could also drive demand for the new gadgets, according to one analyst.
"We see growing demand for wearable gadgets as the size of the smartphone has become too big to carry around," said RBS analyst Wanli Wang.
"A smart watch that is compatible with a smartphone and other electronics devices would be attractive to consumers."
On average, British workers already carry 2.7 computing devices - ranging from smartphones to laptops to tablets, according to research by security firm Sophos. But analysts believe there is room for one more.
“The race is on to redesign the mobile phone into something that you wear,” said Marshal Cohen, an analyst at NPD Group.
“We’re going to see formidable competition coming from many different directions -- from device makers, accessory makers, even fashion designers.”
Lee Young Hee, executive vice president of Samsung's mobile business, said their hi-tech watch had been in production for a long time.
He told Bloomberg News: "We are working very hard to get ready for it. We are preparing products for the future and the watch is definitely one of them."
Stuart Miles of gadget site Pocket-Lint says that smart watches will be “must-haves” for “gadget fans.”
Others are more sceptical, pointing to the fact that watches such as LG’s GD910 have been enormous - and unpopular - because they have a phone aerial inside the watch.
Kishore Naib, Director of WatchShop.com says: “Multi-function watches, such as touch screen watches, have already proven to be highly popular and provide an indication that technology can fit well with wrist wear.
“The current level of technology would indicate that it is possible to make a functional and attractive gadget watch. Although, it risks being just an additional gadget if the mobile phone remains the primary communication device.”
“I believe there is a long curve of evolution ahead if they are to ever cross paths with the wrist watch. There is substantial value in the heritage, branding and craftsmanship of watches, and a long time has passed since the only purpose of a watch has been to tell the time. "